Sarajevo Butmir Aerodrom is a nice place to visit, but you wouldn't want to live there, as SI's deputy picture editor, Therese A. Daubner, seemed to be doing for the past three weeks.
As on-the-scene overseer of our photographic operations during the Winter Olympics, Daubner had to track down—and talk through Yugoslav customs—more than 700 pounds of camera equipment. It had been sent weeks ahead of time, only to get hung up in what Daubner calls "a system unlike anything you've ever seen."
Thousands of pictures somehow had to be gotten quickly past police, customs and airport officials before the film could be sent to our New York offices. Daubner's ingenuity and persistence turned out to be the "somehow" we needed. Monitoring scheduled flights out of Yugoslav airports the week before the Games began, Daubner realized that she was not going to be able to rely on them to meet connecting planes to New York. So she turned to Plan B...and C...and D. Seven times she chartered jets to catch the London-New York Concorde. She hitched rides for film on four other chartered jets meeting the Concorde. Once she brought in a courier on a commercial flight from London, gave him dinner and the film and had him driven the eight hours to Belgrade to catch a flight back.
On Monday, Feb. 13, when U.S. skiers Debbie Armstrong and Christin Cooper finished one-two in the women's giant slalom, with our deadline fast approaching and bad weather wiping out the Concorde connection, Daubner and assistant managing editor Mark Mulvoy themselves made a mad dash to London. Alerted around 3:30 p.m. Sarajevo time that we would hold the presses, Daubner gathered up the skiing film shot an hour earlier and located and hired a Yugoslav jet. It took off two hours late and then flew into the wrong London airport, but she and Mulvoy dropped off the film for processing, grabbed a dinner of Kentucky Fried Chicken—their only option at midnight in the London suburb of Morden—edited more than 1,000 slides down to two pictures and had them bounced off a satellite to our New York office.
February 27, 1984
By 4 p.m. Tuesday, Daubner was back in Sarajevo going over the schedule for shooting the following day's events and confirming plans to ship the next load of film. "Every night I went to the airport it was a whole new experience, because every night there was a whole new set of policemen," says Daubner. "One day we'd get through customs with no problem, but the next time they'd make it difficult." When Peter Ueberroth, president of the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee, was to catch a ride on SI's charter, officials stopped and questioned Daubner three times between her hotel and the gate. That day the mammoth blizzard that wreaked havoc with the Olympic schedule also closed the Sarajevo airport—to everything but Daubner and her chartered Citation. Only the SI plane took off.