A PHOTOGRAPHER’S OWN ROAD TO RIO
PETER BUSH CATCHES UP WITH SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHER MARTY MELVILLE TO DISCUSS HIS EXPERIENCE SHOOTING OUR KIWI ATHLETES AT THE 2016 OLYMPIC GAMES
Rio — and the legendary Olympic Games — recently held the sporting world in awe and now has passed into history. The event became entertainment supreme, as superb TV coverage took us up-close and clear — in and out of the stadiums, to the oceans, the roads, and the many other venues that showcased the best in world sport.
An estimated 25,000 media descended on the city of 20 million to provide the multimedia coverage. Two of my much younger and talented photographer friends, Marty Melville and John Cowplan, covered the games for Photosport.
A nightmare start for Marty’s Olympic coverage began on arrival at Rio’s Galeão Airport, when he found out that while his checked personal luggage had arrived, his camera bag was nowhere to be seen. After a long silent wait until the last of the baggage had been collected, he took his New Zealand luggage tag to the desk. Following some language difficulties, a quick check found that his camera gear was now safely in Gisborne — a long way from Rio.
The simple-but-dramatic explanation was that the code for Rio is ‘GIG’ while that for Gisborne is ‘GIS’ — a simple slip-up that would see his gear travel through New Zealand, over to Sydney, then across the Pacific to Santiago, before, finally, 10 days later, arriving in Rio de Janeiro. But all was not lost — Marty went to the Nikon depot in the games centre, and, after much mirth, the team was glad to equip him with a selection of brand-new gear, ranging from D5 bodies to a pristine 500mm telephoto lens. Only the two giants of the camera world — Canon and Nikon — were present to loan and service equipment at the games.
Among the many 22 sports the two veterans covered, ranging from the rugby sevens through to synchronized diving — there was plenty of variety for the big lenses. John was often away covering golf, with Lydia Ko on deck, while Marty divided his time between athletics and yachting.
Marty felt his best pic is of woman canoeist, Luuka Jones, celebrating her silver-medal win with fellow canoeists besieging her canoe. One of his special memories is his coverage of polevaulting star Eliza McCartney, showing her delight at her bronze-medal win in the thrilling final. Marty’s effort in securing the iconic image of the New Zealand flag draped around her shoulders was a major coup for the lone shooter (he had carried the flag in tow for such an occasion).
On the question of security — a topic widely reported by the world’s media — Marty explained that while the presence of police and military was total, security slip-ups did occur. Once a woman without any security clearance marched off with a 500mm telephoto lens from an Irish agency, while French agency Agence France-Presse (AFP) lost entire kits from the media centre. “It was a case of even taking your gear to the toilet with you,” Marty said.
Getty, Associated Press, AFP, Reuters, and other top agencies had green bibs that imparted priority status in any of the stadiums, which meant Marty had to stand in line for much of the day, particularly for medal award ceremonies.
Just one of many agencies covering the games, Getty had a team of 120 people on the ground — including 40 specialist sports photographers and 20 photo editors and other technicians. The staff worked 18-hour days during the games to deliver up-to-date photos across the world.
With the aim of uploading iconic Olympic images at the fastest possible speed, Getty had installed over 100km of fibre-optic network cables to enable the connection of its photographers’ cameras from the key photo positions inside all the Olympic venues to their in-house editors.
Images raced from camera to customer in as little as 59 seconds, making the Rio 2016 event the most visual Olympic Games yet.