Europe Shines in Televising the Games

By Kevin Hilton
The Beijing Olympics has proved to be a major showcase for Europe, not just the individual national teams competing but also broadcasters, facilities companies, and satellite link providers involved in either producing pictures of the action or getting them back to viewers in the West.
The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) says that it is providing the broadest and most widespread media coverage in the history of the Olympic Games, with double the capacity it supplied for Athens 2004. It holds the rights to broadcast the Games for the
EBU Territory, which comprises mainland
Europe and some territories in
North Africa and the
Middle East, on TV, radio, the Web, and mobile services. Because, under IOC regulations, each EBU member country has the rights to the Olympics for only its own region, some outlets have been ‘geo-blocked,’ notably the new EBU
Beijing Live video portal.
This service, available through both www.eurovisionsports.tv/olympics and the official Beijing 2008 Web site, has been covering all sports and venues during the event by pulling together more than 30 simulcast streams from EBU broadcasters, plus 12 Eurovision live feeds. The Eurovision network is offering more than 2,000 hours of HD and SD programming to 61 European countries, plus other territories.
There are mobile-TV services from more than 20 broadcasters, and 30 TV organisations are showing coverage on their Web sites. To cope with the demand for HD connections, the EBU is using NTT Electronics HE5100 MPEG-2 contribution encoders to ensure good quality on live pictures.
Globecast, a subsidiary of France Telecom, is working with both rights-holding and non-rights-holding broadcasters and claims to be handling the majority of transmissions leaving the International Broadcast Center (IBC). The company is providing HD and SD uplinks of the world feed from the dish farm at the IBC to the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union (ABU) sport pool, as well as multiple unilateral feeds, with two in HD, for such broadcasters as ATV and I-Cable (Hong Kong), Solar Entertainment (Philippines), and TV Globo (Brazil).
Among the connection types being used by Globecast are MPEG-4 for HD and DVB S2 modulation. The company is also collaborating with 7BMC, the Olympic division of a joint venture between Seven Network
Australia and Beijing Television, to provide playout and satellite and fiber links for non-rights-holding broadcasters not working out of the IBC — France 24,
Orange , CNN, and ESPN among them.
Direct-to-home satellite platform SES ASTRA is already beaming 42 HD channels across Europe and, for these Games, is providing space for many of the broadcasters covering the event in the format, including BBC HD (UK), CANAL+ HD (France), ANIXE HD (Germany), TVP HD (Poland), STV3 (Slovak Republic), 1 HD (Netherlands), in HD (Belgium), TELEDEPORTE HD (Spain), Viasat HD and SVT HD (both Sweden), and ORF HD (Austria).
France 2 HD is also being carried on SES ASTRA, although there was some doubt whether the public broadcaster would be transmitting the Games in high-definition. French broadcasters had threatened to boycott the Beijing Olympics if China suppressed coverage of any anti-government protests, but, like those from other European nations, they are there in force, with the notable exception of Bernard Faure, a former marathon champion and now the leading commentator on athletics in his country, who has voiced his objections to the Chinese record on human rights.
French facilities companies are also heavily involved in the 2008 Summer Games. The Euro Media group has sent over a number of outside broadcast trucks from its SFP subsidiary, which is supplying its RF expertise for coverage of the cycling and other events. Among the vehicles in Beijing are SFP 732, SFP 740 and VCF 21 — all three housing 10 LDK 8000 triax cameras, a two-M/E XtenDD HD switcher and a Concerto Series HD router, and SFP 741 and Road 3 (both with 10 LDK 8000 cameras and a Kayak HD four-M/E switcher).
Eurosport is billing itself as ‘ Europe’s official Olympics Games broadcaster’ and has a custom-built 100-square-metre studio for presentation in the Omega Pavilion, which sits within the Olympic Green Area. The ultra-modern studio is inside a 180 degree glass construction, with the Bird’s Nest stadium an impressive backdrop through the rear window.
This is Eurosport’s tenth consecutive Games and it is providing round-the-clock coverage, with 400 hours of transmissions, including 15 hours live each day between
three o’clock in the morning and six in the evening. The broadcaster’s recently launched HD channel is also carrying a high proportion of the action.