Things have gotten slightly batty here lately, hence the lack of posts. I tend to end most days in a mild state of disbelief, fatigue and usually with a major case of the giggles. It’s all good! What follows will no doubt make little sense and be completely disjointed, but it’s all par for the course here at the 2011 Arab Games.
It’s a bit hard for me to put into words what the experience here has been like. I suppose it could be summed up by saying this: if you can’t be flexible here, you might as well pack your bags and get out. Every day we get thrown curve balls but it hasn’t phased me all that much. I am enjoying the challenge of trying to keep ahead of the changes and thankfully my sense of humour remains intact. If anything, I find things are getting funnier and more ridiculous by the day. As much as I am really looking forward to rejoining my family and life at home (9 days – woo!) I am having a good time. It helps that I am surrounded by incredible people and I am thankful for that every day. I can’t say enough good things about our crew here. Despite the frustrations, chaos and weird organization, I have made some lifelong friends and colleagues, rekindled old relationships and have laughed harder here than I had thought possible. It’s an honour and privilege to work with such an experienced and talented bunch and hope to have the opportunity to do so again some day.
There are so many things and stories that have happened here that are not “fit to print”. You’ll just have to wait till I can sit down over a glass of wine so I can fill you in! Believe me when I say it would all be worth it.
The Games officially kicked off a few nights ago with an opening ceremony that, unsurprisingly, started about 45 minutes late. It was entertaining nonetheless and I’m happy to have attended. Falcons, horses, LED lights oh my! Produced by David Atkins, the ceremony held quite a few touches reminiscent of Vancouver 2010. Except for, you know, the camels. And machine guns as part of the “traditional dance”.
The events themselves are running fairly smoothly despite low attendance (and by low attendance I mean 8 people at the tennis final. I believe the spectators were all related to the players). Organizers have now made all the events free access which will hopefully encourage some people to visit us! It’s a little weird doing a ceremony and all this production for an empty stadium. Despite this, our team is still delivering such quality work that it still makes it fun to do. I kind of think of it as practice for next time!
I thought it would be interesting to compare and contrast this experience in Doha to my international experience in Vancouver. A few examples… First, Podiums. In Vancouver, these were hand made from wood imported from across the country, a top secret design unveiled during press conference. Stored under lock and key in venues. In Doha, they are spray painted plywood, branded 2 hours prior to ceremony. Stored under some stairs!
And how about Medals? In Vancouver, they were made at the Canadian Mint in Ottawa, engraved per event, hand packed and counted by management, delivered by armored vehicle, handled with white cotton gloves… In Doha, although they were made at the Qatari Mint, they were delivered in the back of an unlocked pickup truck!
Let’s chat about schedules… in Vancouver, competition management sets the timetable months in advance. Precise to the minute. Changes require major involvement from all departments. Doha sport management enjoys changes at a moments notice! 2 days of official competition squished into 1 morning on 12 hours notice!
Finally, Medal Presenters. In Vancouver, we received a book weeks in advance listing all possible presenters, including their titles, contact info, photo. They were selected well in advance of ceremonies, we had plenty of time to meet and brief, they were honoured to be part of the event. Doha?: No lists, names scribbled on napkins seconds before ceremonies, Arabic names being mangled by me into a headset to my producer. But somehow we pull it off! Oh – and they get super special parking. The list can go on and on… but I’ll save it. These aren’t criticisms or complaints, just mere observations at how different it is here!
Oh wait – one more. Beer. Vancouver: Plentiful. (though I was pregnant). Doha: Expensive and a bit awful.
A few random stories about the past few days…
I went to buy tickets for the Opening Ceremonies at the kiosk in the mall. Met a character named Hamid who told me they could no longer sell tickets. I asked why – were they sold out? Nope. They just were told not to sell any more. BUT! Hamid took my number, said he was working the door, he’d call me and get me in. And low and behold, he did just that, calling the day of the opening, delivering tickets to my hotel and calling later to make sure I got in!
A smile gets you anywhere
At the Opening our “VIP” tickets had us sitting behind the stage – so poor visibility for the show. We got up, walked clear across the stadium and somehow talked our way into the media section. I hadn’t brought my accreditation (rookie!) but I smiled, Dave kindly introduced me as his boss when we were stopped by security – and voila! Access granted.
The worst kept secret in Doha, our Flashmob almost didn’t happen! We were meant to do it on the 8th but technical difficulties meant we couldn’t do it (no one tested the giant speaker that was wheeled into the mall in a shopping cart). Nonetheless we ended up doing it in the bar that night and got it done – with great success I might add! – the following night. I didn’t dance but had a great time filming it and then bolting from the scene.
By far the weirdest experience so far has to have been working at the bodybuilding venue. Although it’s not my venue per se I’ve been helping out there when I can. The Federation there pretty much does whatever the hell they want and we just kind of adapt and go with the flow. Those people are some freaky looking dudes… the fact that they were greasing each other up, smoking and eating baby food in the back of house did nothing to improve my opinion of the “sport”. It was eye-opening to say the least…
I can come up with about a zillion more little episodes like this but should get back to it… and I don’t like how disjointedly crazy this is all making me sound anyhow! I think it’s going to take me a little bit of time to take a bit of a step back and get a better perspective on what this has all really been like.