Fasten your seatbelt.
The Olympic flame arrived in Beijing Tuesday, August 5. The last torchbearer lit the fire cauldron at the historic Temple of Heaven in Beijing, marking the beginning of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing (NBC Olympics, NY Times Event Tracker, Sound Slides, Gigapixel images and Olympic Theme, MP-3).
It was the longest Olympic torch relay in history, traveling 137,000 kms (87,000 miles) via 433 different torchbearers, across six continents in 129 days. The torch arrived back in the capital late Tuesday, after an emotional run in Sichuan province, the site of China’s deadly May 12 earthquake which killed almost 70,000 people and left some 5 million homeless.
Some 2,500 athletes from 205 countries will battle for 302 medal events at the Games of the XXIX Olympiad, running August 8 to August 24, 2008 in China. Some 20,000 journalists, 10,000 security personnel and 800,000 vistors will jostle for a view while an estimated 2 billion people are expected to watch the Olympic Games on television (in a variety of screen sizes).
Here are a dozen stories to watch for during the games. Wikipedia has a backgrounder. Of course it’s all about athletic competition.
China is spending approximately $160 billion for public works’ improvements and the event’s venues, including refurbished and new roads, subways, and sports’ stadiums. Sales of the remaining available tickets are being handled by each country’s National Olympic Committee.
The six main venues have been 85% funded by US$2.1 billion (RMB¥17.4 billion) in corporate bids and tenders. The largest architectural pieces will be the Beijing National Stadium, Beijing National Indoor Stadium, Beijing National Aquatics Centre, Olympic Green Convention Centre, Olympic Green, and Beijing Wukesong Culture & Sports Center.
The 2008 Summer Olympics features 28 sports and 302 events, spread out over seven cities, as far north as Shenyang, down to Hong Kong in the south. About 200,000 accreditations will be issued for athletes, officials, media and others, serving more than a million pages of information daily just on the back end.
IT planning for the Games began in 2003 with the creation of a master plan. The Games utilizes two main cores of IT infrastructure, a Games Management System (GMS), which supports planning and operation of the Games, including staffing, accommodation, travel, and medical operations; and the Information Diffusion Systems (IDS), which includes timing and scoring by Omega.
Atos Origin has the primary responsibility integrating, managing and securing the vast IT system that relays results, events and athlete information to spectators and media around the world. A Wireless INFO service will be available for the first time that will allow all journalists to navigate through the INFO2008 database from their own laptop.
Azalea supplied some 1000 wireless mesh routers for wireless broadband access over 38 square miles (100 square kilometers) in Beijing’s central business district, financial street and Olympics areas. The “Wireless Beijing” project is a collaboration between CECT-Chinacomm Communications and Trussnet USA, and is receiving support from the Beijing municipal government.
Lenovo has provided 10,000 computers, including KTS 660 desktops; Thinkpad T60 and E680 laptops; 5,000 results terminals, 4,000 printers and 1,000 servers.
The 2008 Beijing Olympic Games will embed RFID on every event ticket, and help security personnel monitor Olympic hotels, venues, distribution centers and hospitals. The technology also supports a food safety tracking system.
By using IP networks, combined with Wi-Fi and other wireless technologies, Beijing can expand its video surveillance network at the Olympics beyond wired areas
The Beijing Olympic Games are expected draw some 20,000 press for the 17-day event, with 5,600 written and photographic press, 12,000 for Rights’ Holding Broadcasters (RHBs) as well as an additional 10,000 non-rights’ holding journalists.
The International Olympic Committee owns the broadcast rights for TV, mobile, and the Internet for the games. TV rights are sold to broadcasters who can guarantee such coverage in their respective markets. The current estimate is that some 220 countries, or territories, will be broadcasting the games with the estimated broadcast revenue projected to be US$1.7 billion.
It’s the largest Olympic Games broadcast ever with dozens of broadcast trucks gathering material from all 37 venues in Beijing and the seven other cities. Beijing Olympic Broadcasting (BOB) controls press access and originates most of the broadcast feeds.
