When the Tokyo 2020 Games finally get underway in 2021, the watching millions will gather, not in Tokyo but in front of their electronic device-of-choice to view the Games.
The challenge of producing more than 9,000 hours of sports content over 17 days in the current climate is clearly very real. But for Olympic Broadcasting Services (OBS) Chief Executive Yiannis Exarchos, it is all about approaching it from a different angle.
“You should never let the opportunity of a major crisis go unused and unexploited,” Exarchos said.
In content terms this means more coverage in different formats, with the needs of social media and digital outlets high on the agenda, with short-form, digital content far more prominent in Tokyo than ever before.
“Broadcasters can use this content, repurpose it; they can practically do it from their mobile phones in the back of a car,” Exarchos said.
Tokyo 2020 will also be the first Games coverage to be natively produced in 4K HDR, something Exarchos was “not sure could actually be done” just a matter of months ago.
The OBS Cloud platform will allow broadcasters to receive content remotely on the cloud and even to work on this content remotely on a cloud basis.
Alongside other innovations this, in essence, means that broadcasters can do a significant proportion of their jobs – from post-production to commentary – from their own countries. A win in every sense.
The International Broadcast Centre (IBC) in Tokyo is going to be 25 per cent smaller than the Rio IBC, with 27 per cent fewer broadcasters present.
All of this, in conjunction with further measures such as the centralisation of technical equipment in the IBC away from each venue, means less power, less transport, less accommodation and ultimately lower CO2 emissions.
And if you have a journalist in the mixed zone you can receive everything else back in your home country.
This is the key. The OBS man knows there is a limit – human connection between the sport and the athletes will always remain paramount – but it is the paraphernalia that can be tinkered with.
Having the Japanese as hosts for the next Games and the Chinese for the one after has, in Exarchos’ words, “helped a lot”, with both “extremely keen on adopting new technology”.
With NHK, Japan’s host broadcaster, producing a comprehensive broadcast package in 8K – a format that “reaches the limit of the human eye” – and 5G looming ever larger for Beijing 2022 and beyond, the Games should look better than ever.