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.
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.
It bears the name Pathé. There is no older film of an Olympic 100m race. On this July day on the clay of the White City Stadium, built in 10 months after London had stepped in at the last minute to save the 1908 Games, eight men lined up to run for victory, in particular South Africa’s Reginald Walker (gold medal) and America’s James Rector (silver). The images flicker; the shapes are imprecise; but the emotion is intact.
These are the oldest Olympic moving images in existence! In a darkened cinema, the viewers all got a glimpse of the stadium in St Louis (USA). But we can be pretty sure that the newsreels of the time made no mention of the controversy surrounding these Games, where 523 of the 651 athletes were American, with no British or French teams; and where the “Anthropology Days” featuring “savage tribes” (including Geronimo!) aroused the anger of Pierre de Coubertin.
Applauded by 100,000 delighted spectators, Spyridon Louis, Greek peasant and marathon runner, entered the ancient Panatheniac Stadium in first place. What an amalgamation of symbols! The image reveals Coubertin’s desire to see the modern Games follow on from the ancient Games. Although rebuilt, the long thin stadium had kept the same Ancient Greek proportions. As well as the medal, the photo caption explains, Spyridon Louis won a year’s worth of free haircuts and meals in an Athens restaurant.
An article in the Greek press during the first Games of the modern era, held in 1896 in Athens. The Greeks were delighted with the Olympic revival that Pierre de Coubertin had started, as they had tried unsuccessfully to bring back the Games during the 19th century.
In the background, two cameras dominate the stage, as if mounted on stilts. In the foreground, the Athenian crowd takes a look around on the eve of the first day of the very first modern Olympic Games. That was the start of the close links between the media and the Games.
It was the year the Games were revived, and the monthly Scribner’s Magazine, launched in the USA in 1887, took advantage of this to feature a handsome Ancient Greek athlete on its advertising. Another example of Scribner’s fascination with the Athens Games: the April 1896 issue, whose cover featured an Ancient Greek woman holding a shield and spear, with the title “The Olympic Games and their revival”.
The person who had this ticket for the Olympic Stadium in London, on 24 July 1908, probably witnessed the incredible finish of the marathon. Despite finishing first, Italy’s Dorando Pietri, doped with strychnine, collapsed five times, went the wrong way, and was helped across the line by the organisers. So the gold medal went to the second runner, the American John Hayes!
Look at these four runners in action. The one who gets away fastest, the second from left, will win the race. His name is Thomas Burke, an American. For these first modern Games, only the first two athletes were rewarded, with an olive branch and, respectively, a silver medal and a bronze one.
The first modern Games were held in 1896, in Greece, to create continuity with the ancient Games. This was the badge that the organisers wore on the back of their jacket.
The spectators were no longer in the stands but at home in front of their televisions. In several languages, they shouted encouragement to the athletes via loudspeakers in the stadium. Drawn on the occasion of the 1936 Games in Berlin, this caricature painted a highly intuitive picture of how media coverage of the Games would evolve. Initially a collective experience (at the cinema), the Games gradually became a family experience (on television), then an individual and immersive experience (on tablets and smartphones).
With his feet on the clay of the Panatheniac Stadium, a photographer gets ready to immortalise the great opening ceremony, the first in the history of the modern Games. And yet these Games, “intercalated” between St Louis in 1904 and London in 1908, and organised solely by Greece, which was seeking an Olympic monopoly, were never recognised by the International Olympic Committee.
No radio or television coverage. So the only way to experience the Games live was to go there in person! This advertisement for the Games in London was aimed at the French, who were invited to travel via Dover or Ostend in Belgium. The poster refers to the Franco-British Exhibition, an initiative to commemorate the Entente Cordiale of 1904, in the years before the First World War. Ancient imagery (the laurel wreath) was still popular.
A poster for the 1908 Games in London encouraging the French to go there. A pity for those who did not make the effort, as France was fourth in the medals table, with a total of 19. The French gold medals went to their champions in cycling, fencing, motor-boating and archery!
A photographer wanders onto the marathon track. Knocked by a runner, he loses his hat! Why do such images make us nostalgic? Because they hark back to a time of fresh attitudes and simple organisation. And yet the Stockholm Games saw the advent of electronic timekeeping and the photo-finish.
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...
