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Inside The Amazing Race


Going Local
Megan and Heidi perform a Detour in Huambutio, Peru.
Megan and Heidi perform a Detour in Huambutio, Peru.
Photo courtesy

With the popularity of Race, it's now necessary to have security, decoys and cover stories to fool the curious, particularly in places American tourists frequent. "We have the Pied Piper motif going on a little bit," allows van Munster. "We'll call the show something else-they think we're filming a commercial," adds co-producer Elise Doganieri, van Munster's wife. "We'll be setting up a club box and Americans will ask, 'Is this The Amazing Race?' And we'll say, 'No, we're doing a documentary.'"

Doganieri and van Munster employ a network of local facilitators in each location Race visits. "I set up a worldwide infrastructure years ago to produce a different show and I have satellite offices around the world that we've used through the years. These are people I know for many years and through these offices we get our permits," says van Munster. Adds Doganieri, "We tell them 'We need this many cars at this location,' 'We need this many hotel rooms,' and we negotiate the deal when we get there."

As you might expect, their phone bills are astronomical. Typically, "one country alone was over $25,000," notes van Munster, who calls communications their biggest logistical challenge. Satellite cell phones "keep us aware of everybody and where they are," he says. "Each team has a crew and so does Phil," adds Doganieri. "Everybody has a cell phone so they can stay in contact."

As for the challenges they create for the teams, van Munster and Doganieri strive to make them indigenous to the location. "You have to find things that the locals do, and you don't look in a tourist guidebook," says Doganieri. "You drive around the countryside and you look for the little things, because the locals sometimes don't even realize how unique the things they do are, like building a mud hut."

A Roadblock Challenge in Mendoza, Argentina required one team member to consume 4 lbs of a traditional Argentinean barbeque.
A Roadblock Challenge in Mendoza, Argentina required one team member to consume 4 lbs of a traditional Argentinean barbeque.
Photo courtesy