A Window for the World: London 2012 Olympic Games to set broadcasting milestone
When the Olympic Games were last held in London, in 1948, it marked the first time that TV coverage of the Games had been broadcast into people’s homes, with approximately 500,000 viewers – mostly residing within an 80-mile radius of the city.
Now, 64 years on, the Games are returning to the British capital – and Olympic broadcasting has developed into a global phenomenon. In contrast to the half a million viewers in 1948, London 2012 will have an estimated potential audience of 4.8 billion people in more than 200 countries and territories around the world. This monumental figure highlights just how far Olympic broadcasting has come – and how important it is to the worldwide growth of the Olympic Games and the Olympic Movement.
“Our primary broadcasting objective has always been to ensure that as many viewers as possible are able to experience the Games,” explains Timo Lumme, the Managing Director of IOC Television & Marketing Services. “With that in mind, coverage of each Games has been made available to an increasing number of countries and territories around the world.”
Ensuring the future viability of the Games
In addition to communicating the Games and the Olympic values around the world, broadcast rights agreements with Rights Holding Broadcasters (RHBs) have also provided the Olympic Movement with a secure financial base, helping to ensure the future viability of the Games themselves and providing the single greatest source of revenue for the Olympic Movement over the last three decades.
As well as television and radio coverage, broadcast rights agreements now also include digital coverage, which is playing an increasingly important role in the Olympic broadcast, helping to spread the Games and the Olympic values even further.
A record-breaking coverage
With digital coverage set to increase once again, the London 2012 Games look set to easily surpass the record 61,700 hours of broadcast coverage that was made available globally during Beijing 2008. In the host country, for instance, the BBC is launching 24 new HD Olympic television streams so that viewers can watch every minute of every event live via their digital TVs – a total output of approximately 2,500 hours.
All this record-breaking coverage will be produced by Olympic Broadcasting Services (OBS), a wholly owned subsidiary of the IOC, which will be acting as the sole Host Broadcaster for the first time at a Summer Games, following its joint venture with the Beijing 2008 Organising Committee four years ago. Manolo Romero, CEO of OBS, is proud that the organisation has been able to spread coverage of the Games even further than ever before.
“The fact that more and more countries are able to enjoy watching the Olympic Games and the excitement, drama and good feelings they produce, proves not only that the Olympic Movement itself continues to grow, but also that OBS is successfully capturing the unique atmosphere of the venues and the host city,” he says.
The first Olympic Games to be broadcast live in 3D
As well as giving more viewers the chance to enjoy the Games, OBS is also leading the way when it comes to broadcast innovations. Thanks to the use of 33 True 3D cameras, London 2012 will also be the first Olympic Games to be broadcast live in 3D, bringing the greatest show on Earth into viewers’ homes in a way that has never been seen before. The immersive 3D coverage will include both the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, as well as athletics, gymnastics, swimming and diving events. In total, more than 230 hours of 3D coverage will be made available to RHBs.
In addition to live 3D coverage, OBS will also expand its commitment to High Super Slow Motion (HSSM) from Beijing 2008 and Vancouver 2010 by utilising more than 40 HSSM cameras to provide stunning replays that will show more detail than ever before. OBS also plans to implement a number of innovative camera systems as part of its overall production plan, utilising a number of different technologies to enhance viewers’ understanding of the Olympic sports. These include point-of-view cameras for several events and wire-cams suspended 100 metres above the rowing venue at Eton Dorney.
In another innovative move, OBS – in partnership with UK host broadcaster BBC and Japanese national broadcaster NHK – will film part of the 2012 Games in Super Hi-Vision, which is predicted to be the next format of television. Offering 16 times the quality of HD and an unmatched audio experience, Super Hi-Vision provides a crystal-clear wide camera angle shot that gives the audience the experience of actually being at an event. This exciting new format will be trialled during the Games, with coverage of the Opening and Closing Ceremonies being broadcast live to four specially commissioned Super Hi-Vision cinema screens in the UK.