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Ky. students travel to Athens for Olympics

Mark Maloney KRT

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ATHENS – Laura Byron had a front-row seat for the women’s 100-meter dash.

Phil Cobb has been island hopping and all over Athens.

As sure as the Olympic Games come around every two years, Asbury College has students and graduates smiling all the way to the bank while gaining invaluable experiences.

A Christian-based liberal arts school of 1,300 students in Wilmore, Ky., Asbury is represented in Athens by 48 students and two graduates who are working in a variety of broadcasting jobs, including camera operators, sound technicians, assistants and loggers.

Jim Owens, chair of the school’s communications arts department, oversees them all. He has been in Athens since March in his role as manager of training for International Sports Broadcasting.

Including international students, Owens trained about 1,200 people to work in Athens, conducting a nine-day workshop in Greece. Of those, about 860 were hired by Athens Olympic Broadcasting (AOB), which provides broadcast feeds from the Games to much of the world. Others were hired by outlets such as CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corp.), which has a long-standing relationship with Asbury.

Two universities in Greece plan to offer communications classes, based on what has been learned from the Athens Games.

Asbury has been involved in Olympics media coverage since 1984.

Owens, who came to Asbury in 1981, was anxious to have his students experience what he had in 1980, when he worked for ABC at the Lake Placid Winter Olympics.

With Los Angeles preparing to host the 1984 Summer Games, ABC was challenged by Peter Ueberroth, head of the L.A. Olympics Organizing Committee, to make a lasting contribution to the community. From that came a broadcast training program, and Owens was able to use his ABC connections to get three Asbury students on board for the ’84 Olympics.

The training program took off from there. Asbury sent 15 students to the Calgary Olympics in 1988, 170 to Atlanta in 1996, 25 to Sydney in 2000, 70 in Salt Lake City.

Asbury students also have worked the Goodwill Games, Breeders’ Cup and Triple Crown races, X-Games, auto races and college football games.

Now, they are part of AOB.

Unlike the United States with NBC, much of the rest of the world relies on the host broadcasting network – AOB – to provide video and audio feeds.

Byron, a senior from Lexington, Ky., is earning 170 euros – slightly more than $200 – a day, plus six college credits, as a logger at her first Olympics.

That means writing down “basically everything that we possibly can about what the camera operator’s shooting,” she said. When a network needs a video feed, loggers have the information needed to locate the correct tape.

“Since a producer can’t follow us everywhere, part of logging also ends up being helping along, making sure everything gets shot that needs to,” Byron said. “A lot of writing and just making sure that we keep the tapes, and make sure they don’t get lost.”

Byron’s perks included a night off to see the women’s 100-meter dash. She has seen the sites, including the Acropolis and Plaka.

And she has been working with a Greek cameraman and a Spanish producer.

“So it’s been an amazing opportunity in the sense of learning how to communicate,” she said. “Now our camera guy, it’s just really neat, because we’ve gotten to the point where he’s really comfortable with us and used to working with us, and we have ways of communicating and understanding each other.”

Cobb, an Atlanta resident, is a 2003 graduate of Asbury. He gained initial Olympic experience two years ago at Salt Lake City. Now he is a commentary producer, serving as “kind of a quality control for all the audio at the Games.”

Cobb arrived the first week of July, which gave him time to visit the islands. His pay for less than two months work will be $23,000. And, he said, “How can you complain about having 10 commercial-free, uninterrupted feeds of Olympic coverage? It’s the best satellite package possible.”

Cobb works out of the International Broadcasting Center with an international all-star team of 20. He is one of two Americans, mixed with Australians, Serbs, Greeks, Canadians, Spaniards and a Pole, Cuban and Italian.

“That’s one of the benefits I’ve had from working here,” Cobb said. “Picking up a lot of engineering skills in troubleshooting. We work with the (broadcast) rights holders and we work with the venues and kind of just eliminate problems, eliminate variables.

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The Independent Student Newspaper of Northern Kentucky University.
Ky. students travel to Athens for Olympics