Talk Description to Me

Episode 63 - The Olympics

August 07, 2021 Christine Malec and JJ Hunt Season 2 Episode 63
Talk Description to Me
Episode 63 - The Olympics
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

The Olympics are in full swing, and daily audio description coverage has never been better. This week, Christine and JJ discuss the visuals that don't necessarily make it into the prime time recap, including Olympic memes, protest signs, and slow motion gymnastics. Plus, a few description-rich stories of Olympic sportsmanship.  

Audio Description of NBC's prime time coverage and opening and closing ceremonies is being handled by Descriptive Video Works. Check out  #NBCOlympicsA11y and #NBCParalympicsA11y on social media to connect and share with others. 

Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/TalkDescriptionToMe)
JJ Hunt:

Talk description to me with Christine Malec and JJ Hunt.

Christine Malec:

Hi, I'm Christine Malec.

JJ Hunt:

And I'm JJ Hunt. This is talk description to me with the visuals of current events and the world around us get hashed out in description rich conversations.

Christine Malec:

It is Olympic season, and this year has been an Olympics like no other. And this year, we've got some great on the scene description going. But what we thought we would do is what we do best is dive a bit deeper into some of the visuals that don't, there's no chance in the moment to describe. So JJ, do you want to start with the things that make this Olympics look different this year?

JJ Hunt:

Yeah, I mean, they're obviously the pandemic is the big thing, right? Like the look of the games in the in COVID times is different, that the stands are empty. There's just not as much hype and excitement around the games. And, and there's a little bit of protesting going on as well. So there, there are some differences. So let's just start with the empty stands, we've talked about empty stands before, you know, the stands in most of the venues at the Olympics are are virtually empty. In some cases, they are inviting a certain number of guests, if it's a smaller space, that just the athletes and their teams, their handlers, they can kind of fill in some spaces. But generally, if you're in a state in a stadium or something like that, the folks who are there are pretty close to the action. So the stands are empty up high. And there are in there are a handful of people down below, lots of empty seats and benches. But there are some tricks that TV producers can can use to mitigate the effects of this. So if you know if, if the if the TV crews adjust their camera angles in a certain way, you can cover the, the action without covering large swaths of empty stands, right, if you just angle your camera down a little bit, you're you're not gonna you're not gonna cover all those background empty seats so so the audience that's watching at home that television audience doesn't doesn't feel that in between moments of action, instead of cutting to a you know, a big wide shot of the cheering fans in the stands, which they might do in a normal Olympic Games, they will cut to a close up of a handful of fans that are in the stands or or the team members are so forth. So there are different things they can do to you know, from a TV standpoint to to mitigate, they can also they've done some interesting things in the main Olympic Stadium. The chairs in the stadium are different colors. So some are a brick red colors, but there are lots of like green seats, white seats and tan seats as well. So normally in a stadium, the seats would be uniform in color. And then when you fill them with people, that's when it looks, that's when you get that diversity, you get the visual, the breakup of that solid block of color, but by having the seats be a different color, you kind of you achieve that look, when you're when you're taking an image of this from a distance, it's not the solid block of color. In fact, it's almost pixelated because you've got a white seat, a green seat, then a you know, red seat, whatever. So that's an interesting kind of little visual trick. I'm not sure if that was you know, designed from the get go or if that was a change for the Olympics, but that's definitely it helps in this situation, having such an empty stadium when you're trying to to, you know to perform to compete. It must be strange for the athletes like it's it's a different feeling. You know, when I was when I did the the Pan Am Games and the pair Pan Am Games in Toronto. The opening ceremony was at the skydome Toronto's largest stadium, and I arrived early for a tech rehearsal, which was, well before the fans arrived. There were probably 1000s of people who were working in the building who were preparing for the event, but the stands were empty. And I got to say, the energy being in a stadium built for 1000s -- 10s of 1000s of people are having so few people there. It really felt strange. It was a it was a an off putting energy. It looks strange, and it sounds strange to the way sounds, you know, bounce around in a stadium that doesn't have people in instead just bouncing off the hard surfaces of these chairs. It feels strange. It looks strange. So yeah, it's it's it's really odd. And then there are there have been some protests and the coverage of the protest hasn't been massive. But I did, I did see a few things that were interesting. So the the standard Olympics logo that most of us are familiar with the five linked rings. So on top, you've got blue, black and red. And then below centered below linked all together is a yellow and a green. So all of these rings, these, these different colored rings are linked together. And there have been different takes on that logo that were used, that have been used in protest signs that are created by folks who are upset that the Olympics are being held when COVID is far from under control, especially in Japan. So there's a simple version of that five rings logo, where the rings are overlapped or linked has now the rings have been spread apart. So there's a socially distanced logo where all the rings are separated. And then there's another variation where the rings themselves are coronaviruses updated with those telltale spike proteins that we've talked about. In fact, that same the the spike protein addition was that that treatment was given to the Tokyo Olympics logo. So on top of the Olympic logo, there's a there's a logo for these games, the Tokyo Olympics logo, and that is a ring or a wreath made of dark blue squares and rectangles that are arranged in like a fluid symmetrical pattern. And so I've seen COVID protest signs that take that logo, and put the spike proteins on that as well. So it's a it's kind of a harsh, you know, the melding of the of the virus itself with the Olympics logo. I don't think organizers were very happy about that at all.

