Notre Dame swimmer Jace Hopper spent the summer before his senior year working at the Beijing Olympics.

Ultimate Olympic Experience (Jace Hopper feature)

Oct. 28, 2008

(Written by Notre Dame Sports Information student assistant Amy Dixon)

Imagine witnessing history virtually on a daily basis. Whether it was Michael Phelps’ photo finish in the 100-meter butterfly, the United States world-record setting upset of France in the men’s 4×100 relay, or the multiple silver medal performances of the oldest Olympic swimmer, Dara Torres, there are very few people who got a better view than Notre Dame men’s swimmer, Jace Hopper. In the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, nearly every race resulted in another swimming world record.

During his summer internship with NBC, Hopper, a senior with a dual major in information technology management and sociology, had the unique opportunity of working closely behind the scenes of these landmark events. Through his work, he provided Americans the opportunity to relive moments of triumph, including the 21 world records that were set in the pool. Hopper was one of 100 college interns selected by NBC to assist with the Olympic Games.

During the internship, Hopper was assigned to the swimming competitions, and during most of the swimming events, he worked behind the scenes with the NBC production team. Hopper was responsible for “logging” all the video that was broadcast on NBC during each telecast. Once the video was filed on computer, Hopper reviewed the logs to choose video footage used for replays, teasers, and other Olympic promotions. Hopper had access at his fingertips to replay reels that documented each of swimming sensation Phelps’ eight gold medals. Hopper noted that in the races resulting in photo finishes, often he would replay the video over and over to create precise replays and capture the excitement of the moment.

For Hopper, his work behind the scenes provided him with an indescribable experience in the Olympic setting. As a result of NBC’s desire to air live, primetime coverage of event finals and semi-finals in the United States, the races actually took place in the mornings in Beijing. The timing of the races made for late nights and early mornings for the NBC production staff. Hopper estimates that his longest day totaled 18 hours, but he recognizes that the great experience was well worth the extra effort.

Hopper’s designation as a member of the media provided him with opportunities of which a sports enthusiast could only dream. When he wasn’t working, Hopper took advantage of his media status, and was able to attend a number of Olympic events. Considering that tickets for Olympic events were sold out for the duration of the Games, the “infinity symbol” on his media badge provided him with access to any event. Attending these events were opportunities that he could have never dreamed of prior to the Games.

Hopper had the good fortune to view firsthand two of what he considers Phelps’ greatest performances. He was in good company as he watched Phelps swim for one of his eight gold medals from just a few rows behind Phelps’ mother and next to American swimming great, Lenny Krayzelburg. His position with NBC earned him a front row seat as the U. S. men’s basketball team defeated Australia in the quarterfinals.

Despite his full work schedule and attending the other Olympic events, Hopper and the other nine interns from Notre Dame found time to immerse themselves in the Chinese culture. They were able to visit Chinese landmarks including Tienneman Square, Forbidden City and the Great Wall, in addition to the state-of-the-art Olympic venues. Hopper was in awe of the spectacle that the Chinese created surrounding the Olympics and the architecture that characterized both the historic sites and modern Olympic venues. He characterizes the architecture as “incredible.” That is quite a complement from the Las Vegas, Nev., who is very familiar with remarkable buildings.

Hopper was equally amazed by the differences between the Chinese and American cultures. Admittedly, He knew very little of the Mandarin language, the official language of China. Despite the cultural differences, the genuineness of the Chinese people, their pride and the pure excitement they displayed as hosts of the Games was evident. “The culture was extremely interesting and entirely different than I expected,” Hopper says.

His experience as an Olympic insider and the opportunity to experience the Chinese culture made for an unforgettable summer internship. Hopper, who attended the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, vows that he will never attend the Olympics again, unless he has the distinction as a member of the media. His association with NBC not only provided him with wonderful professional experience, but also gave him total access to events he could never have attended.

“It was a great experience and I am glad I was able to do it.” Hopper says. “They did a really good job of accommodating people and they were so excited to have us there. It was unbelievable.”