Bennington's Graves on the job in Rio
BENNINGTON >> Vermont is much more known for the Winter Olympics, but this year's Rio Games, which begin with the Opening Ceremony on Friday, will have a Green Mountain flavor.
Bennington's Peter Graves, a long-time winter sports television commentator, is in Brazil for the next month, working as a public address announcer for the cycling events.
"I'm just thrilled to be here, it's my first time in South America and Brazil and I love the Olympic spirit, and meeting new people, both of those things embody the spirit of the Games," said Graves in an email on Tuesday while preparing in Brazil's capital city.
Rio de Janeiro will be Graves' ninth Olympics, six in the winter and three in the summer. At the last Olympics, in Sochi, Russia, in 2014, Graves was the lead PA announcer at the Medals Plaza.
"Whether it's a Summer or Winter games, the skill sets of a public address announcer are just the same," Graves said. "But I have had a lot more experience with skiing at the Winter Games, although I did do cycling at both Athens [Greece, in 2004] and Sydney [Australia, in 2000]. "The Winter games are much smaller than a Summer games, so it's a bit easier getting around."
Graves, 64, graduated from Mount Anthony in 1970 and from Fort Lewis College in Colorado in 1975. A cross-country skier in both high school and college, Graves returned to the Northeast and in what he described as a 'stroke of luck,' he got a spot as a cross-country skiing commentator for ABC Sports in 1980 at the Lake Placid Olympics.
"One thing just led to another," Graves said. "Nowadays, I do much more PA announcing then I do TV."
He has covered everything from Nordic skiing to mountain biking on Canadian and American television.
"Public address announcing at the Olympics is different from being a TV commentator. At the Olympics we have to be completely unbiased and make sure, for example, we pronounce the athletes' names correctly," Graves said. "We have to get that right and every athlete deserves that."
Graves will also lead seminars for the public address announcers and serve as a backup announcer if the main guys become ill or are out.
"During the seminars that I am conducting, we talk about all these things, like the International Olympic Committee (IOC). We go over the protocol for medal ceremonies and staying healthy during the stress of the games," Graves said. We have some 7,000 music cuts and we discuss with the DJ's when and where to use them. We talk about sport research and how sometimes less announcing and letting the event breathe, are very important. There are a great deal of moving parts."
Some of the places Graves will be working include Fort Copacabana and Pontal, both areas on the southern coast of the country. He is accredited as a member of the Rio Organizing Committee, not there as a journalist, so he's not in the Media Village.
"My time here — so far — has been wonderful, the people are very open and friendly," Graves said. "I have always traveled and seen the world of sport, both as a ski coach and an announcer looking for the best in people, and that's what I normally find."
In May, Graves, who now resides in East Thetford, was named as the Interim Director of NENSA, the New England Nordic Ski Association.
When not covering the world's Games, he announces men's and women's soccer at Dartmouth College for the Ivy League Network and continues to cover World Cup skiing and cycling.
"I'm a fourth generation Vermonter and born in Bennington, so I am very proud about that and of the huge contributions to sports made by Vermont athletes and coaches over the years," Graves said. "I have traveled around the world many times over, but Vermont, its beauty, and its people will always be home."
Graves plans on being super-busy for the next three weeks, with four different cycling events in this year's Olympics, including BMX, Mountain biking, road and track.
"I have just been booked for cycling. I love using words to paint pictures, to capture the special and profound moments that showcase the human drama of sports," Graves said.
If he gets a chance to watch other events in and around Rio, he said it would be the triathlon, the marathon and probably rowing.
"I'm 64 now and thrilled to be at my ninth Games," Graves said. "I feel blessed and I never take these experiences for granted. I hope that I and our announcing teams can play a small role in helping create the right spirit at the Games, that help educate, inspire and inform. When it's done properly, it's magic."
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