Games went off without a hitch for EBU

Head of ops says team's expectations were met

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BEIJING -- Fernando Pardo, head of European Broadcasters Union operations at the Beijing Olympics, said Thursday that he will retire in December with the satisfaction of knowing that the Games went "much better than expected."

Pardo was the lead advocate here for 4,700 accredited EBU-member company staffers with the Beijing Olympic Broadcasting Co., representing the interests of such giants as the BBC and France 2 and 3, along with those of smaller outfits from Azerbaijian, Belarus and Croatia.

He made 15 trips to Beijing beginning in 2004 to try to ensure that accommodations, transport and access to Beijing's newly built International Broadcast Center were as smooth as possible.

From delays at customs to haggling over access to sites for stand-ups, there were, in the beginning, "a lot of preparation problems," Pardo said in an interview Thursday.

"But when we arrived in Beijing, in general, our expectations were met and we solved problems one by one," he said. Comparing Beijing favorably to Athens and Torino, Pardo said, "The Beijing Games has been much better than expected."

Pardo said that the broadcast professionals from 56 channels in Europe that flew in could not have achieved the standard he believes they have met without the help of Beijing-based Ring Leaders, a company founded in April 2007 by Ulla Payreen Luders, a Danish national who has worked in China's capital since 1993.

To serve the EBU and the Canadian Broadcasting Union, Luders hired nine core Chinese staffers and tapped an ever-expanding circle of unexpected networks in creating a loyal group of 230 drivers, translators, guides and problem-solvers.

"I had to find drivers who were both safe behind the wheel and could speak some English, which in China meant going to the highly educated," Luders said. Drawing on experience as a guide for Danish companies working in China, Luders found a group of university professors with English skills, a driver's license and the desire to help visiting broadcasters in any way they could.

Staffing proved easier and more consistent than she expected. "The employee loyalty during the Games was astounding. Everybody wanted to be a part of the Olympics and understood the broadcasters were telling China's story, so they wanted to help."

Pardo reflected -- not without some irony -- that for all the pre-Games talk of China being an impenetrable society, he and his fellow EBU members had found "some of this sort of behavior in an unexpected place, right next door" -- at NBC's operations center, which he referred to as a "fortress."