K State professor talks helping with Olympic opening ceremonies

Posted at 8:23 PM, Feb 08, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-09 00:35:34-05

MANHATTAN, Kan. — With the opening ceremonies for the Winter Olympics set for Friday, an assistant professor of music at Kansas State University knows all too well what goes into the event.

Bryan Pinkall, who teaches performance voice and is also a member of the Kansas City Chorale, told 41 Action News he first fell in love with the Olympics over 20 years ago.

“In 1992, the Olympics were in Barcelona and I remember watching with my grandparents,” he explained. “I remember vividly they lit the flame with a flaming bow and arrow."

After graduating from the University of Missouri-Kansas City, Pinkall’s passion for the Olympics led him to a gig for the 2014 games in Sochi.

“I was manager of performance operations and direction for protocol,” he explained. “The best way to describe it is a wedding planner of sorts."

Pinkall helped oversee and organize the opening ceremonies for the games and also coordinated the Parade of Nations, national anthems, and flag raising ceremonies.

“You have to make schedules and be behind the scenes all the time,” he said. “The camera shows what they want you to see but there's a lot of stuff going on."

Pinkall’s job often brought stress and led to quick-thinking decision making, like when an Olympic rings display malfunctioned during the 2014 opening ceremonies.

“I was off to the side when it happened and it's heartbreaking,” he explained. “I know the people who were in charge of that and I felt bad for them."

Pinkall also recalled the moment when a crew member called out from the ceremonies and he had to step in to help.

“Sometimes, people get sick on the ceremony day or sometimes people drop out,” he explained. “I had to dress up in a fluffy costume and help the German athletes walk up the stairs."

Two years after Sochi, Pinkall served in a similar role for the summer games in Rio de Janeiro.

“Rio had very limited funds so the ideas of the ceremony kept being condensed,” he explained. “There was a lot of party atmosphere. You couldn't mistake that in the ceremony."

As a professor now at Kansas State, Pinkall has pictures and mementos of the games inside his office.

The items include replica medals from the Sochi and Rio de Janeiro games.

Moving forward, Pinkall said he hoped to one day return to the Olympics and help out once again.

This year, however, he plans to watch the games as a fan, like he did in 1992.

“I’m mostly interested to see how they express their culture,” he explained. “That's always the most interesting thing to me."