Christine Malec:

I dare say. Part of it is that the time zones are out of sync, but are you experiencing a different sense of how you consume the Olympic coverage as opposed to other games in the past?

JJ Hunt:

Yeah, I really am. You know, in first off that like, like you talked about, these are just it's a quieter games, right? We're not, it's not as well hyped, there are fewer people in the stands, the energy level is lower all around, and you know, so there's just less of it, everything is toned down a little bit. And I think the way I consume media has really changed in the last few years, I've never been someone who follows the games closely. Like I don't watch all these sports. But I can't help but pick up on this news. Because it's, you know, it's on, it's on news bumpers on on broadcast television, it's on the radio, and whatnot. But because I the way I consume media has changed. For better and worse. I'm not getting those messages anymore. I don't watch a lot of network TV I stream. So I'm not getting those, you know, those coming up at six, you know, those bumpers where they're telling you what what event has happened. I don't read a newspaper. I do most of my research online, and I follow links on social media. So the way I'm consuming and being given these reports and stories from the Olympics is really different. And what's interesting is a lot of what I've been spotting is in the form of memes that use the images of athletes and and refer to Olympic moments to promote a very political or social agenda. And because the research I do on my laptop is, is on any number of topics for description work, and it's I try and get a variety of points of view. In my Google searches. I get some pretty confused social media algorithms. So so I get social and political messaging from across the spectrum. So an example is athletes saluting flags. In late June, there was a hammer thrower named Gwen Berry, who earned a bronze at the US Olympic trials. Barry is a muscular black woman with tight curly hair, and she has a history of political activism. And when she was at the podium and the anthem was played, when she got her bronze at the Olympic trials, she turned away from the flag, and she hung her head rested a hand on her hip, she did not salute the flag. And I think it's fair to describe her facial expression as quite stern or serious. And in visual contrast, her teammates who took silver and gold were both light skinned women. And in the images on the and you know, film and on in still images. They are depicted above her because they are higher on the podium. And both of these light skinned women were holding flowers, small American flags, they're facing away from bury with their hands over their hearts. And so leading up to the Olympics, I got tired Tons of meme based commentary about this moment, right? And now during the Olympics, I'm kind of getting follow up images of American athletes holding their hands over their hearts on podiums taking victory laps with the flags held over their head. And a lot of these messages say things like, "Olympic victory by a real American!" and so on.

Christine Malec:

Gaps! Oh my God.

