Behind the scenes at biggest show in town
PASSENGER JETS have been chartered, military airwaves cleared and the beer and pizza supplies checked. The London 2012 summer Olympics is poised to become the biggest media and broadcasting event in history with an invasion of commentators, celebrity anchors, reporters, technicians, make-up artists, camera and sound operators from 190 countries.
Organisers are expecting up to 28,000 members of the media to descend on London – almost three times more than the number of athletes competing. America’s NBC TV network is sending 2,700 people, enough to warrant the chartering of three Boeing 777 aircraft to help get them in and out. The broadcast centre where most of them will work is big enough to park those three jets with room for at least two more jumbos, while the main press centre is the size of the Tate Modern gallery. It will be broadcasting and publishing on an unprecedented scale, fuelled by London’s international allure.
The BBC is planning 2,500 hours of live action produced by a staff of 765. while al-Jazeera, the Qatar-based network that broadcasts mostly to the Middle East and North Africa, is sending 150 staff to broadcast in Arabic and English. Every vantage point around the main stadium has been grabbed for use. The BBC and al-Jazeera have taken the top floors of apartment blocks in Stratford in east London to build studios. NBC will broadcast in English and Spanish and, if you tried to watch every hour of its planned coverage without a break, it would take until next February. RTÉ will also be carrying extensive coverage of the Games with up to 15 hours broadcast each day from London. They will have close to 40 staff on hand to cover events on radio and television.
The International Olympic Committee has accredited journalists from 28 more countries than at the Beijing Games – among those sending at least one reporter are nations some may not have heard of. They include Kiribati, a string of atolls in the Pacific with a population of about 100,000 and the even smaller Nauru, a phosphate rock island in Micronesia that has a population of about 10,000. Journalists are also coming from Somalia, Afghanistan, Barbados, Belize, Liechtenstein, Andorra, Lesotho, Togo and Malawi.
The centre of all this attention is the main press centre, or “bull pen”, on the north-western edge of the Olympic park in east London. It is a vast hangar of work benches over which are suspended 260-cm TV screens. It will be home to many of the 5,800 fully accredited press who have access to all the events, half from Europe, just over 2,000 from the Americas and Asia, 220 from the Oceania region and 150 from Africa.