This is the first Olympic Games to be broadcast fully in HD with more than 1000 HD cameras and 60 HD mobile units. NBC will utilize their Skycam (overhead cabled camera), Rail-Cam (poolside), Moby-Cam (moving below swimmers) and Dive-Cam (which drops alongside divers). For bike racing, CamPac 2 units will transmit live HD video via camera-back system in follow cams.
By The Numbers
More than 20 Panasonic billboards with athletes in action help to project the Olympic mood right from the airport. Their giant Astrovision screens supply venues with live action. NBC Universal will use Sony XDCAM HD systems as its primary ENG source.
Athletes will be captured in high speed, high-definition TV imagery at 5,400 frames per second using a Fastcam SA1 camera, made by Photron, and integrated into a new imaging system called the SprintCam V2, made by i-Movie. The SprintCam V2 allows high-definition images to be seen in instant replay, in extreme slow motion. Host broadcaster Beijing Olympic Broadcast (BOB) will deploy SprintCam Live systems at the major Olympic venues.
China Central Television (CCTV) will bring the Olympics to viewers across the People’s Republic of China.
The Olympics network – which has been under construction since 2005 – sports 6,239 km of piping construction, 46,000 km of multicore fiber, 53 equipment rooms and a 550-seat call center, among other features.
It supports HDTV, a VLAN offering 100-megabit connections in 31 competition venues, and video surveillance over IPv6.
China Netcom is also providing around 20 Gbps of international bandwidth with the help of partners PCCW, AT&T, KDDI, DT, KT and Telefonica.
PCCW Global is handling the network between the Beas River and Sha Tin venues, and the international gateway that will route 40 channels of video to and from Beijing’s International Broadcast Centre.
PCCW is providing two redundant primary SDH fiber rings between the two venues and the gateway. The carrier is also providing international video services via its global IPLC/IP network covering over 80 countries, and satellite teleport with access to 18 satellites.
The EBU will use C-/Ku-band cross-strap capacity on the Intelsat 706 satellite (50.2 degrees East), to distribute the all high-definition events to its members. NBC has contracted SES NEW SKIES for occasional use services out of Beijing which has also been contracted by the BBC in the United Kingdom, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) as well as Brazil’s TV Globo. The Associated Press also has satellite facilities for multi-media reports.
China Telecom Americas currently operates the China-US Cable, aggregating traffic across North America using three Cisco CRS-1 Carrier Routing Systems, the core platform for the Cisco IP NGN architecture. The transoceanic Cisco network transfers gigabyte-sized files from Beijing and enables NBC personnel in New York and Los Angeles to edit video as it is captured in Beijing and deliver it to three screens: TV, PC and smartphones.
Asia-Pacific Cable Network (APCN) links nine Asian countries while the EAC-C2C cable, unlike consortium systems, is wholly-owned by Pacific Internet (Pacnet), the largest telco-independent service provider in the Asia Pacific region.
A second 17,000-kilometer submarine fiber optic cable, directly links mainland China to the U.S. The Trans-Pacific Express will initially provide capacity of up to 1.28 terabits per second, with a design capacity up to 5.12 Tbps. Verizon is one of the investors of the Express Cable project, which can act as a back-up.
Rights Holding Broadcasters include: European Broadcasting Union (EBU), National Broadcasting Company (NBC), Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), Seven Network Ltd. (Australia), Japan Consortium (JC), Organización de Telecomunicaciones, Iberoamericanas (Mexico), Television New Zealand (New Zealand), Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union (ABU), African Union of Broadcasting (AUB), Arab States Broadcasting Union (ASBU), Korean Broadcasters Association (KBA), Chinese Taipei Broadcast Pool (CTBP), Caribbean Broadcasting Union (CBU) and South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC).
