EDITOR’S NOTE: Maria Soares is a senior coordinating producer for ESPN Deportes and ESPN International. With April 27 marking 100 days out from the start of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio, she shares her experience in preparation for the Games, including a recent site survey of ESPN International’s production operations in Brazil.
Athletes train all their life for the chance of making it to the Olympic stage. In a similar way, I feel like everything I have done in my career is preparation for what ESPN International will do in Rio de Janeiro this summer. The Rio 2016 Olympics will be the biggest Olympic operation ESPN has ever had. And, it will be the biggest event of my career.
There is something special about the Olympic Games. It is the best example of the world coming together on one stage. It is the only place where Michael Phelps can earn the same medal as a racquetball player from Mexico, and the medals mean the same. It is also the only time you have the world championship of every sport, in the same venue, within a 17-day period.
The official road to Rio started about two-and-a-half years ago. Our first Olympic meeting was in Buenos Aires, Argentina. There were about 10 of us in a room representing several regions. It was a brainstorming of what the Rio operation would look like. We threw out ideas about sets, the size of our team and our coverage. After the meeting, we all thought – “This is going to be amazing.” And now that we are 100 days out, this sentiment has not changed one bit.
Some quick points to put the operation in perspective – we have rights in four different regions; we’ll have more than 450 staff in Rio; six set locations; 20-plus live electronic news gathering units (ENGs); over 1,400 hours of live coverage across rights holder regions; and operations in three languages. Crazy, right?
After five trips down to Rio in the last two years, I have been watching Brazil get ready and the process has been full of challenges, as media reports have indicated. There are construction delays, concerns about the Zika virus, issues with the water and there have been some recent political woes. But what most of the world has not seen, is how much has been accomplished. At the first Olympic site survey two years ago, we were told to “imagine” a lot. Today, there are buildings and walkways, and incredible structures. Though they aren’t done yet, it has been thrilling to see the progress.
It truly takes a village to build this kind of Olympic plan. My favorite part of the last two years has been how closely I got to work with our colleagues in Brazil, Argentina, Mexico and of course, Bristol, Conn., where ESPN is based. It has been a great example of ESPN’s teamwork and global collaboration. Every aspect of planning is done with the bigger operation in mind. Our bigger planning meetings actually flow in and out of three different languages. I love that.
In less than 100 days, we will be in Rio. In 120 days, we will be headed home with memories of what the Rio 2016 Olympic Games were. I know I won’t get a medal, but I will get the experience of a lifetime that I will share with many of my colleagues.