The best part of the Olympics for me, selfishly, is being around my friends. It's a joy and an education.
My main gig at the Games is the head on the moat at Track and Field. There's a core group of folks in the pit with me, all of whom I have know and worked alongside for years, coming from around the world.
Finish line photographers (L-R): Michael Steele/Getty Images, Lucy Nicholson/Reuters, John Mabanglo/EPA, Pascal Rondeau/L'Equipe, Anja Niedringhaus/Associated Press, Bill Frakes/Sports Illustrated, and Olivier Morin/AFP, Robert Deutsch/USA Today
Anja Neidringhaus, AP based in Geneva, is a Pulitzer Prize winning, Harvard educated laugh machine. Her new book WAR is brilliant -- and yes, I bought four copies of it on a recent trip to Dussledorf. If you love photojournalism, as I do, I suggest you get a copy. Sports and war. Interesting way to make a living.
Pascal Rondou, LeEquippe, requires I mention that he is very good looking every time I write about him. Another very funny, good humored person. And of course, since he is French, often the target of our barbs. We have worked together many times through the years, and it has always been a pleasure. The last night in the moat, he looked at me with a sad smile, extended his hand and said, you know "Bill this is the last finish line we will do together." Bittersweet.
Olivier Marin, AFP, is now based in Milan -- which is clear from the fashionable way he comports himself, always with the three day stubble on his face, with a cleanly shaven head -- has a home on a Finnish Island. I adore him, I wish he was my next door neighbor.
The Getty guys move in and out. They take turns doing the head on. The Brits, Michael Steele and Stu -- I don't get to see them often, once a year, but it always feels like it was just last week and the conversations pickup right where they left. We share dozens of friends around the world, and it's always great to catch up. Streeter comes straight from the American South. His calm drawl and healthy laugh took me home when I needed it. Alexander Hassenstein -- German who I have known since his first Olympics at 21 year in Barcelona. He named his daughter after mine -- Havana.
The newcomer in the pit is British, Lucy Nicholson from Reuter. Based in California, she is a bundle of energy, always with a smile, always in motion. We had fun.
EPA's John M is an American which is of course confusing because he works for the European Press Agency. He's based in LA, and we don't see him nearly enough. The US is big country and with so many talented SI photographers based in Southern California, so I don't get there much.
Bob Deutsch from USA Today is always quick to help everyone, and he is even older than me. His sarcastic wit and generosity keep me smiling. When of course, I am not laughing at Anja and Oliver.
A typical exchange from right before the men's 100 meter final.
As you read this remember these are career defining moments for all of us. To complicate things, we are all shooting tethered -- which means your images flow straight into a computer and to the world. Plus, we are all running multiple remote cameras which are placed in tight confines to increase the angles and images we can each produce. Many things are going on, lots to concentrate on, and not much time to do it.
Anja: "Who do you think will win this race? Bolt?" Me: "Gatlin or Blake." Anja: "Why?" Me: "Because they are faster." Anja: "Okay. Makes sense."
Ten seconds later.
Anja: "You were wrong, and I really don't like Blake's hairstyle."
Big laughter. Quick glances. Great feeling of comraderie.
Meanwhile, the images are streaming to screens around the world.
During the Games, Laura and I put together a short piece on the working atmosphere from the moat. It is on SI.com now.