The broadcasting of the Olympic Games Rio 2016 has set new records, thanks in part to the use of the latest information and telecommunications technologies (ICTs).
As a former Olympic athlete, I have had the wonderful opportunity to take part in several Olympic Games, first as a competitive swimmer and in the case of the recent Olympic Games Rio 2016, as a swimming commentator. I was able to see firsthand, the incredible advancements in broadcasting, media and the worldwide coverage of the Games, in part because of the advanced use of ICTs.
Billions of people around the world experienced the Olympic Games like never before, with more coverage than ever; ICTs made the competitions – the enormous efforts of the athletes, the enthusiasm of the fans, as well as those very special Olympic moments – available to everyone. Rio 2016 brought innovation and technological advancements with ICTs, which truly enhanced for everyone the overall experience of the Games.
Look how far we’ve come
The International Olympic Committee offered rights-holding broadcasters more content than ever, in more formats than in past Olympic Games. During the Olympic Games Rio 2016, over 7,000 hours of high definition coverage were produced on both TV and digital platforms, viewed in more than 200 countries by an estimated 5 billion people. Rio 2016 is expected to be the first Olympic Games that had more coverage on digital platforms and applications than on TV.
It’s a far cry from the first televised Olympic Games in Berlin 1936, in which there were only 138 viewing hours produced and around 162,000 viewers from the Berlin area able to watch. It’s even a big leap from 1984, when the Los Angeles Olympic Games were viewed on television by more than 2.5 billion people in 156 countries.
Innovation through new technologies and media platforms, such as the 8K Super Hi-Vision (which is 16 times the resolution of High Definition), the live 360-degree content and highlights through Virtual Reality, the advanced multi-platform Olympic Video Player (for computers, tablets and smartphones, which offered on demand video and live streaming of every competition), and the recent launch of the new Olympic Channel, allowed more exposure of the Games, reaching more people than ever.
Mobile and NFC advancements
Thanks to several Olympic partners, the Olympic Games Rio 2016 became the most digital-enabled Games, making it a fully connected global experience, with the use of new technologies for cloud, data analytics and cybersecurity.
Advanced mobile products such as the official Rio 2016 App, provided the up-to-the-minute news, competition schedules and results, allowing users around the world to keep up to date with the latest actions during the Games. Also, about 4,000 near-field communication (NFC) enabled point-of-sale terminals were implemented and managed during the Games, capable of accepting mobile and wearable payments across the key Olympic Venues, such as the Barra Olympic Park.
The media professionals covering the Games benefited highly from the Games information system – as well as the Commentator Information System, which delivered competition schedules, near real time results, medals, records broken, biographies of the participating athletes, news related to the Games, historical background of the different sports, and information on all the National Olympic Committees, everything easily accessed from a computer or laptop. I was able to search and comment on detailed information related to any swimmer, in a quick and reliable manner. This information provided a richer and fuller content mix for all media outlets and viewers worldwide.
I remember as a swimmer in the Olympic Games Seoul 1988, where the main technology was the telefax and mobile phones didn’t exist, you were completely unware of how people around the world were experiencing the Games. Also, in Atlanta 1996, where I took part as a swimming commentator, ICTs had just started to be used as a tool for the coverage of the Games, but they never had the scope you saw today in Rio.
ICTs, sport – and improving the world
Let us remember that the goal of the Olympic Movement is to contribute to building a peaceful and better world. Blending sport with education and culture, Olympism seeks to promote the Olympic values of friendship, respect and excellence. The global coverage and advanced use of ICTs during the Olympic Games Rio 2016, have helped bring the Olympic Spirit to the whole world.
These Olympic Games have been a symbol of hope in very difficult times and a powerful example of humankind at its best. In the middle of the recent global refugee crisis, the first ever refugee Olympic athletes have been a sign of enormous courage and resilience. The International Olympic Committee gave out for the first time “The Olympic Laurel for Outstanding contributions to Olympism” to two-time Olympic champion Kip Keino from Kenya, for his achievements in the fields of education, culture, development and peace through sport.
These Olympic Games have shown us that sport and ICTs can both serve as enablers for the achievement of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). For me, the recent success of the Olympic Games Rio 2016 have only reinforced the need for a continued partnership between sport and ICTs; together they can inspire people around the world and harness the potential for sustainable development and peace.
About the Rio 2016 Olympic Games: Over 10,500 athletes, supported by 7,700 team officials, representing 206 National Olympic Committees, competed in 28 sports and 42 disciplines at Rio 2016, the first Olympic Games held in South America. Around 900 medals were awarded, under the direction of 3,000 technical officials, an 8,000 Rio 2016 workforce, with the support of more than more 50,000 volunteers. Thousands of media professionals in Rio and around the world covered every aspect of these incredible Olympic Games.
Sylvia Poll is the Head of the Project Support Division in the Telecommunication Development Bureau of ITU. Prior to this position, she was the Deputy Permanent Representative of the Permanent Mission of Costa Rica to the United Nations Office in Geneva and other International Organizations in Switzerland. Ms. Poll was also an accomplished elite swimmer. She represented Costa Rica in two Olympic Games: Seoul, Korea in 1988 and Barcelona, Spain in 1992. She won a silver medal for Costa Rica. Since 2010 she has been invited by the international organization “Peace and Sport” to be one of their “Champions of Peace”, as a special Sport Ambassador, to help build sustainable peace through sport.