6 October 1923, a boxing match in the Salle Wagram, in Paris. On Radiola, which would shortly become Radio-Paris, Edmond Dehorter (nicknamed “the unknown speaker”) commentated on a match live, for the first time in media history. For the 1924 Games in Paris, the Edmond did it again. He commentated on the key events live, and even tried to do it from a hot-air balloon basket, high above both the Vélodrome d’Hiver and the Stade de Colombes... Interested in the crowds, Peugeot attached advertisements to the sides of the basket!
Only spectators allowed to applaud the 100m runners, Great Britain’s Harold Abrahams or the USA’s Jackson Scholtz... The organisers feared that live broadcasting, which began modestly that year on Radio Paris, would empty the stands. In Great Britain, newspaper proprietors, worried whether their papers would survive, forced the BBC to broadcast bulletins only after 6 p.m.!
Some 685 journalists were present in 1924 at the Paris Games. A little planning was required... This is the badge that reporters wore on the back of their jacket.
Les Galeries Lafayette took advantage of the Paris 1924 Games to promote their cooking utensils, transformed into rackets... A drawing by Marcel Arnac, one of the forerunners of the cartoon.
This postcard (the stamps are on the top-right) is the reproduction of the official poster of the Paris 1924 Games. Everything is there: the athlete in action, the planet to signify the global scale of the Games, the silhouettes of the Sacré-Coeur and the Eiffel Tower as a nod to the host city. In Paris, the number of countries represented increased from 29 to 44, and 1,000 journalists were present; the Games became global and received considerable media coverage. The poster was the very first medium, like the cover of a book that you want to flick through.
The Games are front-page news in the Netherlands. After two successive failures, Amsterdam is finally selected as host city of the 1928 Summer Games. The city is equipped with a brand new stadium for the occasion, with enough room for 40,000 spectators.
Bodies move quickly, mouths chatter away madly: the films of the time give the impression of permanent haste. Charley Paddock, the famous US winner of the 100m in 1920, seemed to go faster still! Small, stocky and powerful, he ran gracelessly, but his speed was legendary. Only Harold Abrahams could dethrone him, in 1924… Paddock, whose character featured in the film “Chariots of Fire”, was killed in a plane accident over Alaska during the Second World War in 1943.
Meeting of two styles on this licensed product from the 1928 Games in Amsterdam: the silhouette of an Ancient Greece-inspired discus thrower on this bookmark but using the graphic style of the 1920-30s. The bookmark is a medium like any other!
At that time, the postcard was an integral part of the media, spreading both good and bad news.
In the Olympic Village, members of the Indian delegation gathered around a radio set. In California, hundreds of radio operators enthusiastically broadcast the Los Angeles Games worldwide. The Radiola 80 radio, which had gone on sale the year before, had become a very popular model. Miniature radios had also appeared, as had automatic volume controls and the first car radios... Olympism and the development of the media progressed in unison! However, Hollywood and the Games organisers feared that radio would empty both cinemas and stands. During the 1932 Games, only a daily 15-minute summary was available on the NBC and CBS networks...
A radio amateur is a presenter and several technician friends rolled into one! In 1932, for the Los Angeles Games, there were said to be over 1,500... The Games encouraged vocations. This little cardboard panel mentions the presence of operators from an amateur radio station named “W6USA”.
These radio sets, magnificently designed (like this Art Nouveau-style Stewart-Warner, or this Atwater-Kent, named after the American inventor who also sponsored several radio shows), started to go in sale at the end of the 1920s, when the Games took on increasing importance internationally. In the US, as the grinding poverty of the 1930s prevented families going to the cinema or going out to dinner, the radio became the only distraction, allowing people to keep updated on the Great Depression or to listen to the reassuring words of President Roosevelt. The broadcast of the Los Angeles Games had audiences listening with baited breath, even in the absence of images... Radio’s reign would last until the 1960s, before making way for television.
Olympism, globalisation, the media: these three movements increasingly go together. Thus, the stands set up for the world’s media attending the Games were very well equipped, like here in Los Angeles, in 1932, with these teleprinters and their paper rolls. Installed behind windows, journalists in shirtsleeves make themselves comfortable, chatting on the telephone, ready to speak on the mic.
The photo... The newsreel at the cinema… The debut of radio... Yes, but drawings were still predominant in newspapers in the 1920s. This gave artists the right to access the track and the stands at the 1924 Games in Paris.
Attractive. Small. Practical. That year, the journalists, increasing numbers of whom came to cover the Games, received their badge, to attach to their jackets!
