Behind the Scenes at the 1990 Goodwill Games
by Gerri Walbert
(I have attended over 90 skating competitions.
The following is from my memoir of my very first job working for
Lights! Camera! Action! Sound exciting? The
world of television and movies is often perceived as wonderfully
glamorous – and it is for those on the receiving end of the camera.
Behind the camera, television production is simply a matter of hard
work. The opportunity to be on the research staff
of the 1990 Goodwill Games
was offered to me just after the U.S.Nationals in Salt Lake City. My
job was to write down the technical elements in the short and long
programs , which requires one to watch all the practices as some
competitors rarely run through their full programs at any given
time. Nevertheless you can’t always get the order of elements.
Talking directly to the competitors and coaches, it was surprising
to learn that even they often couldn’t recite the correct order of
the elements in their own programs.
One coach insisted that there were only 7 required elements
in the Short Program, when at that time there were 8 required
technical elements. Some skaters routinely interchanged one set of
moves for another. The Soviets were notorious for doing several
different variations of their programs. Aggravating!
Besides collecting technical elements of
programs, I also provided biographical as well as incidental
information on the skaters. My unofficial interpreter for the
Soviets was Olga Moskvina, a delightful 20 year-old student from
Leningrad who was visiting Seattle at the time. Olga was a product
of glasnost. She expounded very western ideas and was an avid viewer
of MTV. Olga’s fashionably cut red hair, shorts and tank top
screamed L.A. and despite being the daughter of famed Soviet pairs
coach Tamara Moskvina, she knew absolutely nothing about figure
skating. Olga was anxious to please but after two days, Olga decided
I was one of those “crazy Americans” who do nothing but work and I
never saw her again.
Production people are only concerned with the
ongoing aspects of putting on a show. They time the numbers and
decide which skaters will be featured. Being prepared for anything
is essential in television. At a production meeting we were handed a
list of the skaters to be televised. A virtually unknown
(to me) Soviet skater Tatiana
Rachkova, was not on the list, but the crew taped to air
her performance. I had to hunt down her coach, driving 80 miles one
way in search of information.
I was never on camera because the network would
have had to pay me additional money, so I was rushed out of the
broadcast booth to hide behind a screen. The commentators spoke into
headsets with microphones but I hadn’t the slightest idea what was
actually said. I hoped it was interesting.