Salt Palace will be one of world's largest broadcast centers

Posted: Friday, February 01, 2002

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Tucked inside the Salt Palace Convention Center are the brains of the broadcast world for the 2002 Winter Games.

The International Broadcasting Center is the focal point where all video from Olympic competition and celebration sites are sent before they are distributed to the television broadcasters such as NBC and the Japan Consortium.

When the games begin Feb. 8, it will be one of the largest television centers in the world, said Mark Parkman, vice president of operations for International Sports Broadcasting, the host broadcaster for the 2002 Winter Olympics.

''It's our responsibility to make sure that the television images of the games are provided for the broadcasters who televise them to about 3 billion people per day,'' he said. ''That's not something we take lightly.''

Inside the headquarters is a labyrinth of cables, power cords, computer racks, television monitors, video-editing bays, and enough power generators to light a small town. It takes up 300,000 square feet, or more than half of the convention hall in downtown Salt Lake City.

The 430-room command post has 250 television monitors, more than 45 miles of cables, 12 miles of duct work and, because of heat generated from equipment and employees, enough air conditioning to cool 440,000 cubic feet.

''When we came on in August, the building was basically empty,'' said Gary Hamblin, the center's manager of construction. ''Then we rolled in semis with structural studs and equipment. It's quite comprehensive.''

For the 17 days of the games, it will be the home for all the 80-plus television networks beaming the Olympics to the world's homes. More than 6,000 broadcasting personnel will be working in the center.

International Sports Broadcasting was formed in 1996 to manage all the video feeds for the 2002 Winter Games and will work the 2004 Athens Olympics. The broadcasters, or ''rights holders'' have paid billions for the right to show the games on television and are the only ones who get to use the feeds.

Each competition venue will have multiple cameras capturing a total of 900 hours of Olympic action. Most of the video will be shot by the broadcasters, such as NBC, but International Sports Broadcasting will produce 20 more video feeds that rights holders can use anytime. That could be video of an event or shots of the Salt Lake City landscape taken from one of a half-dozen ''beauty cams.''

Broadcasters then have a vast choice of video signals to use during the course of a day. Part of the games also will be shot on high-definition equipment for those countries, including the United States, that support high definition television.

Inside the center is a videotape room where every live video signal will be recorded and stored on digital videotapes for the International Olympic Committee. The entire run of the games will be stored on more than 800 tapes.

''If they (broadcasters) miss anything, they can come here to get it,'' said Pep Rubies, coordinating producer for highlights and features at the center.

Backing up the broadcasting headquarters will be a team of more than 130 technicians from Panasonic who will maintain the equipment both in the center and at each of the venues.

And all of the video connections and equipment have backups in case, say, a cable is accidentally cut or a TV monitor burns out. They also can go to a backup satellite system should there be an interruption with any of the video feeds, though that is ''highly unlikely,'' said David P. Bird, the center's director of engineering.

But with all of the obstacles in bringing the games to the world, one of the hardest parts may be when it is over.

''We have 14 days to vacate the facility after spending four or five months building it,'' Parkman said. ''That is, believe it or not, one of our biggest challenges.''

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