A N O L Y M P I C D I A R Y
F R O M A P R O D U C E R ‘ S P O I N T O F V I E W
The medals, the anthems, the tears, (the injuries), the heart – The Olympics! Some of us dreamed of being an Olympian, and now (for those of us that aren’t even close), we just dream about going one day, screaming in the stands as we witness life-changing historic moments! Imagine – watching Michael Phelps tally up the golds and swim his last race, or seeing Simone Biles fly through the air and dominate the gymnastic floor. Kyong Falci, producer for E! News, lived that dream for all of us and is giving us a behind-the-scenes look at her work in Rio and her overall Olympic experience.
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When you were first offered the opportunity to cover the Olympics for E! News, what were your initial thoughts and concerns?
When I was first offered the opportunity by my Executive Producer, she initially presented it as a slight possibility – 5% chance I’d be able to go and that I was just a “backup.” I told her I don’t care what my chances are, I’d go in a heartbeat! Later, I would find out that my chances were definitely higher than 5% but she didn’t want to make any promises. My one and only concern that immediately popped up was my son – “What about Kenton?” He would be 2 by the time I left and things would be easier for my husband, right? The first person I called was my mom. I asked her if she’d be able to help out if I did end up getting chosen to cover the Olympics. She, of course, told me not to worry about anything and she’d take care of all of Kenton’s daycare pickups and even offered to have him sleep over to give my husband some nights off. I then talked to Joseph, my husband, and he couldn’t have been more supportive. He told me that I had to go and that he’d figure everything out. Even until the day I left, I was the one stressing out, but he knew he could handle it. If anything, he was more concerned over my safety.
What ultimately pushed your decision to go?
I decided to go knowing that I would probably never get the opportunity to work the Olympics again and that I had the support back home. My son would have been the reason why I didn’t go, but I didn’t want that to hold me back. I’m a working mommy and he needs to know that. It was tough being away from him for 3 weeks, but I honestly think this made me a better mommy and wife.
Once you got to Rio, what was your first impression?
Well, my first impression of Rio was during my drive from the airport to our hotel so I didn’t get to see much. Rio’s a very poor city. We saw a lot of favelas, all the walls were covered in graffiti, and there was A LOT of traffic (good thing we could use the Olympic lanes!). But after spending 3 weeks there, I can tell you that the city is beautiful – especially the beaches, from Barra to Ipanema to Copacabana and Leme, the water is blue and the sand is so soft.
Unfortunately you weren’t there to relax on the beaches, so tell us about the grunt work!
The days when we had early call times were pretty rough, and often we had to work long hours depending on our shoot schedule. I had a different job than some of the producers so I was stationed at the IBC (International Broadcast Centre) for most of my time, whereas others were out in the field. I worked off of a laptop from the 90’s that had very slow internet, but I also had the opportunity to go out on some shoots which was a nice change of pace.
I booked a lot of the shoots, field produced and worked on a few fun interviews (like the one with the Tongan flag bearer!), and did most of the file transfers, sending footage back to LA to air on E! News that night. Every day was different but the same, if that makes sense. A lot of the interviews were booked last minute, especially when it came to the athletes, and we had to hustle. We tried to work as ahead of time as possible but things were constantly changing – even the unpredictable weather affected our shoots and we had to adjust logistics.
A few fun shoots? You also had lunch with Michael Phelps! Don’t think you’re going to get away without telling us that story!
The Michael Phelps shoot was pretty big for us and we were all very excited about it. Will Marfuggi, one of our correspondents, looped me in with the publicist for Krave (yes, the jerky) who I set up the Michael Phelps interview with. I think I was more starstruck by Boomer, Michael and his fiancé Nicole’s baby, than by Michael himself. During our interview with Michael, I asked the publicist if Nicole would be able to join him towards the end. She went and talked to Nicole and Nicole said as long as Michael was fine with it then she’d join him. I love that there’s that respect where she knew it was about him and didn’t want to take that away from him. He was, of course, fine with it and I just loved seeing the two of them talking about Boomer and their wedding plans. After the interview, we were invited to join them for lunch and most of the tables were taken. I forget who sat down first, one of our producers or Will but I just joined them and us 3 ate with Michael and his fiancé. They mostly talked about sports so I just sat there minding my own business, silently freaking out that this was actually happening!!