JJ Hunt:

Yeah, a lot of that. I'm also getting social media messages about the gymnast Simone Biles. Not so much about her performances, but about her decision to withdraw from several several events for mental health reasons. And my feed was flooded with support memes with images of Biles, who says small but muscular black woman with a broad smile a kind of a wide round face and almond shaped eyes. And these messages were all about her strength and her courage, declaring that her decision to withdraw for mental health reasons should be celebrated, not mocked. And so again, a political message is not about her performance, but about the social or political message. I also spotted memes and social media posts, featuring a weightlifter from New Zealand named Laurel Hubbard. She was the first openly transgender athlete to compete in an individual event at the Summer Olympics. And what happened was she failed to advance to the final. So there were a couple of key images that were associated this some social media posts used an image of Hubbard, who is a very big, light skinned woman with a round face and long dark hair pulled into a ponytail. Some of these images are of her in the moment of attempting her lift, and she's got sweat streaming down her ready face. her jaw is set, her mouth is open, her jowls are clenched, and she's got this look of incredible determination. And then some images. Hubbard is shown just after her final lift attempt, in which she is smiling directly at us. She's got rosy cheeks, and her hands are kept in front of her chest in the shape of a heart. And some means used Hubbard's failure to advance and just to take the opportunity to make fun of a trans person, just she failed. She's a trans person, let's make fun of her. And some instead used the fact that she didn't advance to say, but wait a minute, I thought trans female athletes would have too great of an advantage. So it's unfair for them to compete. So both sides of this issue, were using images of Hubbard to promote an opposite agenda. Really interesting. So I'm not getting messages on social media about victories, about you know, wonderful moments about the performances. I'm getting social media posts that are about the social issues, the political issues, using athletes and and Olympic moments as fodder for that really interesting.

Christine Malec:

There's been some sort of theatrical and stories around the Olympics to what are some of those that you've been seeing visuals from?

JJ Hunt:

There have been a couple I mean, first of all, the heat wave I mean, that's been one of the big stories around the Olympics is how hot it's been. So like 40, or pardon me 90 Fahrenheit in Tokyo in recent days, that's over 32 Celsius, plus the humidity. And a lot of the athletes are having a terrible time of it makes for dramatic images. So lots of images of tennis players has been a big issue for tennis players is one picture of a of a lean white man seated at the side of a court during a break in a game. He's got his shirt off, his shoes are off, he's wearing only white shorts and white socks. Narrow double ended white bag full of ice hanging around his neck, and he's holding a thick black hose to his face. And the hose leads to what looks like a picnic cooler, but it's actually a portable air conditioner. And so he's just sitting at the side shoes half shirt off ice around his neck with an air conditioner vent right on his face like desperate to cool down. Another image of a young woman, an archer being escorted off of the field by members of her team and she's flanked by her masked handlers. She is walking and she's holding like an old fashioned pleated cloth bag of ice to her forehead. A lot of people icing down directly like putting ice on foreheads putting ice on the back of the neck Spanish tennis player named Paula dosa. She was helped off the court in a wheelchair pitched forward with a white towel draped over her head. Another I found this kind of terribly dramatic image from just past the finish line at the men's triathlon. Three male athletes on the ground on what looks like a large blue mat. And one of the men it has has fallen over onto a side he's lying down on the side in the fetal position. One man is captured in this image in the act of crumpling, he is just tipping forward. He's on his knees, he's in mid collapse. And there's a third man on all fours, and he's vomiting. And again, this image captures the moment of him vomiting. There's an official in a mask and a headset, who's tending to the man who's lying in the fetal position. He's got a he's pouring a little plastic water bottle onto a wet towel that covers the fallen man's shoulders. I mean, it's just an incredibly dramatic and frankly, dangerous situation for some of these athletes.

Christine Malec:

Oh, my gosh, I'm, I'm curious about some of the specific things relating to the athletics and I think I sent you last weekend of something about Simone Biles talking about the incredible agility that she has. And I've heard her described as like the best gymnast ever. And so is it possible for us to take just probably like five seconds of some of some of her work and kind of run it through the slomo and describe what's actually going on with her body? Because I think that even when we have audio description, commentary in the moment, it's hard to capture all of the incredible maneuvers that athletes are doing.