Photographers, of whom there were many more, now worked in groups. The media challenge had begun.
Two cameras, a packed and enthusiastic crowd: the 100m in 1924 was the subject of much interest. But who were the men in white digging holes at the starting line? The runners themselves make their starting blocks – all about getting off on the right foot... It was this event, won by Great Britain’s Harold Abrahams over the American favourites, which inspired the film “Chariots of Fire”, the backdrop to which was the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe.
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.
Several countries protested against continuing to allow the Games to be hosted by Nazi Germany. But Berlin was indeed the host city of the August 1936 Games. The swastika was placed on accredited journalists’ badges.
Newsreels were screened at the cinema after the 1948 London Games. The programme included the finals at the Games (weightlifting, cycling, canoeing, equestrian events and hockey), a report on the “next Canadian Prime Minister”, and another on a fire at a dock in London... Though television was gradually prevailing, the cinema newsreels survived until the 1950s.
First, the starter pistol, then the clamour, and finally victory. Jesse Owens, aged 23, with a stunning turn of speed, won not only the 100m, but also the 200m, the long jump and the 400m relay! Images and sound for a mythical moment. Despite the affront (a black triumph), Hitler gestured to Owens with a wave of the hand. Owens said later, going against all the commentators of the time and not without provocation, that he felt more valued by Hitler than by the segregationist America that he returned to after the Games.
The condenser technique is still used today, and considered particularly good at conveying an atmosphere.
Berlin 1936 marked the start of TV broadcasting of the Games. Twenty-five “public auditoriums” and beer halls equipped with screens opened in Berlin, Potsdam and Leipzig. These places allowed exactly 162,228 spectators to follow the competitions free of charge. It was a dream opportunity for the Nazi regime to show off its modernity and temporarily calm international concern. At the same time, film-maker Leni Riefenstahl, a friend of Hitler, began filming her documentary, Olympia, which magnified the bodies of the Olympic athletes and invented a way of filming movement.
Was it a coincidence? Three years before the Second World War, one of the cameras used for the Games, two metres long, was named Fernsehkanonen, “television cannon”, as it looked like a cannon! In all, three cameras covered four Olympic venues for a total of 72 hours of broadcasting in 25 halls in the Berlin suburbs. The “news films” were sent to the USA by the famous Zeppelin airships… But the advance, due to the ingenuity of German technology, had its limits. Only one of these three cameras could broadcast live, and only when it was sunny! Several technicians were required for each camera, as they were very large; and the cameramen directed their cameras according to what the commentators were saying, and they did not have a screen in front of them!
Forty cameramen, a budget of 1.8 million marks entirely provided by the Reich, two years of editing, and unusual filming techniques: low-angle shots, telephoto lenses, travelling platforms, catapult cameras… “Olympia”, a documentary on the Berlin Games commissioned by Hitler, is kitsch and aesthetically and technically audacious. It would dazzle Hitler and Joseph Goebbels, the Minister of Propaganda. However, film-maker Leni Riefenstahl emphasised the achievements of African-American Jesse Owens, and did not magnify the German victories in particular. After a period of boycott due to Riefenstahl’s closeness to the Nazi regime, the film was recognised for its unique qualities, and “Olympia” became a source of inspiration for filming sport.
Enter the BBC… During the 12-year Olympic absence owing to world war, technology had come on in leaps and bounds. No more TV halls where sports fans came together. The 60,000 British homes lucky enough to own a TV set enjoyed live coverage thanks to the public channel; six cameras covered the Stadium and the pool, i.e. the athletics, boxing, swimming, football and equestrian events... commentated on by 14 presenters – 10 times fewer, however, than for the radio broadcasts. Ian Orr-Ewing, the Outside Broadcast Manager at the BBC, expressed concern in an article on the health of the TV viewers confined to their living rooms: “It is clear that a high percentage are going to watch all the programmes. It is hoped that this habit will not continue after the period of the Games, or we will recognise TV viewers on the streets of London because of their pale skin!”
Poster for a factual film in Spanish on the 1948 Games in London, but also on the Winter Games, which were held in the same year in St Moritz, Switzerland. The runner was Argentina’s Delfo Cabrera, the gold medallist in the marathon.
Aptly named “Olympic”, this small television set could be found in many British homes during the 1948 Games in London.
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.
The ancestor of the fax machine looked like a typewriter. The news from the press agencies (here, at the Press Centre for the 1960 Games in Rome) was transmitted almost instantly to its recipients, the newspapers.
