They make up the largest single contingent at Lake Placid, 800 men and women in pale blue, logo-festooned parkas. That's six times the size of the entire U.S. Olympic team—coaches, captains and all—and more than half the number of all the athletes from all the other 36 participating nations.
This wired-up, wisecracking bunch is from the American Broadcasting Company. In one sense, it will be the most important contingent at the Olympics—with the exception of the 1,470 athletes themselves—because it is through ABC's eyes that the world will see the Games.
Lake Placid's capacity for handling live spectators is sharply limited. The village has but one main street, with one traffic light, and is remote from big population centers. The local Olympic Committee says some 50,000 spectators will come to the Games as day-trippers, arriving each morning and departing each night. New York's Department of Conservation has set a limit of 51,000 visitors a day.
The global viewing audience ABC expects to reach, by means of its own direct telecasts and feeds to foreign networks, numbers 900 million, give or take a few mil. Because ABC has covered seven of the last nine Olympics, missing only the Summer Games of 1964 and the Winter Games of '72, improving its technical and esthetic expertise at each, the Lake Placid assignment seems to be in good hands.
No one would agree more than the people of ABC. They make up a confident—not to say cocky—crowd, certain of their professionalism and proud of their self-awarded label "The Olympic Network." There is an understandable swagger in their manner, and no single individual better exemplifies the ABC panache than Marvin Bader, a tall and wry ex-Clevelander whose varied career has included stints as a bowling alley pinsetter and military policeman on the top-secret Manhattan Project before his start in TV as a cameraman. He now has the title of Director of Special Projects. Proclaims Bader, "We are the best. No one else is close in television sports." And if that's true, then Bader himself deserves as much credit—at least for Olympic coverage—as anyone at the network. "I'm probably the only guy in the world who does nothing but the Olympic Games for a living," he says. "I am specifically hired and paid to work on the Olympic Games—and if I had my choice I wouldn't do anything else."
True, the 108 cameramen are indispensable. As are the dozens of staffers who worked for months on Whiteface Mountain and other venues to design and construct the apparatus that will send telecasts of the Games worldwide, to say nothing of an unprecedented 51� hours of U.S. programming, most of it in prime time. Still, none has made quite the all-out commitment to the Games that Bader has.
For the past three years, Bader has been a part-time resident of Lake Placid. He affects dark glasses, a cowboy hat, boots and jeans; thus he resembles a network executive about as closely as Gabby Hayes. This is no accident. What Bader has achieved is a casual persona that keeps him from looking to the North Country boys like a high-pressure high-roller from Manhattan. "I want them to feel at home with me," he says. "I want them to have confidence in me."
And they do. Bader drinks with construction workers and bulldozer operators in the local bars, the sleazier the better, and when he strides down Main Street, he might well be running for mayor. He eats in Ruth's Diner, shops at the Pot Luck Grocery, and has moved all over town to each of the 13 motels ABC will use to house its horde.
Easygoing he may seem; moneyman and efficiency expert is what he is. It was Bader who in 1975 made the cost estimates that enabled ABC to make its successful $15.5 million bid for the rights to televise the Lake Placid Games; it is Bader who oversees the network's $40 million Lake Placid budget; it is Bader who will immerse himself in the details of every logistical and dollar problem that arises during the two weeks plus that the ABC troops are in town. Bader oversees everything from the helicopters that will move the 500-pound TV cameras from location to location on Whiteface to the repair of TV cable laid through the Adirondack woods that might be chewed up by wild animals. Perhaps one of his most important charges is to be certain that everyone in his army is comfortable. "That's the key to a great Olympic production," says Bader. "Comfort! Every man—from Jim McKay and Roone Arledge to the lowliest gofer—has to be warm on his job, at home in his room, able to eat what he wants when he wants it, able to get a drink, to relax when he needs to."
But if off-hours comfort is one element, putting the show together is quite another. As part of its deal, ABC agreed to use its 100-odd cameras, 15 mobile units and Star Trek broadcast control center to furnish foreign networks and broadcasters with a constant live feed of every venue, event and contestant. Bader won't pinpoint how much extra the international feed is going to cost. "All I'll say is that it's money we volunteered to spend," he says. "It was actually the Lake Placid Committee's obligation to furnish facilities for the world feed, but they didn't have the money, so Arledge offered to do it."