First HD Olympics: Behind the Scenes

First HD Olympics: Behind the Scenes

September 2012

The first Olympic Games broadcasted via satellite globally were the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo. Since then people have been glued to their television sets to watch memorable sporting moments, just like this one. The demand and instantaneous feeds of legendary sporting events, like the Olympics and World Cup, have been enabled through the broadcast satellite technologies which have ensured live feeds are beamed around the world.

This year (2013), it was the first time the Olympics were available to watch in full High Definition (HD) in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

How the Olympics Is Broadcast to Television Sets In the Middle East

A cameraman captures Bolt crossing the finish line, just beating his fellow countryman Blake, a competitor to his title. The tears and joys of winning the Gold medal for his country are broadcast to his hometown...

The cameramen are ready to capture moments, like this, at each London Olympic event, from Track to Judo. Once the images are captured it is instantly sent to the Olympic Broadcasting Service (OBS) mobile van, which is waiting, at a number of different sites, outside the Olympic venues or directly being forwarded by fibre links.

The OBS make it possible, also in general for most of the world-wide sport events, to bring live sport to the millions of viewers. The live OBS feeds first go to the International Broadcasting Centre (IBC) via satellite. There they are stored in the operation centre. From here, television channels in MENA can access the footage directly and edit in the different graphics, subtitles and commentary, unique to their TV and Radio networks.

For example: Adding the specific channel logo’s (Aljazeera Sport, Abu Dhabi Media, Iraq Media Networks Sultanate of Oman Television, Algerian TV, Middle East Broadcasting Centre etc.) or incorporating a commentator view from temporarily built studios at London within the video image received through OBS of the competition event.

This is all possible thanks to the Multimedia Exchange Network over Satellite (MENOS™). MENOS is set up in a star network, where all video, audio and edits to footage are transmitted through the central site. It is a completely integrated network solution that makes a full range of communication, collaboration and media services available at all times.

MENOS’ Multilateral Feed - The HD Upgrade

ASBU’s central and member infrastructure upgrades allow the television networks that are members, of ASBU, to receive the live Olympic multilateral feeds and news channels in HD and will also turnaround the HD signals to provide SD simultaneous broadcast (simulcast).

The Olympic content is injected into the central archive of the ASBU MENOS®, allowing members to access the content at a later time and eliminating the need for each member to individually archive all feeds. This results in significant cost reductions and operational streamlining. Or alternatively, the members can also immediately re-transmit the live content.

The Results
  • There were 11 HD channels (220 hours per day) with Arabic commentary
  • In addition to the multilaterals ASBU also fully manages 8 HD + 2 SD unilateral feeds on behalf of their members on Eutelsat capacity
  • ASBU followed all Arabic sport participants & stories
  • There was over 3000 hours of live TV coverage, an additional 2000 hours of English (news, interviews, stand-ups, background stories, etc) sent by OBS vans

Slaheddine Maaoui, ASBU Director General:
“The Olympic Games have always been major milestones for us, for the introduction of new platforms, technologies and services. London 2012 was the first HD Olympics for many of our members, together with comprehensive MENOS simulcast, content archiving and play-out. The Olympics HD upgrade is part of an on-going process of service expansion and improvement, to address the future broadcast transmission needs of our members and regional users.”