Logbook #1: Thierry Billet, Sportfot photographer in Tokyo

05 August 2021Author : Lea Tchilinguirian

Stable managers, grooms, photographers... They all navigate through the aisles of the competitions and are essential to their success. For the Olympic Games, Studforlife has decided to give them the floor so that they can tell us about their daily life in the heart of this unique event. In this first part, Thierry Billet, Sportfot founder, let us take a peek at his organization. As you will see, you won’t get bored!

Last week, after traveling almost 24 hours from Tryon, in the United States, Thierry Billet was getting ready for his first Olympic Games as a photographer. Today, he takes us along with him for the ride.

July 31st 2021,

3.45 am: The alarm goes off and I start the day by cycling until six o'clock. I've qualified for the World Triathlon Championships in Almere, Netherlands, which start on September 12, so I can't miss out on my training. Unfortunately, the gym at our hotel - reserved for the media - is closed and we're not allowed to go into town, so I pedal about 65 kilometers staring at the door of my hotel room door on my trainer. 

6 am: Change of scenery, I have a shower and prepare for my next role as a photographer. I have my breakfast and prepare my cameras.

7.15 am: I’m on my way to join the Olympic sites. There are two ways I can do that. I can either take a two-hour bus ride, or pay about 150 Euros and get there in 45 minutes by taxi. I take the bus to the MTM, the Main Transportation Media, where I make my first change of buses of the day. There are a range of different buses waiting for us there to drop us off at the required sports site.

8.15 am: Here I am at the Equestrian Park for the second part of the eventing dressage. I take my place alongside the arena and start taking photographs of the riders. The equestrian atmosphere is quite intense and introverted. The riders don't give the impression of really living on the edge.

© Christophe Tanière

Noon: End of the event! I use the time to sort out my pictures. We have a break today because the trot-up for the jumping horses takes place later at 5 pm. It’s always a nice moment because each team is dressed differently, in tracksuits, official suits or skirts.

7 pm: I spend an hour editing my photos and uploading them to the internet so that riders, teams and media can find them quickly.

8 pm: I jump in a cab to go to the Olympic Stadium to photograph the women's 100 meters final. It seems a very long way to me, and takes me an hour and a half. At one time I even thought I was going to miss the race. The sites are really far from one another, that’s a negative point that I raise for these Games. Everything is really spread out.

© DR

8.30 pm: As soon as I enter, I am impressed by the huge stadium which also hosted the opening ceremony. There are no spectators, but the atmosphere is tremendous! The athletes are very expressive and euphoric. There is a stage performance before the start. The stadium lighting is turned off. There is background music and only the track is lit and then lights begin to flash in all directions. The athletes are presented backlit, all under the eyes of more than 300 photographers. The gun goes off and the atmosphere is explosive! Victory went to the Jamaican Elaine Thompson-Herah who set a new Olympic record. I try to imagine this atmosphere as if the stadium was full, it must be incredible. So far, I can say that it was my best experience of these Games!

11 pm: Now on my way back to the hotel... with almost two and a half hours to go. Every day, I think about how to lighten my bags to go from one Olympic site to another.

1.30 am: Off to bed!

Today's takeaway:

 "Speaking mainly about my job, I feel privileged to be able to go out and see other sports and hang out with photographers, who have other ways of working like having their cameras hooked up to network cables so they can send their photos directly to agencies. It’s not a common thing in the equestrian world, so I learn a lot. Everyone is quite busy. We don't have time to talk a lot but I observe everyone's post-production techniques. I’ve reached an optimal way of doing things when it comes to equestrian sports, but as far as the other sports are concerned, I realize that I could improve my production line. From a human point of view, this experience in Tokyo gives me goosebumps. Professionally, I am continuously learning and acquiring the skills to photograph things other than horses." 

Featured photo: Pierre Costabadie

AuthorLea Tchilinguirian