UNCG Magazine

Spartans help broadcast Olympic Games

Cindy Hsieh in front of a "Tokyo 2020" sign

The Tokyo Olympics, postponed for a year and with no fans in attendance, are proving to be one-of-a-kind.

For Spartans Max Negin ’08 MFA and Cindy Hsieh ’13 MFA, they are another opportunity to help capture the rousing spirit, daring physical accomplishment, and drama of Olympic competition. 

With no fans, it’s just the athletes and those covering the athletes, Negin explains. Normally, there’d be lots of people filling the Olympic village and nearby streets. But this year, with a worldwide pandemic, is quite different. Negin has taken five COVID tests already in the past week, and expects to take six more before he leaves Tokyo. He is still under quarantine, he notes, and there is social distancing. “They’re creating as much of a bubble as they can to keep everyone safe.”

These two UNCG media studies alumni are Olympic veterans – it’s Hsieh’s sixth Olympics and Negin’s seventh. 

Archival photo of Cindy Hsieh with fellow students Adrienne Ostberg and James Gould.
Cindy Hsieh (l-r) with classmates Adrienne Ostberg and James Gould from her time at UNCG.

They are two of approximately 3,300 NBC employees helping cover the Summer Games – some in Tokyo, some in the United States. The Games run through August 8. More than 200 nations and more than 11,000 athletes are scheduled to participate.

Hsieh is working for NBC in Tokyo as their diving associate producer. “The [broadcast voice] talent are calling the event from Stamford, so I am their ears and eyes for all things diving.”

Like what? “From pronunciations and who’s on what board during the synchro event, to coordinating the mix zone for our NBC reporter, etc.” 

At the most recent Olympics – the 2018 Winter Games – she was an associate producer for figure skating events. A former figure skater, she used her experience with the sport and her television expertise to assist the director in picking the perfect camera angles for viewers at home. 

Aside from her work for the Olympics, she has helped produce domestic figure skating events and worked as a second assistant camera (2nd AC) on feature films and TV. In the last several years, while residing in Atlanta, she has worked on episodic shows such as the CW’s “Dynasty” and HBO’s “The Outsider.”

Negin is working the Games for NBC’s daytime show on the Peacock streaming service. “(The daytime show) is meant to be highlights-driven and personality-driven, too.” And when something big happens, they can “turn around” a clip within a minute, for viewers to enjoy.

Photo of Max Negin in front of Olympics logos.

He is an assistant professor of communications at Elon University. In the realm of sports broadcasting, he has worked for NBC, ABC, FOX, ESPN, and HBO, among others. 

At these Olympics, he is an EVS operator, putting in 12-hour shifts – working with the producer and director to organize the media content as part of the technical team. Just because there are no fans doesn’t deter them from hunting for great stories and moments, and showing the personalities, he explains. At the 2018 Winter Games, he worked in creative services as a digital media manager.

Japan is half a world away, but as the Games opened Negin reflected on the influence of his undergraduate years at UNCG. “I think of Michael Frierson – he played such a big role in my being a problem-solver, in my development as a thinker in realms like this. He helped me troubleshoot with my thesis. He challenged me to go beyond my comfort zone. He was a great mentor – and continues to be.”

Hseih shared another story this week, from 2010 – showing that when it comes to Spartans, it truly is a small world. “Michael Frierson actually told me to find Max Negin in Vancouver – I was working in the Research Room at the time – to discuss UNCG’s MFA program. Because of the 2010 Winter Games, I was missing a prospective student orientation in Greensboro and so, in lieu of that, Frierson suggested I chat with Max on site.

“So UNCG connected Max and me, via the Olympics.”

By Mike Harris
Photography provided by Cindy Hsieh
, Max Negin, and UNCG Media Studies.

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