Ceremonies: Reflecting on F&cking Up Bigger Sh*t Than This
By Sarah Grubb
One of my favourite bosses told me once (which I know is probably quite widely said in this industry) ‘We’ve fucked up bigger shit than this!’ I have kept it in my mind ever since. Often it is nice to reflect on the worst to see how you survived.
I worked on the Ceremonies of the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games, which is still probably the hardest gig I ever did. I was hired a consultant to the Organising Committee where we were meant to be ensuring the local production company was doing its jobs. But throughout the process, we went from an entire technical team of Internationals to having our TD resign and being left with myself and 2 other internationals. With only 40ish days to go before the show, we were joined by 3 more internationals to help us finish up all the technical needs. We were being greatly supported by a fabulous international producing and stage management (consultancy) teams, but it really was only 6 in the tech department with lots of international contractors trying to wage through the bullshit.
I wrote a lot during my time there. I thought it would be fun to share some of those here.
55 Days To Go: Today was hard. Had a hard time getting up for work. Dragging myself in each day is getting harder and harder. The stadium is a disaster, which sucks the life out of me every time I go. I actually had to use the toilet today. Man did I regret that. We went to a meeting about sport handing the venue over to us to start the build. I waited for 2.5 hours for the meeting to start. Then I headed back to the office without experiencing any meeting at all. You sit in the stadium which looks kind of normal from a spectator position, but the outside is a construction site, the rooms have holes in the ceiling and the electrical wiring looks more like a torture device of some kind than wiring as we know it.
So today, I changed my skype status to Sarah Grubb is exhausted. I am. Officially. Turning 31 in a couple of days. Hopefully they forget it is my birthday, but since they have like 42 copies of my passport, I doubt that will happen.
47 Days To Go: Just arrived at our apparently working Stadium Office. There is no internet at the moment because since they don’t have security on overnight, they remove all of the modems. So now we wait for someone to come and reinstall them. It is after 11am. How can there be no one here at 11am 47 days to go!?!? There is no a/c in our office so I have sat myself down pretty much smack in front of a fan. There is a constant shuffle of random people through our ‘office’. Some look like cleaners, some are children, some are just walking by. There is a security guard who seems to be guarding his personal chair more than anything else. Lucky for him there aren’t more people working out of this office. Otherwise, we would probably need his chair. I currently count about 6 desks, 15 chairs and a meeting table for a team of about 60 at least. There is lots of cat 5 cable hanging about, but none with any useable ends on them. The compound is in even a scarier state. It has some tents, no walls, no power or a/c, no furniture, little temporary tents with families living inside them, no fencing, and a catering tent with a full-blown tree inside it. We are meant to land the first containers sometime this week but who knows if they will be 1 – cleared from customs and 2 – have a secure place to land them. We basically must ignore the plans because they seem so ridiculously inaccurate now. Very fun stuff.
30 Days To Go….so it is exactly 1 month to go today. Yikes. We are kind of doing things, but again at a relatively slow pace. Quite a few things have happened in the last few days that were frustrating:
• I managed to get the pass for the delivery car to drive in the catering. It worked for 1 day. Now it doesn’t
• We started rationing bottles of water much to my dismay. Contractors nearly stopped work. Apparently, there is plenty of water and it was all just a misunderstanding. I hope so.
• It is not even lockdown yet and some of our contractors were hauled offsite by the police who were pointing guns for not having their bump in accreditation on lanyards. I also did not have a lanyard, so I hid in the office until someone brought one for me. This also temporarily stopped work.
• I have conjunctivitis. Big time. One eye is nearly swollen shut and the other eye is just starting to get it. I will medicate both of them tonight and hope for the best.
• Our new TD has been very sick as well. He is back now, but not 100% yet.
19 Days To Go…. The Show Caller has a bad virus and her back is still hurt, so our Excecutive Producer has requested that the local production company hire a replacement just in case. The producer has organized for an Aussie replacement to come out. Let’s see if anyone gets their act together enough to make sure she can really turn up. I highly doubt they will. Tomorrow is officially the start of lockdown. No sign of that happening anytime soon.
12 Days To Go….Today we had our first day of rehearsal in the stadium. It has been ok. But considering we haven’t even finished loading in, it was amazing we were able to accomplish anything at all. 2 cast groups of over 1000 each so that is pretty good… Oh, I nearly didn’t update about this one…..Our International Executive Producer has dengue as well now. Terrible news. Terrible indeed. But we are coping. Anyway, she texted saying that we should be covering ourselves in bug repellent because it was horrible. I feel terrible.
There was a footbridge near the stadium that collapsed today. I am sure it will be just the publicity we need. 23 people possibly hurt. Lots of camera trucks on the flyover that we take to get home, so that will take ages for sure now.
I still don’t have any accreditation. I am tired of fucking talking to them. If I don’t get accreditation by the time it is required, I will just stay home. Fuck it.
OPENING CEREMONY DAY (Post Show): So, it is now 4am. The show was actually quite good. We didn’t have too many issues throughout the show. I got a few fantastic shots that I will eventually have to include here. Here’s what I remember:
• When the PM arrived, they scrambled all of our radio frequencies so for about 5 min we lost a lot of communication.
• The ring road was very hot.
• Athlete’s Parade got a bit messed up and nearly ran out of seating.
• Australia didn’t stay for the show.
• I had only 3 or 4 medical calls all night.
• The mendhi hands in Swagatam were a show stealer.
• I used nearly an entire roll of toilet paper to blow my nose – same crap cold
• Overall the show was a huge success
I can honestly tell you I think about Delhi, in retrospect, as the best job I ever did. I learned a crazy amount about how to do a show with way less resources and time, but still to relatively high standards. I will love the people who were there with me for eternity.
It also allowed my career to excel in a way that I could never have anticipated. Our contractors were amazing and so many of them are still very good friends of mine. I have lost touch with a lot of the locals, but I must say as much as I was swearing by the infamous acronym INDIA: I’ll Never Do It Again, anytime I see photos or ads on television or watch a movie about India, I dream about going back to just see it all again. It was the hardest time of my life that I would never ever take back.
So, when you think you are on the worst gig of your life, but you manage to survive, make sure you take the time when a while has past to see what you learned, how you grew as a person and to see if you really have fucked up bigger shit than this. I certainly can say I did and remind myself often.