Video: East Thetford Man Is On Call for Summer Games

  • East Thetford resident Peter Graves stands for a portrait at his home in front of one of his many pieces of sports memorabilia on Wednesday, July 27, 2016. Graves will soon be departing the Upper Valley to announce his 9th Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. “I think the Olympic movement is vitally important in bringing people together,” he said, “Every place I’ve ever gone I’ve come back far richer in my life.” (Valley News - Mac Snyder) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • East Thetford resident Peter Graves sits in his home office and scours the internet for a newly published book about the Olympics on Wednesday, July 27, 2016, in East Thetford, Vt. Graves will soon be departing the Upper Valley to announce his 9th Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Valley News - Mac Snyder) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Peter Graves considers himself a citizen of the world — and his trade has certainly allowed him to see a lot of it.

Graves, of East Thetford, is in Rio de Janeiro as a public address announcer for the Summer Olympics. It’s the ninth time the 64-year-old has been a broadcast or PA announcer at the Games, going back to the 1980 Winter Games at Lake Placid, N.Y.

A former expert cross country ski commentator for ABC and ESPN, Graves today specializes in PA announcing for a multitude of endurance events.

He announced during the opening and closing ceremonies at the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City, where he doubled as the stadium announcer for cross country skiing and ski jumping.

Other stadium PA duties included mountain biking at the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney, Australia, and all cycling events at the 2004 Summer Games in Athens.

For the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, Graves — a former collegiate cross country skier and husband of Dartmouth College women’s Nordic ski coach Cami Thompson Graves — was the host announcer for cross country, ski jumping and Nordic combined.

He announced ski jumping and Alpine skiing events in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, along with some work at medals plaza.

Graves noted that while PA duties may appear relatively straightforward, he takes seriously the responsibility to pronounce everyone’s names correctly, including intonation of the given nation’s dialect, and to keep audiences informed.

“What spectators see and hear now is more like a live show, similar to a live TV show,” Graves said in an interview last week, one day before departing for Rio. “There is very little dead air. You’re sort of describing the scene the whole time and there’s a big entertainment aspect.”

It wasn’t until the first week of July that Graves got a call inviting him to work at this summer’s Games. Unlike previous Olympic trips, he didn’t arrive with specific assignment, but rather will be on-call to fill in as needed.

“I’ll be working with other announcers, sharing my experience with some of the younger guys about some of the dos and don’ts I’ve picked up over the years,” Graves said. “And I could be called on anytime to fill in for someone who’s lost their voice or gets sick, which is actually very common.

“I’m not sure what venue I’ll end up in. It’s quite likely I’ll end up out of my comfort zone, so I’ve been trying to read up on as many of the sports as possible since I got the call 2½ weeks ago.”

Graves was 28 and had been a radio news director in Durango, Colo., when he was hired by ABC to join legendary sportscaster Bill Flemming for cross country skiing and biathlon commentary in Lake Placid.

He still considers those 1980 Winter Games to be his fondest Olympic memory.

“There are two reasons for that,” Graves said. “The first is just the fact that it was my first Olympics and therefore, in many ways, the sweetest. I watched ABC’s Wide World of Sports all the time, and just to work with Bill Flemming and be in the same master control room as the guys who produced that show, I was pretty star-struck.

“The second reason had nothing to do with why I was there, and that was Team USA’s win over Russia (in men’s hockey). To be on Main Street in Lake Placid after that and witness all of the exultation, the tears, the joy and the laughter. It’s a really profound memory.”

Graves also draws powerful recollection from the most recent Olympics on U.S. soil, the 2002 Winter Games at Salt Lake City. He was involved as an associate producer with the Salt Lake Olympic Committee and announced the opening and closing ceremonies for both the Olympics and Paralympics, augmenting stadium announcement duties for several ski events.

“I think it was the most anxiety producing an event I’ve ever felt, but it was probably also the most special,” Graves said.

“It was in the U.S., President (George W.) Bush was there and it was the first Olympics after 9/11. The World Trade Center attacks still weighed heavily on everyone’s minds.”

Graves says he doesn’t worry about terrorist attacks while working at the Olympics.

“You see how much security is on hand — it’s everywhere,” he noted. “It’s hard not to feel safe with so much security around.”

Graves occasionally encounters Olympic naysayers, who point to recent doping scandals or the expenses levied on host cities. Yet he defends the Games for its way of inciting collaboration amid the world’s nations cultures.

“I truly believe in the Olympic movement as a force for peace, brotherhood and goodwill,” he said. “It’s not a perfect system. Doping is going to continue to occur, because the fact is the dopers are usually one step ahead of the tests.

“But even with all of these things, my heart tells me that the Olympics enhance humanity and brings people together like nothing else can. To be a small part of that, to be able to educate, inspire and inform people while I’m there, is very humbling.”

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3225.