Vancouver 2010: Canadian Broadcasters Gear Up for Ambitious Coverage

In what promises to be one of the most extensive media coverage plans in recent sports memory, Canada’s Olympic Broadcast Media Consortium has laid out a broad strategy that will allow Canadians to thoroughly inundate themselves with the 2010 Vancouver Games.

The coverage includes a total of 4,800 hours of total programming across nearly every medium imaginable: television, online, radio, print, mobile, VOD, movie theaters, and in person at the live events. The consortium’s television coverage will span 12 channels and will be presented entirely in HD for the first time.

An undertaking of this magnitude is obviously a tall task, especially when much of the production crew will not even arrive in British Columbia until just weeks before the Games begin.

“Ultimately, we’re going to be at about 1,350 staff members between Vancouver and Whistler,” says Rick Chisholm, EVP of broadcasting for the consortium. “We’re sitting here now with less than a quarter of our staff present. On Feb. 1, we’ll have about half of our staff. So we’re going to have to have everything ready to ensure that, when the rest of them get on the site here, we’re totally prepared so they can start working right away. And we’re in real good shape for that.”

This mammoth crew will staff a total of seven sets in two cities (five in Vancouver and two in Whistler), including two separate host studios to anchor the coverage (one in Vancouver, one in Whistler), marking the first time a North American broadcaster will anchor from two locations at a single Games.

Until the entire staff arrives, however, Chisholm and company are finishing up some final touches on the consortium’s comprehensive on-site infrastructure. Last week, the crew began installing cable and venue connections for the International Broadcast Centre (IBC). This week, they will begin work on installing cable and fiber infrastructure for BC Place Stadium, where the Opening Ceremonies will be held on Feb. 12.

“We’re in the final approach,” Chisholm says. “We’re in final stages of lighting for our sets, working on engineering for IBC. Every single night, we go through scripts and lineups on the production side, and this week, we get into BC Place to cable for the Opening Ceremony, for which we have a full mobile [production unit]. We’re doing our own unilateral coverage for the Opening Ceremonies [on all 12 TV networks and online].”

The 12-network team for TV coverage is led by CTV, Canada’s largest privately owned network, and includes V (primary French coverage), TSN, Rogers Sportsnet, RDS and RIS (both French language), OMNI.1 and OMNI.2 (multilingual broadcasts to around the world), OLN, ATN (Asian Television Network), APTN (Aboriginal Peoples Television Network), and MuchMusic (coverage of live music performances at the Games).

“The most exciting aspect of all this,” says Chisholm, “is how we’re going to be moving all this content around simultaneously to the 12 different networks.”

Content will be distributed from five sets at the IBC in Vancouver (three English, two French) and two sets in Whistler (one at the recently renamed CTV Mountain Square, one at the Garibaldi Lift Co. Bar & Grill at the base of the mountain).  There will also be an interactive set at the Digital Lounge in the IBC.

“On-site here in Vancouver, we have five full HD control rooms and five full HD studios, and that’s only feeding half of our broadcast,” says Chisholm. “We still have ATN, ATPN, and OMNI back in their respective cities. Not to mention our locations in Whistler. So it’s really about fine-tuning all our communications systems. Our engineering staff has done an unbelievable job in the setup, and we don’t have any major problems. Knock on wood.”

In addition, each set has been built with a live outdoor background in hopes of giving viewers the feeling that they are right in Vancouver or Whistler. The only problem thus far has been getting snow into those backgrounds: British Columbia has seen an abnormally low amount of snow this winter.

Chisholm remains confident, however, that the 2010 Games will see plenty of powder: “Well, yeah, so far they are a little short on snow. But it’s early yet, you know. I don’t think anyone’s too worried about it.”

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