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Arctic conditions in Bydgoszcz

This weekend I’ve been in a very snowy and cold Bydgoszcz in Poland for the IAAF World Cross Country Championships. Some of the journalists here have been getting excited that this is the coldest cross country championships on record. Daytime temperatures have reportedly been around -5 degrees. Lloyd Bell, as on previous IAAF events, has been contracted to provide the technical facilities to allow live streaming from the site.

I arrived on Friday with a 30kg case full of pristine cables and equipment. I’ll be travelling back on Monday with bags full of cracked and dirty leads and some equipment that has undoubtedly suffered in this cold weather. The toughest part of any rig is the very long audio connection that I need to run between the “mixed zone” interview position and our technical base in the media tribune. This thin cable became embedded in the snow and was as stiff as a twig when I tried to pull it up this evening. At some point between the rig and the de-rig somebody had decided to build a first aid tent on top of my cable. Some of the athletes in the tent looked at me quite strangely as I tugged the cable from under their beds.

The cold weather would have been difficult for the athletes running in the race but it was probably even more of a problem for our team in the commentary position. We were sat in one place for at least four hours and every time the sun passed behind the clouds we could really feel the temperature drop. It’s not so easy to use a laptop keyboard or mixing desk with gloves so I spent most of the time with very cold hands. The rest of me survived OK with two pairs of socks, two pairs of pants, two jumpers, a fleece, a coat and a hat.

I’m pleased to say that our operation passed with a great deal of success. We only had one presenter and one interviewer but I think we produced a programme that was informative, interesting and professional. The presenter was glued to a television feed of the cross country races so he could commentate on the action. I was next to him controlling the levels, recording the interviews from the mixed zone and giving direction for the programme. We transmitted a total of 2 hours 15 minutes and the only hitch in the broadcast was when some random music started playing on the “international sound” feed that is only supposed to have clean sound effects on it. I was looking at my faders for about 5 seconds trying to work out where this music was coming from.

As a piece of advice to any reporters, technicians or producers who are thinking of producing a radio show in the cold – always carry backup equipment. My main ISDN audio connection failed before we even got on air. Luckily I had a backup, that I almost didn’t carry with me, so luckily nobody listening at home would have noticed.

We’ve had lovely texts from listeners and from IAAF management so it’s good to know that we weren’t just talking to ourselves from a cold field somewhere in the middle of Poland. Now, on to the banquet tonight. Hopefully I won’t drink too much and miss my transport out of here at 0610 tomorrow morning.

Micky Curling