In addition to the many athletes preparing for a big trip to Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Summer Olympics next month, there is a small army of other people who will also be making the trek, including coaches, trainers, health care workers and journalists. Among the Vermonters going is sports broadcaster Peter Graves of Thetford. He'll be doing live PA announcing at some of the Rio events.
This marks Graves' ninth trip to the Olympics as either a TV commentator or PA announcer – his first one was the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid when he was working for ABC Sports. He told Vermont Edition that he received a call last week about Rio, though at this point, he isn't exactly sure what he'll be asked to do at the games.
At previous Olympics, he had often known his assigned venue ahead of time and was able to do research to prepare. Graves says it's looking like he may be asked to serve as a backup announcer and be ready to fill in if someone is sick or loses their voice, "which is a very common problem." At the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Graves was originally stationed at medals plaza doing the announcing there, but eventually got moved to the ski jumping and alpine skiing events.
"Right now, I'm accumulating as much data and as much research in a wide variety of sports," Graves says. "Cycling is one that I follow closely. Track and field, the marathon for example – some of those events ... it would be pretty easy for me to get plugged into."
One thing that is certain is that Graves will be working with other announcers ahead of the Olympics to talk about his experience and prepare them for this year's games. This role is one he's taken for other Olympics, as well.
"I'm going to go down a week early and meet with all the PA announcers at all the different venues over a period of a week and clinic them and bring them up to speed on some of the knowledge that I've acquired over the years of dos and don'ts," Graves explains.
Graves says he's learned by making some mistakes and tries to help others avoid them. One such mistake he remembers from Sochi involves the country commonly referred to as "Macedonia." Graves explains that actually the International Olympic Committee lists the country as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
Announcers should not be "part of the show," Graves says. "Our job is really to present the information unadorned, consider that we're talking to a really multinational crowd out there. Fans from all over the world," he says. "And it would be a great mistake to go down as a representative of any country and really cheer your nation on." In addition to maintaining neutrality, Graves says event announcers are different from television broadcasters because they do far less analysis for the audience.
At the games, Graves explains that the IOC has public address announcers in the host country's native language and then also ones in English and French. "Down there in many cases ... there will be three languages coming out over the loudspeaker," Graves says.
As he prepares for this ninth Olympic trip, Graves mentions his boss for the Olympics is someone he has worked with at multiple games and adds "there is quite an interesting sort of traveling group of people that take their knowledge and their bag and go around the world."
Graves says he is drawn to announcers "that have a tear in their eye when they're watching the opening and closing ceremonies, when they watch an inspired performance." While he acknowledges that there are some issues accompanying the Olympics, that doesn't damper his optimism around the event.
"I believe in the Olympic movement as a force for peace and brotherhood and goodwill in the world," Graves says. "I think it's vitally important and to be able to play just a small role in anything like that is incredibly powerful to me and very humbling."