|Norm Reilly is getting ready for his seventh Olympics, which will begin July 27 in London. He will be an information manager for men’s and women’s basketball, as he’s done for Summer Games since 2004.|
Norm Reilly is ready for new adventures during his seventh Olympics, which begin July 27 in London, England.
The UAB associate athletics director for media relations will be an information manager for men’s and women’s basketball for Olympic Broadcasting Services (OBS), as he’s done for Summer Games since 2004.
Reilly uses vacation time to work the Olympics — a two-and-a-half week commitment — and relishes the opportunity. UAB Director of Athletics Brian Mackin understands the honor that comes with being asked to work on the biggest athletic stage in the world.
“Norm has been involved with the Olympics for as long as I have known him,” Mackin says. “It is a tremendous opportunity for him to represent UAB and the city of Birmingham. I know he feels honored to be going, and we are behind him 100 percent.”
A privilege to serve
Reilly first worked the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games as chief liaison officer for aquatics sports, which included swimming, diving, water polo and synchronized swimming. He was the information manager for hockey for the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Games and again in Torino in 2006 and Vancouver in 2010. This is his third Summer Games as basketball information manager.
“No matter what venue you are assigned, it’s a privilege,” Reilly says. “Really, I’ve been fortunate to have this opportunity, and I appreciate Brian and others at UAB for allowing me to go. It’s always an unforgettable experience.”
But working major events is nothing new for Reilly. He has worked college football’s Sugar Bowl, the past two BCS National Championship games in the Crescent City, numerous NCAA Basketball tournaments and the Seattle Goodwill Games in 1990. All these opportunities presented themselves through contacts Reilly made in positions he has held at the University of Georgia, East Carolina University and UAB.
|Norm Reilly works one of the two broadcast mixed zone areas during the Beijing Olympics as Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant is interviewed.|
“One of the rewards of working in college athletics is that you’re able to build a long list of contacts and a network of friends and colleagues,” Reilly says. “When you develop relationships, sometimes opportunities like this arise. That’s what happened with the Olympics.”
Where the action is
As information manager for basketball, Reilly will oversee a staff of eight liaison officers responsible for broadcaster services in the basketball arena, specifically the broadcast mixed zone — the post-event interview opportunity for network reporters.
“The mixed zone is where the action is,” Reilly says. “All players and coaches have to go through the mixed zone after their game. They don’t have to stop and do interviews, but they have to go through there.”
Reilly and his team have to manage the flow of broadcast media through the mixed zone. Typically, there are two zones — one with booked positions of 10 to 12 networks from around the world. The other mixed zone is a larger area that is first-come, first-served for world media.
The areas can be quite difficult to manage after big games, but Reilly says he likes it that way.
“I enjoy being at a high-demand venue,” Reilly says. “Basketball is easier to manage than some other venues because we’re on a fairly set schedule. We have a two-hour game, then the mixed zone, then another two-hour game — that repeats all day, every day. It can be much more chaotic at a venue like track and field where you have one 100-meter heat after another and a mixed zone after each race.”
|Reilly stands with his old friend and NBC, TNT and TBS basketball reporter Craig Sager during the 2008 Summer Games.|
Developing new friendships
Reilly’s team is a tiny fragment of the personnel needed to get the Games on the air. OBS had a staff of more than 4,000 work the Beijing Games, and Reilly expects that number to be the same or higher this year.
OBS recruits experienced broadcast managers for lead positions, but they also hire college students from the host country as liaisons, which Reilly says has enabled him to develop positive relationships with people of many nationalities.
“That’s a neat part of the experiences,” Reilly says. “You work closely for long days for a couple of weeks together and get to know a lot of people from other countries. I’ve stayed in touch with some of those folks through the years.”
It’s also interesting to observe the ways different cultures cheer for their teams, Reilly says, particularly the enthusiasm Europeans show for their sports teams.
“The passion sports fans have in European countries is unique,” Reilly says. “It could be what they’re wearing or the noisemakers they bring. The Olympics really bring out passion in fans and a sense of pride in your country.”
Reilly remembers the feeling he had working his first Olympics in Atlanta, and though the wow factor has changed, very little — if any — has worn off, he says. “When you look out the window of the plane and see everything going on, you say to yourself, ‘Yeah, this is pretty cool.’”
And he knows when he lands in London, that adrenaline will kick in again.
“You still say to yourself, ‘Wow, this is the Olympics.’”