JJ Hunt:

Yeah, that's absolutely true. You can't possibly live describe one of these floor routines from a gymnast, like Simone Biles or any of them for, for that matter. I mean, there's just so much going on in a very short period of time. You can maybe if you're lucky state, the moves that they're doing state that a number of twists or something, but to actually try and describe it, you have to, you have to be doing so in extreme slow motion. So the video you sent me is Simone Biles in extreme slow motion. And it is Simone running a coup diagonally across a matte a green mat. Simone again, a short muscular black woman in this she is wearing a body suit that is purple and white. It's got long sleeves, but like more of a bathing suit style bottom doesn't go, you know, it doesn't go on to the legs at all. And in this what I find fascinating about this video in extreme slow motion is she starts off running down the running diagonally across the mat with their arms in the air. You no hands palms up, and she starts into what looks like it's going to be a bit of a cartwheel, and then bounds backwards onto her feet, and then flips onto her hands backwards onto her hands. And then back onto her feet and then bounce straight into the air. And what's amazing is the first part that I've just described where she's running hands in the air, you know, twisting, handstand, back flips, those look like standard slow motion. And then she does this additional bounce and gets incredible air like well above her head height. well above her head hi Oh, she is flying high. And in that moment. It's I had to double check this a few times, it seems it looks almost like the slow motion speed changes. Because suddenly her movements don't compare to the leg. It really does like slow motion for the beginning. And then she does this bounce where she goes into the air. And again, this is an extreme slow motion. I still can't describe it in real time. So I'll try here we go. She's got the video queued up here. And she does. She leaps into the air and she's doing a twist her arms tuck in her knees come in, she does a barrel roll. Another barrel roll. her ponytail is flying. She's at least six or seven feet in the air. She's doing another barrel roll. I've lost count now of how many she's doing. Okay, another barrel roll and and the whole time she's also flipping so she's rotating as she's flipping. I'm totally lost count of where I am. Okay, so now she's facing the ground again her legs are coming back under and she lands on the mat, her pony tail whips back and without taking an additional step. Now we're back into soup like looks like slow motion again as she slowly raises her arms over her head. So it Honest to God took as much time for her to recover her step and razor arms over her head in this slow motion as it took for her to flip into the air. Do I don't know how many barrel rolls. And I mean, honestly, it's it's hard to describe because it doesn't seem to make sense. The visuals of it don't make sense. And it's really difficult to keep track of the number of twists, and the number of flips, and to be describing those simultaneously. Yeah, I mean, good luck to our friends at descriptive video works, to try and do that, in more or less real time real speed. It's an incredible challenge to try and describe. And I can only imagine listening to it, it doesn't always come together, because it's just so much.

Christine Malec:

Wait, So a barrel roll is like as if you were on the ground and rolling over.

JJ Hunt:

That's right. So that the barrel roll is, if you imagine pushing a barrel forward, rolling it, so there's that there's that rolling,

Christine Malec:

And she's going head over heels at the same time?

JJ Hunt:

At the same time.

Christine Malec:

Noooo!

JJ Hunt:

So you've got Both the roll and the flip.

Christine Malec:

No!

JJ Hunt:

And this is all happening with a twist of the body as well. So there's a

Christine Malec:

What?

JJ Hunt:

Yeah.

Christine Malec:

And she's six feet in the air?!

JJ Hunt:

At least I don't know how she's well over her head height. I remember Chris, you and I did a workshop together where we talked about gymnastics and circus and diving. And what we did was we brought in action figures.

Christine Malec:

I want an action figure right now.

JJ Hunt:

That's right. That's what's needed. Because when I was just saying the words, it was, it's too difficult. So we had people with the action figures in hands, who could flip them around, twist them, tuck the knees under. And only then I think were people really able to get a true sense of how contorted the body has to be and how many flips and twists and turns and how different those things are, when you add them all together to bear a role in the flipping, and the twisting. I mean, it's just it's an it's just a lot.

Christine Malec:

It's mind boggling. And diving, I guess is the same that they have all that, you know, all I say all that time, like two second and a half in midair. And they make like three things happen at once. Right?