Poster for the Italian documentary “La Grande Olimpiade” (The Great Olympiad), made for the cinema by the Italian National Olympic Committee. There were two notable firsts: women on the front page, in particular Black American triple gold medallist Wilma Rudolph (on the right of the poster); and a TV commentator, mike in hand and eyes glued to the screen. So the cinema was promoting its main rival, television! The Games and their media coverage had become one.
Forty black-and-white cameras, 11 mobile units and 11 video recorders allowing for slow motion: In Rome, in 1960, television took a giant leap forward and became the number one medium of the Games. But initially, only Europe enjoyed live coverage. The cassettes were flown to the USA each day, then sent by train to the centre of New York, and finally “warmed up by the armpits” of ABC commentator Jim McKay, as they were still cold from their long journey in the aircraft hold above the Atlantic! The 100m was won by Germany’s Armin Hary, who was representing both East and West Germany, an illustration of the promise of peace held out by the Games.
1956 Winter Games in Cortina d'Ampezzo (Italy): official radio and television badge.
The Rome daily “Il Messagero” devoted the whole of its front page to the Games in Rome on 26 August 1960, the day after the Opening Ceremony.
This is an image-orthicon television camera used to cover the 1956 Winter Games in Cortina d’Ampezzo (Italy). The idea was not just to broadcast, but also tell a story using several cameras, so much so that it was more exciting to watch the competitions on television than from the stands! That winter, four cameras were installed along the bobsleigh track, so television viewers could follow almost all of the race.
At the Mexico City press centre. Between 400 and 600 million viewers could follow the Games live, and this novel planetary communion generated hope for the world, as viewers wrote to the US network ABC: “Your coverage should be an inspiration in these troubled times. The Olympics prove that dedicated people can cast aside their differences and strive for perfection.” or “It left us with a feeling of hope for the future of the world.” This was the time of smaller, lighter, portable, colour cameras. The cameraman got close to film, reflecting reality and giving it a meaning. The watchword was now “organisation”. Mexicans, Japanese, Americans and Europeans created joint film teams for the biggest competitions. Some 45 cameras recorded the events under way at 18 venues.
Colour, close-ups and slow motion… The videos of the men’s 100m at the Tokyo 1964 Games showed the tiniest details of African-American champion Robert (Bob) Hayes. Had we ever seen thigh muscles with such precision? Television offered sports fans the chance to get closer to the athletes than ever before.
In the Olympic Village at the 1964 Games in Tokyo, athletes could watch the television coverage of their teammates’ competitions. This was the first time the Games had been held in Asia. Japan spent considerable sums on the organisation, particularly for the media, to show the world how it had recovered from the Second World War.
In Tokyo on 21 October 1964, these Japanese girls in their school uniforms were using their little transistor radios to listen to the broadcast of the marathon. As he had in Rome in 1960, Ethiopia’s Abebe Bikila won the race. But in 1964, for the first time, the marathon was shown live on television, thanks to a car fitted with an anti-vibration system developed by the Japanese national network, NHK. The race was also filmed from helicopters, and 25 cameras covered the finish in the Stadium.
The poster for the official documentary of the Games in Mexico City does not shy away from the event that everyone remembers: when, during the medal ceremony for the men’s 200m, as the US national anthem was played, African-Americans Tommie Smith (gold medallist) and John Carlos (bronze medallist) raised a black gloved fist and lowered their heads, to protest against racial segregation in the USA. The IOC banned them both from the Olympic Games for life, arguing that political issues should remain separate from the sports competitions. But with the global media attention now focused on Olympism, the Games had become an echo chamber for the chaos of the world.
14 October 1968: America’s James Ray Hines has just won the men’s 100m in under 10 seconds. A record which would stand for 15 years! The television journalist and sound recorder move to interview him on the track. This end-of-race double act by the athlete and the journalist would become the norm.
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.
Some of the cameramen accompanied the runners – by running, guided and helped by a colleague just behind them. And they needed to be pretty quick to follow the men’s 100m on 1 September 1972, at the Games in Munich. The gold medal went to the Soviet Union’s Valeriy Borzov, “the fastest man in the world”, also called the “human machine” or “robot” in reference to his iron will and perfect technique.
Sold ahead of the Games in Munich, the radio featured the Games emblem, the black-and-white snail.
