Technical glitches disrupted coverage of cycling events during the London Olympics at the weekend, raising concerns that the same problem could happen during other events.
Coverage of the Men’s Road Race event of Saturday was criticised after commentators on the BBC struggled to work out competitor’s positions and timings. Describing the BBC’s coverage on Twitter one viewer said: “Erratic time splits, wrong names and inaccurate position calls. Frustrating”.
Problems with the coverage stemmed from data about the timing and position of the bikes not being available through the computer system that feeds information to commentators, according to Olympic Broadcasting Services – the body which provides the BBC and other broadcasters with video and stats on the events.
During road cycling events GPS co-ordinates for each competitor are sent at regular intervals to the commentator information system. During the Men’s Road Race however, these messages were not sent, with the OBS blaming radio interference and the International Olympic Committee reportedly blaming a lack of bandwidth after a surge in the number of spectators sending tweets and texts. Organisers have asked spectators to cut back on the amount of tweeting they do as a result.
But the same GPS system will be relied on to provide information to commentators in other cycling and foot road races at the Olympics, and an OBS spokesman said it couldn’t guarantee similar problems wouldn’t arise at future events.
“We are concerned about all the races going forward, because there are quite a few more events where we’re dependent on this kind of delivery to give the proper coverage to the broadcasters – the remaining cycling races, the marathon and the triathlon,” he said. However he added problems with the system were being addressed and that there fewer issues with receiving data during the Women’s Road Race on Sunday.
The OBS spokesman said that the GPS data should have been sent using wireless spectrum reserved for the use of the Games but that the transmission had been disrupted by radio interference. Locog was unavailable for comment.
Technology was centre stage during the Opening Ceremony for the Games on Friday. Father of the web Sir Tim Berners-Lee featured in the ceremony, while the seating area of the Olympic Stadium was also transformed into a giant video screen. Then screen was made up of tablets attached to each seat in the stadium. Each tablet was studded with nine LED colour pixels that could be independently programmed.
The massive screen was used to show a variety of scences, including a London Underground tunnel, the Tube map and dancing silhouettes. It also displayed the live tweet sent from the event by Berners-Lee.