JJ Hunt:

Exactly. Yes. Three or four or, and tucks. And yeah. And so instead of starting on a ground going up and coming back to the ground with diving you are starting Well, I mean, you might be on a board and bouncing up and doing those before you hit the ground. But you might be on a high board as well. A platform dive and you walk to the edge. And and it's just during the time of that jump up and drop that you are accomplishing all of these different physical feats. Yeah,

Christine Malec:

Action figures.

JJ Hunt:

Yeah, they're the that's the honestly the best thing to do. Grab -- if you've got an action figure where you can bend the knees, bend the elbows, you know, tuck Wolverine into whatever position you need.

Christine Malec:

Heh heh heh.

JJ Hunt:

Get GI Joe to do whatever you need to do to figure this stuff out.

Christine Malec:

So tell us more stories that you've seen on social media that are going on at the Olympics.

JJ Hunt:

So have been a couple of really lovely ones. There's one about a trip that happened in the last 200 meters of the men's 800 meter semi final. So they're eight runners on the track, all long and lean men, and they're running in a fairly tight line all hugging the inside of the track in the stadium. So this is not a perfect line. Mind you. Some of these men are starting to make their moves past the runners in front of them, but they're generally trying to stay tight to the inside of the track because that's essential for the best time. Running third and fourth in this race are Isaiah Jewett of the US and Nigel omise of Botswana so they are running third and fourth respectively. Again, both very tall, very lean black men. omise is the favorite. And just at the very moment that the TV announcer is reminding us of this fact that he is the favorite on us, clips the foot of Jewett in front of him so both of their feet touch and they tumbled to the ground. Ju it winds up on his back perpendicular to the track, his knees are in the air like a turtle flipped onto his back. And omise is sitting in the lane, his legs stretched out pointing away from the finish line. And of course, everyone else has to keep running, they keep running and the camera follows the race. But then when when the race is done, they go back for the replay. And what the replay shows is that Jewett rolls from his back into the fetal position, and omise leans forward and he hugs his knees but he almost appears to be smiling. He's not neither of these men look really upset or really aggravated. And they both slowly start to get up at the same time they roll on to their knees, and as they're both on one knee with one knee up. omise extends his hand and Jewett grips it and together holding hands they pull themselves up, and there they are standing on the track, side by side, hugging each other. standing side by side and do it then puts his arm drapes his arm across almost his shoulder, and they start to walk. And then they eventually jog to the finish line together and it was just a lovely visual. And there are a couple of specific images from that series of events, the two men kneeling with one knee up holding hands as they're starting to pull each other up. With Jewett arm draped across Thomas's shoulder, some really lovely images, there was another moment a moment of shared gold. So two high jumpers battling it out in one of the most competitive high jump finals in history. And the jumper from Qatar Mutaz Essa Barshim is a six foot two very thin black man with close cropped hair, and he's wearing red and white stripes and wraparound sunglasses, kind of like the unit hard outfit. That's that it's really quite close fitting tight to the body. And he doesn't have a single Miss in the competition. barsham has just gone all the way through without a single Miss than the weight most high jumpers at this level, clear a bar is with what's called a flop. So they run toward the bar and an arching angle, and they've got these really long, very precise steps. There's almost an equine gate to the way they run toward the bar. It's all very, very precise long legs that reach forward to grip the ground and pull them forward just really equine. And then maybe about five feet away from the target the bar, the athlete leaps into the air with one shoulder facing the bar. And there's a twisting motion again, this twisting motion as they jump and soar into the air. So here the bar so this is a horizontal bar held on two posts, is well above Barshim's head and brushing six foot to the bar is in fact 7.7 feet off the ground, oh my god. And so as he runs up and leaps his head and shoulders, because he's twisting as he's jumping his head and shoulders are the first thing to clear the bar as he twists and goes backwards. So there's a backwards dive over the bar, head and shoulders go over first, they clear first, then his arching back. And his arch is so strong that when he's halfway over the bar, so his like his backside is over the bar, his head on the far side is a good foot below the height of the bar, and his feet, which haven't yet crossed the bar. They're also a good foot below the bar. So there's this real incredible arch to the body as he flies over. And then when what by the time his his bums over the bar, he kicks his legs up. So his body then goes into a 90 degree angle legs straight up, body more or less, you know parallel to the ground, and that's the flop that's when the body then flops onto a big thick mat on the far side. In fact, the momentum with the legs kipping kicking up means that he kind of rolls backwards and rolls back onto his feet. Big celebration from these athletes when they clear a bar like this is a great moment of triumph. So in one of his jumps, I saw Barshim leans back kind of pushes his crotch forward fists it aside, floors, largely empty stadium. And so the last competitor who is you know, going up against bar shame is an Italian named Gianmarco Tamberi is a six foot three. Again very lean man, medium skin tone long, dark hair that's pulled back in a top knot. And he's got this impeccably groomed five o'clock shadow and runway model good looks. And yeah, he's a bit of a he's a bit of a showman, very dramatic. And so when he's waiting to do his his his jumps, he rocks back and forth on his heels to get his timing right and is to get his gait right. And his best jump ties bar shemot 2.37 meters, this is the 7.7 feet, they tie through at 2.37 meters. And so what happens with the ties they both end go on to to attempt a 2.39 meter for the win, but both of the mess three times. So they're tied, Tamberi is the last one to attempt this 2.39 meters. So when he misses, he jogs over to Barshim and he gives him a great big hug. Just a huge hug. And it has to be said that when one very tall, very thin, long limbed man hugs another very tall, very long legged man their arms go all the way around each other.