Did you get see how much he ate?! Tell us!
He didn’t have a massive amount of food but he had a good plateful, which he didn’t even finish. I, however, did see him grab something off of the dessert platter. Good to know he’s human!
What was the biggest challenge in your day-to-day?
The language barrier was definitely a daily challenge, but luckily we had two translators and one producer who spoke Portuguese so that was helpful. There was a lot of waiting for responses from athlete publicists to figure out all the details, and a lot of last minute postponements. Because we were so limited on our producers, crews, and cars, everything had to be very detailed and lined out for it to all work. There were definitely some late nights where I was sitting in my hotel bed, in my pj’s, ready to crash, but I was changing or adding details for our shoots the next day.
You had the opportunity to be in the stands for some of the most exciting and historic events of these summer games. What was that like?
Yes!! Those were definitely some of the highlights of my trip. I got to watch the Final Five compete and win gold in their team all-around. I watched Serena Williams win a tennis match, Katie Ledecky smash her own world record, and Michael Phelps swim in his last solo race. I also watched the U.S. men’s basketball team get booed while they played against Serbia, and the men’s beach volleyball team lose to Brazil. Ouch! Either way, I can’t even explain the excitement of going to an Olympic game. There’s so much pride in cheering for your country, and the Brazilians are definitely a rowdy and fun crowd! The first time I heard the U.S. national anthem being played during a medal ceremony, I wanted to cry. It was all just so surreal.
Was there an athlete that you met that you absolutely loved?
Out of all the athletes that I met, I have to say that I had a blast with gold medalist Kayla Harrison and her best friend Marti Malloy. I set up a Rio nightlife shoot and we got the two Judo athletes to come out and party with us. They were hilarious! I mean, when they’re presented to you by their rep with “they’ll do anything you want,” you know they’re going to be a good time!
What do you feel was your greatest accomplishment in Rio?
I honestly can’t pinpoint one favorite accomplishment. I had been working on story ideas and pitches long before we got to Rio, so it was very fulfilling to see it all come to life. I’m very proud of the work I did there and feel REALLY lucky to have gone. I learned SO much and can’t believe we survived!!
What about the most surreal moment for you?
There were a few of what I like to call “pinch me” moments. The first was when I saw Christ the Redeemer for the first time. I love traveling and I honestly never thought I’d get to see Christ the Redeemer. The moment I went up there and saw the statue, I was almost moved to tears. There was an overwhelming feeling that came over me, and I have some personal reasons why, but I’ll have to share those another time. 🙂 It was also just watching the games. There aren’t many people who can say that they not only worked the Olympics but that they watched the competitions.
So you’re glad you went?
I have absolutely no regrets. I think out of everything though, my favorite part of the trip was getting to really know some of my coworkers. I have worked with most of them for almost 5 years but I’ve never gotten to really know them. Work gets busy and then we all go home! Our Executive Producer chose a really good, solid group of people to work and represent E! and I’ll never forget all the moments we shared – the good and the bad.
And coming back to Kenton – what was that moment like?
When Kenton first woke up the morning after I got flew in, Joseph went to get him and asked him “where’s mommy?” I don’t think Kenton quite understood what was going on so Joseph told him to go to our bedroom. Kenton swung open the door, looked at me, smiled, but acted really shy. I told him to come to me and he came running into my arms. I, of course, cried and Kenton just kept looking at me with a HUGE smile and kept kissing me. I wish I could bottle up those feelings that I had in that moment because IT WAS THE BEST!!!
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