Mike Ridewood – Olympic Experience
My last few Olympic opening ceremonies have been photographed from far up in the stadium. Photographers sit in assigned seats, crammed together with their two or three cameras, multitude of lenses and a laptop. At the opening ceremonies of the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics, I shot this picture on film (remember film?) with an 18mm lens. Much more civilized. (Photo – Mike Ridewood)
I photographed my first winter Olympics in 1988 as a staff photographer for the Calgary Olympic organizing committee. After those Games, I knew I had caught the bug.
Since 1994, I’ve worked nine Olympics, the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Victoria, three Pan Am Games and two Canada Games.
The upcoming Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics will be my tenth Games working for the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) as one of its two team photographers. There is really nothing quite like an Olympics in the sports world. It is the most intense and satisfying 17 days you will ever experience.
A big part of feeling somewhat relaxed and comfortable going into an Olympic Games is being prepared.
An important part of any sports assignment, and even more important for an Olympics, is learning about the sports you’re about to cover. Photographing sports such as bobsleigh, skeleton, freestyle skiing and short track speed skating is very different from the usual fare.
I like to arrive about a week before the opening ceremonies. This gives me lots of time to recover from jet lag, check out the transportation system, get any workflow glitches worked out and get to most of the venues. At the venues, I check out the photo workroom, get a look at the photo positions and access the light levels at the indoor venues.
The place I work out of, and a great resource for all Canadian media, is the Canadian team office in the Main Press Centre (MPC). This will be your go-to spot for information and applying for tickets to the opening and closing ceremonies and any other high-demand event.
Each sport has a media attaché who is the buffer between media and the athletes and coaches. I keep these folks on speed dial for sport information and access to the athletes.
Sochi will probably attract 15 – 20 Canadian photographers. We become a little cadre, following the medal hopefuls. In one of my first Games, I learned from Bernard Brault, photographer at La Presse, that a good strategy is to try and find a spot that isn’t beside the other Canadian photographers. It’s not always possible and it doesn’t always work, but it’s really worthwhile when it does.
Figure skater Brian Orser leads the Canadian team into the opening ceremony at McMahon Stadium in Calgary, February 13, 1988. I had a wonderful field level spot and my main assignment was to shoot each country’s flag bearer. (Photo – Mike Ridewood)
The Olympics have always been a huge event but they have grown a great deal over the past 25 years. When figure skater Brian Orser led the Canadian team at the opening ceremony in Calgary 1988, it was huge. But that was nothing compared to speed skater Clara Hughes at the head of Canada’s team at the opening of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Games. It wasn’t until that moment that I realized what the Vancouver Games meant to all of Canada.
Clara Hughes leads the Canadian team into B.C. Place during the opening ceremony at the Vancouver Winter Olympics, February 12, 2010. Clara was the perfect choice for flag bearer in Vancouver. One of the most incredible races I’ve photographed was Clara’s 5000-metre long track gold medal performance in Torino, 2006. She started slow in the 12-1/2 lap race, but picked up the pace in the later laps for the victory. She is one of very few athletes who wear their heart on their sleeve. (Photo – Mike Ridewood)
My Olympic images are filed to the Canadian Press Archive and become part of the daily news cycle. But the main purpose of the pictures is to be a historical record. The photos are also used by the COC in its communications.
(L-R) Manon Rheaume, Fiona Smith, Hayley Wickenheiser and Vicky Sunohara are disappointed with their 3 – 1 loss to the United States at the Big Hat arena in Nagano, February 17, 1998. The expectations were huge for the women’s team at the first women’s hockey competition at the Olympics. Shooting heartbreak games like this aren’t quite as much fun. (Photo – Mike Ridewood)
What makes the most difference in the images is the event results. For example, in Nagano 1998, our women’s hockey team lost 3 – 1 to Team USA. Hayley Wickenheiser and her teammates weren’t too happy with a silver medal. The pictures were much improved four years later in Salt Lake City when they defeated the USA 3 – 2 in the gold medal game.
Canadian women”s hockey team goalie Kim St.-Pierre shows her gold medal to friends and family through the glass after the Canadian team won the gold medal with a 3 – 2 victory over the United States in Salt Lake City, February 21, 2002. The Olympics always provides lots of pictures I like, but only a few I really care about. This is one that I really like. A really emotional, personal moment. (Photo – Mike Ridewood)
Sochi may be another break out games for Canada. There are a lot of medal possibilities in the traditional sports as well as some of the new sports. It will be interesting.
Mike Ridewood is a Calgary-based editorial and corporate photographer with over 30 years experience. Mike has (so far) photographed nine summer and winter Olympics, three Pan Am Games, one Commonwealth Games, two Canada Games, seven Stanley Cups, and over 19 years of NHL hockey for Reuters, The Canadian Press and Getty Images.
In addition to sports, Mike also shoots news, politics, public relations and advertising for a diverse range of clients.