Vancouver Readies for Olympic Media Arrival

OBSV is ready to welcome the world to British Columbia for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games
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OBSV is ready to welcome the world to British Columbia for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games
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The new West Building (shown here under construction) of the Vancouver Convention Centre will serve as the Main Media Centre for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. ©VANOC/COVAN VANCOUVER, British Columbia
For the past three years, Nancy Lee has been focused on making sure coverage of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games goes off flawlessly.

Lee holds a distinguished position in Canadian broadcast sports. In 1987, she became the first full-time woman sports reporter in CBC Radio history. She advanced quickly through the ranks at Canada’s public-service broadcaster, from producing the national radio sports program “The Inside Track” to head of CBC Radio Sports in 1994.

Two years later, Lee became deputy head of the CBC Television Sports division, and by 2002 she was executive director of CBC Television Sports.

Given her history and experience, it only made sense to ask Lee to serve as chief operating officer of Olympic Broadcasting Services Vancouver (OBSV).

OBSV is the International Olympic Committee owned-and-operated entity that actually shoots the video and captures the audio at all Olympic sports events, plus the opening and closing ceremonies. It also builds the vast studio and editing facilities used by rights-holding broadcasters at the Games.

“It’s a pretty unique experience, heading up such a large organizational and logistical project,” said Lee. “There’s nothing quite like it.”

OBSV facilities

Broadcasters from around the world have spent multiple millions of dollars to obtain rights to the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. In return for their payments, the IOC provides them with the necessary broadcast facilities and fees — and that is where OBSV comes in.

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The Mascots for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games: (from left) Quatchi, Sumi and Miga ©VANOC/COVAN “At the arenas and outdoor venues, we will have more than 400 television cameras and microphones,” said Lee. “We will have over 22 mobile production units capturing TV/video signals. We will run 1,000 kilometers of cable throughout the venues, arenas and ceremonies stadium; which carry HD video and 5.1 surround sound audio.”

There are two broadcast centers for the 2010 Games. The International Broadcast Centre is located at the new Vancouver Convention Centre on the city’s downtown waterfront. “We will have 30,000 square meters of broadcast space at the IBC,” she said. “This will house the studios, production spaces and distribution networks for the roughly 7,000 accredited broadcasters and technicians who will be working at the Games.”

The second broadcast center is located about 125 kilometers north of Vancouver in Whistler, near where the skiing events are taking place. The Mountain Broadcast Centre will have about 3,500 square meters of space, and will serve as a remote broadcast facility for the Olympics broadcasting rights-holders.

Radio’s place

When most people think of the Olympics, they think of television. As a result, much of the emphasis at the 2010 Games is on providing the very best HD footage possible aided by multiple camera angles and lots of feeds suitable for everything from satellite TV down to the Web, along with eye-catching graphics and ultra-slow-motion video replays.

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The Whistler Media Center ©VANOC/COVAN As well, “We have developed a new commentary system designed for Olympic television and radio broadcasters,” said Lee. “The system will deliver all commentary audio signals from the venues to the various broadcaster locations in the IBC. The system will offer greater audio quality and flexibility for the broadcasters.”

Meanwhile, OBSV’s signal distribution system allows broadcasters to send feeds to their home networks via satellite or international cable.

“Rights holders such as the BBC have both radio and TV studios at the IBC,” said Lee. “They serve both media and so does OBSV.”

Counting down to 2010

Construction is already under way at the IBC. Meanwhile, “We currently have 90 people working at OBSV,” said Lee. “When the Winter Games open in 2010, that number will swell to 2,200. Two-thirds of the people will be involved in production and engineering at our centers and venues.”

OBSV staff have two events to produce; first the XXI Olympic Winter Games, which run 12–28 February, followed by the X Paralympic Winter Games, 12–21 March.

By 30 March, the work will all be done ... and Nancy Lee will be out of a job. But she’s not thinking about that.

“Right now, my entire emphasis on these Games, and ensuring that everything the OBSV is responsible for works as planned,” she said.