Seattle Times photographer Rod Mar says journalists have found the one free wireless hotspot in the entire media village (below). So every night you can walk by this one certain corner of the Media Village and find folks from around the world reveling in the joy of an unprotected wireless and using Skype to call folks back home. Sports Illustrated has a slideshow of the opening ceremonies.
In the United States, NBC owns the exclusive U.S. media rights to the Olympic Games and
will present 3,600 hours of Beijing Olympic coverage, the most ambitious single media project in history. NBCOlympics.com will feature approximately 2,200 total hours of live streaming Olympic broadband video coverage, the first live online Olympic coverage in the United States.
“For the first time, the average American will be able to create their own unique Olympic experience whether at home, at the office or on-the-go,” said Dick Ebersol, Executive Producer of NBCU’s Olympic coverage. PBS Newshour has a backgrounder on NBC’s coverage.
The NBCOlympics.com site is powered by 160 Sun servers, using Intel Xeon x64 processors, the Sun Fire X4450 and Sun Fire X4150 servers. A rack full of these units would provide 320 processor cores, 320 hot-swappable hard drives, 640 DIMM slots, 120 PCI-E slots, and 160 Gigabit Ethernet connections. Anystream’s technology will help NBCU orchestrate a series of sophisticated on-demand workflows for more than 10,000 discrete titles for web, VOD, and mobile. Lenovo supplied thousands of laptops, servers and associated gear, by far the largest IT commitment of any games.
Anystream’s production gear automatically repurposes broadcast content to a variety of platforms. Brick Eksten, CEO of Digital Rapids, is providing encoding, streaming and management systems for the Games. “We’re going to find out whether the Internet is going to melt under the weight of video in a couple days,’’ says he (audio interview). Google’s DoubleClick technology will be used to deliver video advertising.
For online viewers, NBCOlympics.com uses Microsoft’s Silverlight 2 player. In addition to supporting Windows Media Video 9, Microsoft’s version of the VC-1 compression standard, it features a number of enhancements optimized for the Olympics.
A “Live Video Control Room” offers up to four video streams simultaneously of the same or different events — one large picture and three smaller pictures — with the option to go “full screen” or “swap” a smaller view for the larger one at any time. You can also e-mail and share video links. With up to 16 events occurring simultaneously, NBCOlympics.com plans to cover the action with as many as 20 simultaneous live streams. Including redundancy for each one — that’s 40 simultaneous streams.
The interactivity, the engineering, the user experience — it’s all fundamentally new.
The 2008 Summer Olympics may mark the end of traditional “television” and the beginning of a new era — something completely different. NBC has created a template for the future and we get a chance to test it out. The torch has been passed.
How big might the Olympics get? Rob Bennett, general manager of entertainment, video and sports at Microsoft’s MSN portal said the system is designed to handle 600,000 concurrent streams or more, with backup content-delivery networks in place should demand really take off.
Limelight Networks is the primary delivery network used by all video content on the NBCOlympics.com web site. Limelight is challenging market leader Akamai, which commands 70% of the content delivery space. Where Limelight differs from Akamai is that they are completely “off the cloud”. Their system isn’t deployed over the public Internet. They lease a dedicated Optical Carrier line and often co-locate content in your ISP’s main communications infrastructure.
One hour of HD video consumes about 2.5 gigabits, according to Gary Croke, marketing director for CacheLogic, another content delivery equipment vendor. He says broadband users need at least 6 to 10 Mb/s pipes for HD video.
According to the company, that is 1,000 hours more than the combined coverage for every televised Summer Olympics in U.S. history (Rome 1960 – Athens 2004, 2,562 hours).
NBC Olympics.com will have exclusive competition video of complete runs and routines, with real-time results and medal counts. NBC has profiles on the athletes, video clips and photos online with many free video clips also available at Google Video. MSNBC.com also has an Olympics news section that covers event results.
