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Olympic Visions: the television you will be watching ten years from now

Technology develops at a pace and this is no more vividly illustrated than by the Olympic Games, as I discovered in a visit to the BBC’s Olympic theatre yesterday.

The BBC has been involved in the Olympics pretty much since they were first established back in 1922 and the Olympic Games are the perfect showcase for the media broadcaster to test out their latest gizmos and gadgets.

This is what they are doing this year, demonstrating the next generation televisual experience and so, for those interested in technology, here’s the low down on how the Olympics has changed our sports coverage through the years and an insight into the television you will be watching ten years from now.

The 1924 Olympics in Paris was the first media Olympics, with the first live radio broadcast.

Television coverage of the Games began with the Berlin Games in 1936, although these broadcasts were purely within the Olympic village.

The first ever outside broadcast of the Olympics took place in 1948, at the last London Olympics. 


A total of 64 hours of programming was broadcast.

The Winter Olympics of 1956 saw the first ever television being broadcast outside the host country and, by 1964, we had come a long way as the Olympics were now in colour and broadcast by satellite from Tokyo to the USA.


The 1964 Tokyo Olympics was also the first time results were stored on a computer.

The 1968 Mexico Olympics saw live colour broadcasting to over 600 million viewers worldwide and technology took another leap forward when, sixteen years later, HD TV was broadcast for the first time from the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984.

Although it took twenty years for HDTV to find its way into our living rooms, another technology – email – was also used for the first time in 1984.  Amazingly, that technology flourished and died in the period since as we now status update and text message far more than we email today.

The 1992 Barcelona Games saw digital recording being used for the first time and by the time of the Beijing Olympics four years ago, over 4,500 hours of full HDTV coverage, surround sound and multimedia feeds were broadcast using Super Hi-speed cameras.

What could possibly top this?

Well, the introduction of next generation television at the 2012 Olympics.

The BBC has been working with the Japanese broadcast network NHK to develop Super Hi-Vision.

Super Hi-Vision combines Ultra HD images with 22.2 multi-channel surround sound, and I saw it demonstrated for the first time yesterday in the BBC Radio Theatre, London.


Ultra HD is 16 times higher resolution than HDTV and 22.2 multichannel surround sound is 360 sound (most home cinema systems are 5.1 surround sound).

The demonstration is truly amazing and began with a short excerpt from the Opening Ceremony.

The Super Hi-Vision experience literally felt as though they had put me live and into the best seat in the stadium.

Every human face is clearly visible in the Olympic Park crowd during the opening ceremony.

As the Queen parachutes into the stadium from the helicopter, you can hear people cheering from left and right, and almost every individual hand clap is audible.

Then the show went on to a couple of events: basketball and swimming.

As the US basketball dream team are playing, you can see every bead of sweat on the foreheads of their opponents and hear every squeak of their trainers as they run across the court.

And as Rebecca Adlington picked up an Olympic bronze in the Aquatics centre, you could see each drop of water breaking on the surface of the pool as she free stroked across it.

So, if you want to know what the next generation home television experience will be like, well, it’s like … being there.

Here are the technical specifications:

  • The raw uncompressed data rate is 40 Gbits per second, the speed that the digital data comes out of the camera at 60 frames per second
  • The compressed data rate is 350 Mbits per second
  • 16 times the resolution of HDTV with 7680 x 4320 pixels, the broadcast is designed for a TV display size of over 2.5 metres or 100 inches
  • 22.2 multichannel sound, with speakers at 3 different heights

What’s it got to do with banking?

Not much, except that the next Olympics in Rio in 2016 might be the time that you have a Super Hi-Vision of your banker from the comfort of your armchair.


Image Source: Mish Sci Fi Musings

About Chris M Skinner

Chris M Skinner
Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog, the Finanser.com, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal’s Financial News. To learn more click here...

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