The International Olympic Committee has announced a number of technology and broadcasting innovations for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games that it hopes will go some way to helping fans around the world connect with the event in the absence of spectators.
It was announced last week that spectators would not be allowed to attend the Tokyo Olympics, which begin on 23 July having been postponed for a year, with the city entering a new state of emergency as Japan seeks to tackle a rising number of Covid-19 cases.
At the weekend, it was confirmed that the exclusion would also apply to baseball and softball games in Fukushima and Tokyo 2020 events at the Sapporo Dome in Hokkaido.
A decision about whether spectators will be allowed to attend the Paralympics, which start on 24 August, is to be made once the Olympics have ended, on 8 August.
However, IOC, Olympic Broadcasting Services, the Tokyo organising committee and Olympic broadcast partners have worked together on the ‘Share the Passion’ project, a suite of digital tools that will allow fans to be “actively involved” in supporting the competing athletes.
A video matrix at venues will show fan reactions to the sporting action in the form of five-second video selfies.
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Meanwhile, a 'cheer map' at venues and in broadcaster feeds will display virtual cheering and clapping from fans around the world that can be provided by pressing a button on some broadcasters’ digital platforms.
The athletes will be able to engage with friends and family at home after their events via in-venue ‘Athlete Moment’ stations.
For Tokyo 2020, OBS is producing more than 9,000 hours of content, 30 per cent more than for Rio 2016, with, for the first time, full live coverage in Ultra High Definition (4K) with Immersive Audio.
In addition, audiences will have access to new camera angles, 360-degree replays, multi-camera live Virtual Reality coverage and more analytical data processed by Artificial Intelligence than at any other previous Olympics courtesy of partners including Intel and Alibaba.
The IOC has enhanced its digital presence with a new olympics.com website, which launched in May 2021 and provides a single platform uniting Olympic digital and social media channels, while the Tokyo 2020 FanZone is an interactive gamification experience on olympics.com and the Tokyo 2020 website and mobile app aimed at engaging and uniting fans around the world in the lead up to and during the Olympics.
Yiannis Exarchos, chief executive of OBS, said: “Our ambition is to bring the magic of the athletes’ achievements to the world on an unprecedented scale. Technology is going to play a critical role and allow us to bring fans ‘inside the venue’ virtually. This is an important ambition, not just for the fans, but also for the athletes as they compete on the world’s biggest stage.
“The IOC and OBS have been able to benefit from the great partnerships we have with the world’s leading media companies and sponsors and with Tokyo 2020. We also believe these new digital innovations will leave a legacy which we will build on at future editions of the Olympic Games.”
Tokyo 2020 is set to be broadcast to a potential global audience of over 5 billion people, with more broadcast partner coverage than any previous Olympics.
In Japan, TV coverage of the games is expected to be around double that of Rio 2016, while US Olympic rights holder NBCUniversal is to offer a record of more than 7,000 hours of action across its TV and digital platforms and European partner Discovery up to 4,000 hours on Eurosport and digital outlets in 48 territories.
Elsewhere, the utility firm Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings has today been added as a Tokyo 2020 official contributor, a designation that is used to recognise non-profit organisations and some others that are contributing to the delivery of Tokyo 2020.
Although not official sponsors, official contributors can refer to their involvement in the Olympics by explaining what their role is.
TEPCO is providing support related to electric power supply equipment, emergency response in the event of the failure of electric power supply equipment to venues, support for the construction and operation of electrical equipment at venues and inspection of electric power supply equipment.
Tokyo 2020 president Hashimoto Seiko said: “Facing the challenge of the first-ever postponement of the Games in Olympic and Paralympic history, we are delighted to welcome TEPCO as an official contributor. We are very encouraged and grateful to TEPCO for their full support in ensuring the stable operation of power supply facilities at Games venues, including any emergency response required. We will continue to make steady preparations for a safe and secure Games together with TEPCO and our other official contributors and partners.”
TEPCO representative executive officer and president Kobayakawa Tomoaki added: “TEPCO is honoured and humbled to be able to support the Tokyo 2020 Games as an official contributor. Looking back, we also supported for the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 1964. Leveraging our know-how, experience and networks, we will do our utmost to ensure a stable power supply for the venues and other facilities of the Tokyo 2020 Games, and contribute to a safe and secure event."