Schenectady County

Student cherishes front row seat for sports history

Scotia resident Shannon Archer had a front-row seat to watch Michael Phelps break Olympic records in

Scotia resident Shannon Archer had a front-row seat to watch Michael Phelps break Olympic records in China.

Archer, a junior at Ithaca College, was one of about 110 NBC Sports interns. She spent most of her time at the Water Cube, where the swimming and diving events were taking place.

When NBC swimming commentators Dan Hicks and Rowdy Gaines were rattling off statistics about how Phelps did in his last event. Archer was often behind them, feeding them that information. She served as a runner — grabbing statistics and driving the U.S. athletes to their press conferences.

Archer arrived in China on July 24. She helped crews set up the equipment and build working offices and editing rooms.

A typical day consisted of reporting to work at about 7 a.m. Then, she would start collecting data to get ready for the live swim meets at 10 a.m. After about 21⁄2 hours, the swimming would be over and then there would be an hour before the diving would start. For the most part, NBC did not broadcast the diving live, so the staff had to stay until the footage was edited.

“It was probably on average a 14-, 15-, 16-hour day,” she said.

Archer, 19, said she was impressed how the NBC employees worked around the clock to produce the coverage, and the live events were particularly challenging because they had to work “on the fly.”

“I highly doubt I’d be able to do that. It takes a lot of long hours, a lot of research, a lot of time,” she said.

NBC broadcast more hours — 3,600 — of this Olympics than any other event in history.

Archer even met Phelps when she was driving him to a press conference.

“He’s a great guy — very nice, very down to earth, very appreciative of everything that NBC does for him. It was really nice to meet him,” she said.

It was a special treat because Archer has been a competitive swimmer since she was age 7 or 8 and competes on her swim team at Ithaca.

Archer said it did not seem like Phelps was under a lot of pressure to capture the gold medals.

“He’s just out there to do things for the U.S. swim team and do the best races he can, whether he got eight golds or not,” she said, adding that Phelps felt more concerned about all the media attention as one of the most recognizable athletes in the world.

After the Olympics, interns and other crew members had to break down equipment and studio setups. She returned to the United States on Aug. 27.

Archer was able to squeeze in some sightseeing before the games and saw the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, the Beijing Zoo and the Great Wall.

“It runs for as far as you can see in either direction. It’s pretty big,” she said.

She also enjoyed interacting with the Chinese people, including those who volunteered for the games.

“They’re all very welcoming. Respect is a very big deal in their country,” she said. “They’re very respectful of all the foreigners. They’re openly very excited to be hosting the games and to be showcasing their country to the world. It was great to see a country’s culture from across the world.”

Archer is pursuing a double major in communications-integrated marketing and sports studies. She would like to do sports marketing-advertising for networks like NBC or ESPN or a company like Speedo. Archer said she had thought about doing an internship like this when she was applying to schools. Ithaca College representatives had mentioned they had connections with NBC.

“It’s great hands-on experience. It’s obviously the biggest sporting event,” he said.

She said she would love to do another internship at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

“I actually had never taken a plane before this. I had never left the Northeast of the United States,” she said.

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