Two firsts: all five continents got to see coverage of the competitions, and in colour. This global media coverage of the Games was an ideal opportunity to spread the peaceful message of Olympism, especially as the Games in Munich were intended to be different from and make people forget those in 1936. But on 5 September, at 4.30 a.m., a group of armed Palestinian terrorists broke into the Olympic Village and took a number of Israeli athletes hostage. By the end of a bloody day, 11 hostages, one policeman and five of the eight terrorists had been killed.The competitions were halted for around 30 hours, and restarted after a funeral ceremony in the Olympic Stadium. Others were taking advantage of the global success of the Games, and their growing media coverage.
Munich 1972. Twenty-five competition venues were equipped with television cameras, the other 10 with cinema equipment – used for television.
An army of cameramen in very 70s-style orange jackets. Miniaturisation allowed them to film everything, everywhere, in every position!
1972 Winter Games in Sapporo, Japan. The man with the mini-camera on his helmet is about to film as he skis the downhill course (Alpine skiing competition). Miniaturisation of the equipment brought the cameras closer to the athletes and allowed viewers to be at the centre of the action.
Each host country has to arrange for the Games to be filmed and broadcast. In Montreal in 1976, this role fell to ORTO, a division of Radio Canada, which provided not only the images of all the competitions, but also 19 reporting vans, over 100 video recorders, 50 radio and nine television studios, 700 commentator positions at the 26 competition venues, 110 offices, 24 editing rooms, etc.
Cars specially designed to enable cameramen to film a competition; remote-controlled cameras; images from portable cameras broadcast live: the Games in Montreal were a television paradise. Radio Canada hired 1,600 technicians and provided the world’s media with dozens of cameras, video recorders, studios and offices. The grace of Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci filled the screen, banishing thoughts of the massive boycott by African countries and the exorbitant cost of the Olympic facilities... The television rights paid to the IOC for these Games totalled 34.9 million US dollars.
Everyone remembers the emblem of these Games. Here it is on a portable radio, another symbol of the love story between the Games and the media.
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.
African American Carl Lewis won four gold medals: his results in the 100m, 200m, 4 x 100m and long jump were impressive. Cameras filmed King Carl from very close up, his muscles rolling under his skin, his jaw square and determined. The TV viewers were enthralled by his performance-
Two-and-a-half billion people watched the competitions on television for at least one minute. But 7.8 million tickets were sold: the emotion felt in the stands remains an irreplaceable experience.
This miniature radio with speakers and a sound control box was developed for listening to sports commentary anywhere and everywhere. The radio itself is decorated with the emblem of the Seoul Games, Hodori, a happy little tiger.
After athletes, journalists and media technicians form the Games’ second corps! They now benefit from vast press rooms and sophisticated equipment. They also pay more. For the Los Angeles Games, TV broadcasting rights cost 286 million US dollars. It was also in 1984 that the sponsors became real “Olympic patrons”, financing some facilities (such as the McDonald’s swimming pool). This objective of this private sector financial involvement is to relieve the cities and tax payers and make the Games profitable.
A total of 6,838 press armbands were needed for the journalists and media technicians who had come to cover the competitions!
How sophisticated! If Pierre de Coubertin could have seen this photo of cameras on pivoting stands above the Olympic Stadium, he would not have believed his eyes.
When Seoul hosted the Games in September 1988, South Korea was enjoying impressive economic growth and taking the route of democracy. The imminence of the competitions forced the government to take the mass demonstrations of 1987 into account. A success for Olympism. However, despite intense negotiations led by the IOC, North Korea boycotted the Games. To meet the growing needs of the electronic media, public TV channel KBS built an ultra-modern complex with nine storeys and of almost 64,000 m2, which hosted four TV studios, 14 radio studios and a 2,000-seat auditorium. Enough to do justice to the performances of these Games, including those of Steffi Graf (tennis) and Matt Biondi (swimming). Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson, who tested positive for steroids, lost his gold medal in the 100 metres. He was the first famous athlete to be disqualified for doping.
Until 1994, the Winter Games took place in the same year as the Summer ones. But for financial reasons linked to advertising, the TV networks informed the IOC of their wish for the Summer/Winter Games to alternate every two years, which was accepted and would give the Winter Games greater visibility. They were no longer the poor relation of the Summer Games. In 1994, the Lillehammer Winter Games were broadcast in more than 120 countries, and on the African continent for the first time.