Christine Malec:

Ha ha ha!

JJ Hunt:

So they're basically touching their own shoulders again.

Christine Malec:

Ha ha ha.

JJ Hunt:

Limbs are all over, it's a very warm, very cold close hug that these two men are sharing. So as they're sharing this hug and official walks over, this is a middle aged white man wearing a COVID mask, he's got a headset on he's holding a clipboard and he comes over to tell them that they're tied and they need To go to a jump off. And so Barshim, the favorite, he turns to the official and he says, "Can we have two golds?" and Tamberi, who is catching his breath is kind of doubled over hands on his knees in this moment. He looks up and his eyes are wide, his mouth is hanging open. It's the favorite who is asking if they can have two golds. And the official says, "Well, it's possible if you decide." And so Barshim turns to Tamberi, who has at this point stepped back as if hit with a shock, right? He's stepped back, mouth open. And Barshim says to him something like it's a little hard to hear, But he says something like "It's history, my friend" and he extends his hand.

Christine Malec:

Oh!

JJ Hunt:

And Tamberi winds up, he pulls his hand back and he swings his hand forward in this big sweeping gesture to grab Barshim's hand in a huge slapping handshake. And then Tamberi leaps into the air and he hugs Barshim! He wraps his arms around his shoulders, he wraps his legs around his waist.

Christine Malec:

Gasp! Oh my god!

JJ Hunt:

So for a moment Barchim's holding Tamberi up, and he's screaming! And then Tamberi jumps down and he starts running around and Barhim turns to the camera with a big smile on his face. And he makes a sweeping gesture with both hands like an umpire saying "Safe!" and he kind of sweeps his hands and he says "We're finished, we're finished."

Christine Malec:

Awwww.

JJ Hunt:

Meanwhile, Tamberi takes off running, he's howling, he drops to his knees, he flops onto his stomach --

Christine Malec:

Ha ha ha!

JJ Hunt:

--- he rolls around on the track covering his face, weeping with a relief and delight is writhing around on the floor, while Barshim starts pumping his fists in the air. They're cutting back and forth, the cameras, back and forth between Barshim and Tamberi. And in the end, both men are just weeping. And they're they're off with their respective teams. And again, they're given flags from their from their coaches and whatnot. And they then meet back on the track and they do a victory lap with the with the third place finisher, and with their flags overhead. I mean, just a wonderful, triumphant moment with these incredibly dramatic men. Just lovely.

Christine Malec:

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