But what if NBC doesn’t have what you want? The BBC promises seven streaming Internet feeds for UK-based websurfers (or those using UK-based proxies). There’s also the CBC for “Canadians” and the ABC for “Australians”. Meanwhile, there’s already plenty of “unofficial” Olympics video on YouTube.
Read Write Web overviews some of the mobile Olympic sites. Yahoo has recently launched a mobile site devoted exclusively to the 2008 Olympics. NBCOlympics, is offering a mobilized version with text news mobile alerts, mobile video, and mobile TV news.
The Beijing Olympics are the most commercialized in the history of the games. It will likely to go down as the high-water mark of the Olympic sponsorship program, says Business Week. NBC is paying about $800 million for broadcast rights to the Olympics in the U.S. and expects to bring in $1 billion in ad revenue across all platforms.
Companies have paid an average of $866 million, or about $72 million apiece, to sponsor the Turin and Beijing Games, almost one-third more than the $663 million total paid to back the Salt Lake City and Athens Games in 2002 and 2004, and up from $579 million for the Nagano-Sydney cycle in 1998 and 2000, says Ad Age. Costs keep going up. The U.S. broadcast rights to the 1960 Winter Games in Squaw Valley, California, cost CBS only $50,000.
Lenovo has created 100 athletes’ blogs (right), in an attempt to align itself with some less mainstream sports, such as field hockey and modern pentathlon. It gave the athletes laptops and video cameras to chronicle their preparation for the games. BBC Bloggers, CBC Columns and Blogs and NBC Bloggers, especially those from the athletes, might be difficult to stop by the great firewall of China. Advertising Age and Ad Week keep running tabs.
DIRECTV will feature more than 1700 hours of coverage — including over 800 hours in HD. Plus, with their on Demand on channel 1008, you have access to over 500 titles, including athlete profiles, Beijing previews and more.
DISH Network will add two high-definition specialty channels to its HD line-up solely dedicated to the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. In addition, DISH Network is offering a number of Video On Demand (VOD) titles and will offer its subscribers more than 800 hours of NBCU’s HD 2008 Beijing Olympic Games content. Comcast and Charter also have HD VOD plans, with 15-20 daily updates and highlights sorted by sport, while Comcast promises more than 700 hours of HD on NBC HD, Universal HD and USA HD, plus multiple live NBC feeds on Comcast Central.
Verizon’s EV-DO based Vcast, will offer daily Olympics highlights, breaking news, results and medal standings. ATT’s MediaFLO Channel will have dedicated coverage while Mobilcast will deliver Olympic updates to phone users in the United States and Canada.
The 2008 Summer Games on Google Maps is a one-stop shop for medal counts by country, events by date, and results by sport. Additional Olympic coverage is available from ABC News, BBC, CNN, CBC, CBS Sportsline, ESPN, NPR, Fox Sports, USA Today, Sports Illustrated, Time, Google News, Yahoo Olympics, Yahoo’s Olympic Blogs, News feeds, Olympic Trivia, Blog Runner and Tech Meme. Mobile services using Google Mobile and Yahoo’s Go Mobile also feature lots of info and entertainment.
Yahoo on Tuesday launched a number of shortcuts to present Olympics-related information through Yahoo’s search engine. The shortcuts package up information such as the overall medal count, a country’s specific medal count, and information for individual athletes. Google is adding additional features too in addition to GoogleNews, Blog Search and Google Maps and Google Earth. Twitter Search on 080808 returns opening day tweets. TwitterVision has the big picture.
International Broadcast Coverage is available from Italy (broadcasters), Australia (broadcasters), China (broadcasters), France (broadcasters), Germany (broadcasters), Spain (broadcasters), Japan (broadcasters), Korea (broadcasters), many other countries and non-US networks.
Nielsen says the top ten 2008 Olympic web sites are: NBC Olympics, Yahoo Olympics, AOL Olympics, Beijing 2008.cn, NY Times Olympics, ESPN Olympics, USA Today Olympics, Olympics.org, BBC Olympics and Sports Illustrated Olympics.
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