Our first full day in Athens and the eve of the Olympic Games’ opening ceremony. ITN has sent a big team here – 17 in total – for the duration of the Games. My role is to provide live updates for the ITV News Channel and then anchor the sport for the News at 10.30 on ITV1.
Delighted that our ‘live spot’ on top of a marble factory has a fantastic view of the main stadium and is just five minutes’ walk from the block of flats we are renting. The set-up includes a self-operated autocue and a lap-top and printer so I can access wires and write scripts – a rare luxury when abroad.
The system worked perfectly yesterday, today the computer doesn’t want to know me. Spend a frustrating two hours talking to our computer experts and engineers who decide we need a faster modem. It’s ordered and will arrive tomorrow.
As Athens is two hours ahead, I’m not finishing work until 1am. My colleague Jonathan Wills does the early shift on the News Channel and then also provides recorded updates for all the ITV1 local regions – quite a task. I arrive on the factory roof to find he’s somewhat hot and flustered after a run-in with an Athens policeman. He was making his way back from our broadcast base when he ran into the Olympic flame procession – and the heavy security surrounding it. His attempts to get through were thwarted.
An armed officer, at one point, released the safety catch on his gun.
Joy of joys, the new modem has arrived and I can finally log in.
Everything is now focused on tonight’s opening ceremony. My colleague Mark Austin is here to anchor ITV1’s evening news from the Acropolis. He throws to me live outside the stadium as the spectacular show gets underway. The bosses back in London are delighted as the programme goes smoothly.
The hottest day so far as the sporting action finally gets underway.
Luckily we have a fridge and water cooler on our roof, but we keep returning to the apartment to freshen up.
Scour the local shops for a table to put the laptop and printer on, but to no avail. Local department store says they have simply sold out – presumably to the hundreds of other broadcasters camping out near the stadium.
Shouldn’t really complain. Neither CBS nor Sky News, who share the factory roof with us, have computer access.
The news is still dominated by the two Greek sprinters who failed to turn up for a drugs test and were then involved in a mysterious motorcycle accident. We wait all day for the Greek Olympic authorities to make a decision.
I eventually do a newsflash on the ITV News Channel saying they have been suspended.
Team GB celebrates its first medal of the Games -it’s certainly the only time synchronised diving has made the headlines on the News at 10.30.
From blazing heat to gale-force winds. The Meltemi blows in with a vengeance. Our camp on top of the factory is in danger of disappearing into the Athens’ suburbs. The locals working with us are clearly used to these conditions and arrive armed with weights, which we attach to all our equipment. As we tape the laptop to a table, and battle to hold onto bits of paper, wires and mobile phones, we consider re-locating to the balcony of one of our apartments. We decide to stick it out because there would be no computer access at the flat.
The weather is also wreaking havoc with the Games. The rowing is postponed and other competitors are battling the elements. Being cold is not something I expected in Athens, but it’s freezing as I anchor the 10.30 spot.
My cameraman Simon aims all our lights in my direction to keep me warm, but it’s difficult to stop shivering.
The forecast says it will get worse tomorrow.
They’re good these Greek weather forecasters. The morning shift arrives on the roof to discover the camera has almost blown over in the night.
Jonathan Wills, who would freely admit to being heavier than I am, tries desperately to conduct live interviews with guests including Lord Coe. His cameraman Dave struggles to keep the lens steady and is alarmed as the apparatus begins to move along the ground.
The two Greek sprinters are still holed up in hospital and I’m despatched there to report live for the ITV Evening News. It makes a nice change to be out of the howling gale.
News reaches us of the flash-flood in Cornwall and we’re stunned by the rescue pictures posted on the internet.
The news in the UK remains dominated by the Cornwall floods and we realise it will be a rare, quiet day for us here in Athens.
Cameraman Simon and I take a trip out in search of postcards. Security here is tight, but not oppressive.
However we are careful to keep out of the designated Olympic lanes (instant â‚¬150 fine) and avoid parking in restricted zones (â‚¬1,000 fine).
We later learn that a colleague from a rival network was nearly arrested for broadcasting near the equestrian centre.
We sympathise – it’s tough trying to newsgather when you don’t work for one of the Olympics rights-holders.
At last Britain is winning some medals. We’re all becoming incredibly knowledgeable about the skills of archery and kayaking- the events at which Team GB has triumphed. We’re all desperate for any success stories and the first gold medal winner will be given the full hero/heroine treatment.
Perhaps it will be sprinter Darren Campbell who talks to ITV News about the Greek drugs scandal and his hopes for gold in the 100 metres.
Our hopes are pinned on finding a decent restaurant where we can eat once we come off air at 1am. The local taverna is doing a roaring trade, but most of us are becoming heartily sick of Greek food and yearn for some pasta.
We’re told that most of the best places are in central Athens and resolve to look further afield. After all we still have 19 days until the Games finish.