The Olympics Games have always represented the pinnacle and premier event for sports with the best in the business coming together for a nonstop symphony of sports. My trip began with a cancelled connection flight from San Diego, an ensuing two-hour taxi drive to Los Angeles and a stay at an airport hotel with my six bags of gear, skis and clothing for a 24-day assignment in Torino, Italy. My fourth Olympic Games for Getty Images could have started more smoothly but as travel mishaps go this was par for the course.
Matti Hautamaeki of Finland competes in the Normal Hill Individual Ski Jumping Final on Day 2 of the 2006 Turin Winter Olympic Games, Feb. 12, 2006, in Pragelato, Italy.
When I finally arrived in Italy I actually didn't see much of Torino. I took a bus directly to Sestiere, the mountain site for the majority of the alpine events and my hub for the next three weeks. Due to the distance from the mountains to the city, this would be the first Olympics where Getty Images had two distinct editorial teams - one in the mountains covering alpine events and one in town at the ice events. Fortunately for me, I was going to be tanning in the Italian Alps rather than being under the fluorescent lights of an ice arena.
After a week of acclimating to the mountains that included a little bit of skiing, imbibing of Borolo wine and the occasional preview photo (see droplets), I was more than ready to commence the Games.
Fireworks go off during the opening ceremony of the Turin 2006 Winter Olympic Games on Feb. 10, 2006 at the Olympic Stadium in Turin, Italy.
Donald Miralle/Getty Images
My first assignment was the opening ceremony, which meant a four-hour round-trip drive to Torino and a very late return to Sestiere the following morning. However, I was in good spirits as I have always enjoyed the opening ceremonies, especially the fireworks portion. During the last couple of opening ceremonies I shot from the roofs of the Olympic stadiums, harnessed to safety cables and, unfortunately, next to snipers and a photographer who had an intense bout of vertigo. But this time around I was to be on the stadium floor dressed in all black, like a ninja roaming amongst the athletes and performers at the edge of the stage. I was excited about this possibility until the pyrotechnics manager pointed out, "If you lean too close to the stage you could lose your face from the fireworks!" By the end of the show I wasn't a roasted marshmallow, but I didn't get back to Sestiere until after 4:30 a.m. Day 0 of the Games and I was already toast.
Eugeni Dementiev of Russia celebrates winning the gold medal after victory in the Men's Cross-Country Skiing 30km (15+15) Pursuit Final on Day 2 of the 2006 Turin Winter Olympic Games, Feb. 12, 2006, in Pragelato Plan, Italy.
By the end of Day 2, I still felt like burnt toast as my schedule was to cover about two events a day. Day 2 began with a full serving of Men's and Women's 30 & 15km Cross-Country Final followed by the Normal Hill Individual Ski Jumping Final. After spending most of the morning running around the cross-country course (and taking a couple of hard falls along the way), I finally understood what was going on by the time they only had one lap left. I managed to make a couple of photos: a graphic shot of competitors climbing a hill, shot from a bridge where I was subsequently kicked out after about 5 minutes, and a nice "jubo" shot of the gold medalist, before a TOBO (Torino Olympic Broadcasting Organization) cameraman completely blocked the photographers. I was quickly realizing that the best photo positions and angles at the events were either allocated to the TOBO video crew or, if you found a spot, you were quickly escorted out by Carbiniers or volunteers who had nothing better to do than hassle you in between chain-smoking cigarettes. This was going to be a long couple of weeks!
Later that evening, after finishing an Everest-like ascent up the ski-jumping course with my 70-pound camera pack, I realized there was a shuttle that I could have taken instead to the top. A bit frustrated and very out of breath I decided that rather than shooting the daredevil jumpers flying through the air like birds, I would continue to climb up the mountainside in order to get a shot of their speedy descent down the top portion of the hill. I went with a 15th of a second pan in order to completely blur the florescent lights and rails, and get a sense of their motion and speed as they tucked downhill.
Day 2 ended with a couple of memorable photos along with a very sore back and legs. Two days down, 14 to go, and I was already dreaming of my bed at home. But I guess this is why they only have the Olympics every couple of years.