A trip of Olympic proportions: Journalism, business students learn on-site at Turin

For the two groups of GW students who interned and studied in Turin, Italy, the Olympics were not just fun and games.

Ten GW students were recruited by NBC to work as interns at the Olympics, and about 50 students, split into two groups, went to Turin as part of the three-credit course, Behind the Scenes at the Winter Olympic Games. The course is taught and organized by Lisa Delpy Neirotti, director of GW’s graduate tourism administration and sports management programs. Each student’s schedule at the games was jam-packed with 12- to 15-hour days. The Olympics closing ceremony took place Sunday.

Delpy Neirotti has been teaching the course at GW and taking groups of students to either the winter or summer games since 1992, but this is the first year that she offered two sections of the course. Her classes, consisting of 45 graduate business students and three undergraduates, were split into two groups that visited Turin from Feb. 8 to Feb. 18, and Feb. 18 until Tuesday. Normally, she and about 25 students go to the Olympics for 10 days to get a behind-the-scenes look at how the event is run; but this year she said she had to put together 19 days of programming.

“All of my contacts have been very cooperative with having the schedules work out for us,” Delpy Neirotti said.

Students are assigned to research one aspect of the Olympics before and during the games, and as a final project they write a term paper on an Olympics-related topic of their choice.

“The students learn about the Olympics experience, and they make great career contacts,” she said. “They learn about event management at the biggest event in the world. Then they can take it back and apply it to smaller events.”

From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day, the business students were in lectures with members of the International Olympics Committee, the Olympic oversight organization, and learned about different aspects that go into making the games run smoothly, Delpy Neirotti said. They also attended lectures given by experts on such topics as transportation, security and accommodation, and they met with an editor from USA Today to get a journalistic point of view on the event.

Senior Ethan Jacoby, who was in the first group, described the Olympics as an “international party” and said one of his favorite parts of the trip was getting to meet people from all over the world.

“It helped me to narrow down what I want to do in the field of sports,” he said.

Melisa Mowry, a graduate student in Delpy Neirotti’s class who was in the first group of students, said going to Turin has given her a “higher level of appreciation and understanding for the games.” She said that Delpy Neirotti’s course is the reason she is at GW, and the trip made her realize that she wants to work for the Olympics in the future.

Journalism students also got in on the Olympics action. NBC recruiters from New York came to GW last year to find interns for the games in Turin. NBC had also previously recruited interns from GW for the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece.

Kathryn Monahan, a senior majoring in business administration, was interning for NBC for her second Olympics – Athens was her first – and said she enjoyed Turin more.

Monahan was a tape logger for ski jumping and was stationed at the ski jumping venue in Pragelato, a small town in the Alps located about two hours away from Turin. She said she worked in the production truck with the director, producer, tape operators and technical directors during the events and watched four cameras, logging what is happening on each one. She said she also worked with the producers and editors to find shots of certain athletes for some segments.

David Upbin, a senior majoring in sports, event, and hospitality management, was also stationed in Pragelato, where he worked with NBC covering ski jumping and cross-country skiing. Upbin was a “spotter,” staying at the top of the ski lift with a radio and giving the production team notice whenever an important athlete was approaching. He said his other duties included moving equipment, conducting research for the announcers and running errands for the crew.

Lizzie Turkevich, a senior majoring in journalism, said she went into the Olympics with an open mind. In Turin, Turkevich was assigned to the sports desk, which acts as the news area. Turkevich said that if any major news broke, it was her and her coworkers’ job to get the story to the rest of the world. Her department also created packages for a show called “Olympic Zone,” which is a pre-Games program that showcases local athletes, she said.

“All the packages are features or profiles, so they are really fun to work on and better than I ever imagined,” she said. “I could work at the sports desk forever.”

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