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LIVE! Broadcasting the Olympic Games

From the end of the 19th century up to the present day, Live! offers you the chance to follow the main stages of the technological boom that has expanded access to the Olympic Games outside the stadium: 1900, 1920, 1936, 1960, 1970, 1980, et 2012.

A powerful whirlwind created by pioneers and unexpected findings, the broadcasting of the Olympic Games is more than a story of technical innovations – in fact, the whole of modern history is revealed.

Scroll down from top to bottom and explore the history and stories of how the greatest show on Earth is broadcast.

On the left, how the Olympic Games have been received over the years. On the right, broadcasting and its technological conquests.

Happy viewing!

It’s a tenacious relationship

A strong relationship between the Olympic Games and the mass media

At all times, both are nourished, reflected and emulated

It is this story - yours - that we are telling here


1900: The cinema, the first Games broadcaster!

The Games were born at the same time as the cinema, at the end of the 19th century, and appeared in the famous newsreels, which were shown in cinemas before the days of television news. Despite a delay of several weeks, cinema-goers loved the feeling of being in the stands at the venues, before all sharing the excitement generated by that of the commentators, with the advent of talking pictures.

The 1920s: radio invented live broadcasting

This beautiful Art Deco-style piece is a radio, and families (here, in the USA in around 1935) came together around the device as if it were a log fire. In 1924, the Paris Olympic Games were broadcast on the radio! Radio Paris, born one year beforehand, invented live sports commentary with journalist Edmond Dehorter, and every evening the BBC summarised that day’s events. From the 1930s to the 1960s, radio was the number one media channel for the Games, before making way for television...

The 1930s: seen on TV!

It is after the War. The London Games announce the end of the dark days, but also a step towards modernity. Television comes to living rooms in the Western world, never to disappear. While TV technology took its first steps in Olympic Berlin in 1936, it flourished in 1948, in the British capital. That year, Olympic images were beamed directly into homes. Already, things were moving beyond the simple factual broadcast of the day’s events. Filming was live; angles and perspectives were multiplied; stories were told. The spectator’s experience moved from being collective (the cinema newsreels, the TV halls in Berlin) to family oriented.

The 1960s: television on the podium.

The radio? Still around. News at the cinema? In some cases. But television, stimulated by the Olympic Games, was beginning its never-ending marathon of technological and global progress. This decade saw a number of firsts. Rome 1960: first live broadcasts in many European countries. Tokyo 1964: first satellite broadcasts. Mexico City 1968: first wireless, hand-held colour cameras! Audience figures grew into the hundreds of millions, and the viewers were delighted.

1970s: The Games in colour on all five continents.

In the living room, the TV is in colour. On the screen, all the competitions are shown live. The whole world is now connected to the Games, gripped by the suspense, amazed by the performances.

1980s and 1990s: High Definition and stereo.

There are spectators and TV viewers. The former are carried by the enthusiasm of the crowd, and are excited by the feeling of being at the heart of the action. Those who remain on their couches now benefit from an incredible multiplicity of viewing angles… and a remote control, i.e. the best way of personalising their passion for sport.

The noughties: Me, my Games and the Internet.

How can an event as global, universal and collective as the Olympic Games turn into an individual experience? Simple answer: the Internet! Another technological innovation at the beginning of this new millennium was 3D. The Games would continue to be a testing ground for technology.

Tomorrow’s Games.

The third dimension (3D) and High Definition (HD) are already old news! Look out for these signs: 4K, 8K, HFR and HDR… Thanks to the progress of new technologies, the Games are now even more moving, immersive and cinematographic. The Games of the 2010s allow the web user to compose his own programme, share the enthusiasm of his fellow surfers in live time and swoon at images that are increasingly precise and faithful to reality.