For the first time in 20 years, following the disappearance of the Eastern Bloc, there was not a single boycott. For the first time in 30 years, with the end of Apartheid, South Africa was allowed to compete. To celebrate this African reconciliation, Ethiopian runner Derartu Tulu performed a lap of honour with her South African rival, Elena Mayer. An Olympic moment par excellence! It was also in Barcelona that CDD cameras, normally used in astronomy, made their appearance, as did digital video recorders. Another new feature was touchscreens, which allowed the sports commentators to obtain information immediately and in real time. A foretaste of the arrival of the Internet! Some 3.5 billion people watched the Games on television that year.
A very “seventies” design for this badge worn by the technicians and journalists belonging to German public TV and radio networks ARD (regional stations) and ZDF.
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.
The arrival of the Internet would transform the habits of sports fans. Now they could follow the action wherever they were and choose the sport they wanted to watch. Television had brought the Games into people’s living rooms. Now they were everywhere - in offices, bedrooms, schools or cybercafés.
The stomach of Pudgy the penguin bore the address: FanM@il, an IBM platform which allowed spectators to send congratulatory emails to the athletes. The Games in Nagano were the second to have their own website, after the ones in Atlanta in 1996.
Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt stares mockingly at the television viewer, miming the race with his index and middle fingers. His rivals each fooled around for the camera when their names were announced in the packed and supercharged Olympic Stadium. This was a show, and they the performers; and the incredible closeness of the camera brought them into direct contact with their fans. Usain Bolt smilingly put a finger to his lips to tell the spectators to be quiet, made the sign of the cross, and the race began. He won, with the second fastest time in history.
Since 2001, the International Olympic Committee has had its own filming and broadcasting service, Olympic Broadcasting Services (OBS). This means that coverage of the Games is no longer dependent solely on the host country. The T-shirt below is one of those worn by OBS staff.
Since 2001, the International Olympic Committee has had its own filming and broadcasting service, Olympic Broadcasting Services (OBS). This means that coverage of the Games is no longer dependent solely on the host country. The T-shirt below is one of those worn by OBS staff.
It was in London, during the 2012 Games, that live broadcasting in 3D was trialled for the first time. The Opening and Closing Ceremonies and the men’s 100m were among the events used for this new technology, which had to be broadcast on a special television channel.
Nine million tickets sold, highlights which included American swimmer Michael Phelps and Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, impeccable organisation – and some notable technological experiments: 3D, multi-channel sound, 8K cameras. London 2012 was also 3.6 billion viewers, and, behind the scenes, 20,000 journalists and media technicians!
A historic moment! At the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, there were more hours of Internet coverage than television broadcasts. The use of social media really took off, with more than 2.2 million new followers on all platforms, and 7.7 million fans on Facebook.
The Session is the general assembly of the IOC members. It elects host cities, adds new sports and chooses new presidents. This badge was for the television crews covering the 105th IOC Session, in 1996 in Atlanta.
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.
“Wide dynamic range” images make it possible to memorise numerous levels of light intensity in a photo or video. Precision and luminosity are increased. Thus, the path of the sun, and the shadow can be “eased”.
I tweet, we tweet… Behind every screen, Games addicts communicate their allegiance to certain sports or athletes, and their emotions during competitions. What if we brought them together? Lausanne’s Federal Polytechnic (EPFL) created a program able to sort the tweets exchanged and file them by order of emotion. Graphics display, simply and instantly, the feelings of a whole community! Broadcasters can choose to show events depending on how many tweets they receive and the intensity of emotions. TV viewers are invited to compare their feelings, while affirming their adherence to the virtual Olympic community.
The panoptic camera is made up of a multitude of miniature cameras. It films in 360° in real time. It sees everything. The TV viewer can thus choose whatever angle and image he prefers, and see the Games just as he would like to! There are still a few obstacles to overcome: light contrasts, the increase in the number of images per second, or the delivery of a colossal amount of information to the four corners of the world.
Olympic Broadcasting Services (OBS) has constantly brought the Games closer to their fans. Since 2014, at the Winter Games in Sochi, the OVP Olympic video system application has allowed web users to compile their own programmes themselves! Available on computer, smartphone or tablet, OVP provides free access to events and statistics, with a much greater choice than on television.
It is a giant laboratory! And in this hive of innovations and specialised developments, the special work of the students and researchers in the Multimedia signal processing group, the Human computer interaction group and the Microelectronic Systems laboratory can help to make Olympic Games broadcasting even more surprising and personalised.