Welcoming Canadians to the 'Greatest Show on Earth'

It's not like I can "practice doing the Olympics" until my muscle memory kicks in — like riding a bike, or parallel parking. If I could, I would; believe me.

Andrew Chang co-hosts Olympic Overnight from Sochi on CBC

Before I hop on a plane for Sochi, I was asked to jot down some of my thoughts about leaving. Or going. Or both, I suppose.

There's always a certain amount of trepidation whenever I leave town for an assignment, but let's face it: this is huge.
I've never gone so far — or for so long — as I will be these next few weeks. It's a big trip with even bigger expectations.

On the pressure to perform, I recently had a friend tell me: "I know you. You'll be fine."

And that's something that's always bothered me about my job as an anchor.

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It's not like I can "practice doing the Olympics" until my muscle memory kicks in — like riding a bike, or parallel parking.

If I could, I would; believe me.

Every minute, of every situation, of every day, is going to be different — and when it comes right down to it, I'll have only my own instincts, training, and situational awareness to guide me. Sure, the months and months of research, phone calls, meetings and interviews won't hurt either.

But the point is: when I finally sit down at the desk and welcome Canadians to the Greatest Show on Earth, all I can do is trust that I've been in similar, pressure-cooker-type situations before. And that I've always come out the other side: limbs still attached, heart still beating, spirits still up.

It's an unbelievably difficult, aggravating thing to have to rely on, but I think that's what those in the business call 'experience'. Which of course is just a fancy, catch-all term for let's see what happens. Like jumping out of a plane, pulling the cord, and waiting.

Another thing I've been told recently that I think will carry me some appreciable distance: "Pressure is a privilege."

Story with a difference

I've covered a number of major, landscape-shifting events in my career — horrific fires, school shootings, mafia slayings, bridge collapses, even a live assassination attempt. That last one I still have a hard time believing.

But Sochi 2014 will be different.

And it's not just because it's happening in Russia. Or because they will be the biggest, most expensive, Winter Games in history.

Or because the geographical, historical, social, political, criminal context at work threatens to throw a seriously large, seriously disruptive monkey wrench in the works.

To me, it's mostly because of what the Games mean to Canadians.

Like many of you, I know first-hand what it's like to watch athletes put everything on the line for a 60-second race.

To distill the entirety of their athletic careers — their passion and sweat; successes and heartbreak — into a singular moment where the world is watching and where their opponents want to win every bit as much as they do, maybe more.

When my family and I watched the Olympics on TV growing up, my mom screamed. A lot. So trust me, I get it.

I've also sat side-by-side with moms, dads, brothers and sisters, as they watched the people who mean the most to them, either: a) accomplish what few others on Earth ever will, or b) walk away in tears, feeling like they've let an entire country down.

It's probably unfair to look at the situation in such a binary way. But I think there's at least a kernel of truth to it; and it's the aggregate of all these things that makes me wonder — sometimes for only a split-second, sometimes for much longer than that — if I'm up to the task.

Small role, big idea

On second thought, I probably shouldn't overstate my own importance in this massive Olympic machine.

I play a relatively small part: six hours a day, from midnight to 6 a.m. (ET), providing context in-studio and taking viewers back and forth between different live sporting events.

But it's a part, all the same and, honestly, it's more than I could ever have imagined doing even just one year ago.

Which brings me to yet another piece of wisdom that's kept me afloat all these years: a sanity-preserving, elegantly simple, deceptively serious mélange of ideas that in the right hands, I believe, has the power to change everything.

And it fits in a tiny flowchart:

Andrew Chang is the co-host of Olympic Overnight with Andi Petrillo, which airs between midnight and 6 a.m. ET. Follow his tweets at @AndrewChangCBC.