Wide world of sports
Former sports information student assistant at UGA now oversees international broadcasts of the Olympic Games
Like many of us, Mark Parkman (BA ’87) will watch the 2012 Summer Olympics on television.
The difference is that Parkman will be in London helping oversee 5,000 hours of coverage that will be viewed by more than 4.5 billion people in 200-plus countries.
As vice president of operations for International Sports Broadcasting and the operations executive for Olympic Broadcasting Services, Parkman will monitor a bank of televisions, just as he’s done in Atlanta; Nagano, Japan; Sydney, Australia; Salt Lake City; Athens, Greece; Turin, Italy; Beijing and Vancouver.
“People assume that in between the Olympics there’s nothing going on,” says Parkman, who won an Emmy Award for his work in Salt Lake City. “But in reality, it takes four or five years to plan one Olympics.”
Parkman helps decide where the huge international broadcast center will be located and the camera placements in the venues. About 5,000 people must be hired to work on the host broadcast, which will produce seven feeds from a single gymnastics session.
“When I left Athens, I never thought that I would actually live in another Athens,” says Parkman, who spent two years in Greece prior to the 2004 games.
A speech communications major who worked as a sports information student assistant at UGA, Parkman was in public relations for Cohn & Wolfe and Turner Broadcasting before joining veteran Olympic broadcaster Manolo Romero’s company in the run-up to the 1996 games.
“For me to be around him and soak up some of that knowledge has made my career so fulfilling,” Parkman says.
It has also given him the resources to give back. In 2007, Parkman helped found Morale Entertainment, a nonprofit organization that stages major events for U.S. military troops.
“A few of us were talking about what we can do for the troops based upon our connections and expertise,” Parkman says. “We said if we can provide them with some sort of diversion from the enormity of their task and their responsibility, that’s something we should all try to do.”
Their first project sent college football coaches, including UGA’s Mark Richt, to Iraq in 2008.
Parkman couldn’t make the trip; he had meetings about the 2012 Olympic contract. But he was on board for the latest venture, the Carrier Classic in San Diego in November that pitted North Carolina against Michigan State in a basketball game on the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson. It was such a success that another edition is planned next year.
“I’ve been involved in every Olympics since 1996, but that event was truly one of the most memorable ones I’ve ever been a part of,” Parkman says.
He also helped bring about one of the most patriotic moments of the Salt Lake City Olympics.
During the initial planning meeting for the opening ceremony, the producers mentioned having an eagle fly into the stadium and land on the field. “I kind of sat there wondering whether or not I should speak up,” Parkman says. “I said, ‘Um, do you have this bird?’ And they said, ‘No, we’re looking for one.’ And I said, ‘Well, I think I might know where you can find one.’”
And that’s how Auburn University’s War Eagle made his dramatic Olympic entrance. “I was able to put aside my long-held upbringing to do what was best for the country,” Parkman says. “I did have a bit of pride when I saw that damn bird flying into the stadium.”
It made for some good TV, too.
—Karen Rosen is a freelance writer living in Atlanta.