The BIATHLON WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP 2020 edition is being held in Antholz-Anterselva, Italy, from 12th to 23rd February resulting in 10 days of the highest level sporting action.
Coordinated by the EBU, which is celebrating 70 years of activity involving 116 organizations in 56 countries, here in Trentino Alto Adige the live broadcasts from the Biathlon Arena are distributed by Eurovision Services to over 18 European members plus other broadcasters worldwide, including America and China.
At the end of the Antholz valley, at 1600m altitude, the Biathlon Arena - called “Südtirol Arena” - is an ideal venue to host this world event for the International Biathlon Union.
Set in a beautiful landscape among the mountains, forests and a lake, the arena can accommodate over 15,000 fans in a huge grandstand area that was even extended for this occasion. Over 6,000 more fans can follow the competition from the famous area Huber Alm, just opposite the stadium.
While the EBU can be officially described as “a network of like-minded people that not only share the same ideals but come together to share knowledge, ideas and inspiration”, Eurovision Services is the EBU Company that acts as host broadcaster for the IBU Biathlon World Championships and is the International Biathlon Union’s service provider for worldwide distribution of all of its events.
We picked up more details following some of the tech crew in charge.
We asked Paul O'Neil, Marketing and Communications Manager of Eurovision Services, for an explanation of the difference in roles between the EBU and Eurovision Services. He replied: “The EBU brings together all the public service media in Europe and Eurovision Sport negotiates the rights for sport events, while Eurovision Services, the former operational division of the EBU, was set up only one year ago as a separate company owned by the EBU with a new corporate identity, manages the Eurovision Global Network and offers end-to-end broadcast services. The idea behind the creation of Eurovision Services was to give the company greater independence that would allow it to create more value for the EBU, and consequently for its members.
As the host broadcaster and distribution partner at the IBU World Championships, Eurovision Services is responsible for capturing and distributing internationally all the necessary audio, video and data signals for linear TV and all the different content on specialized services and media. The scope of this event also required considerable coordination and logistics.”
In the venue
While visiting the site and following broadcast operations along the shooting range, the start zone, the oval penalty loop and the mixed zone near the finish, Mathieu Miraucourt – Project Manager of Eurovision Services - tells us: “The complexity of this World Championship has called upon our expertise in a number of different areas. The TV compound had to host large number of vehicles and equipment for rightsholders (ORF (Austria), BTRC (Belarus), CT (Czech Republic), TV2 (Denmark), ERR (Estonia), YLE (Finland), ARD and ZDF (Germany), RUV (Iceland), RAI (Italy), LT (Latvia), NRK (Norway), C1R (Russia), RTVS (Slovakia), RTVS (Slovenia), SVT (Sweden), SSR (Switzerland) and PBC (Ukraine)) in a relatively small space, including office containers for the crews, the master control room, TOC and management offices.
For the event, besides setting up 43 camera positions, including a 4 pole Movicom RobyCam (above the stadium), a rail cam (at the shooting range), a skidoo camera over a motor sledge and a drone, we have prepared several other zones: a giant LED wall facing the seats, several external TV studio booths under transparent tents, a dedicated roof studio for ZDF, a mixed zone by the finish line for some 20 broadcasters, plus reserve spaces, 23 fully or partially equipped commentary positions, a bigger studio for NRK in an elevated position near the shooting range, as well as some bulletproof cabins for cameras.”
The event officially started on 12th February at 20.00 with the opening ceremony and takes place until the 23rd with final medals ceremony, but the Eurovision Services feed continues for some 30 minutes after the event with a news package.
The official races started on 13th February and continue for ten days up to the last competition, the men's 15km Mass Start.
For the whole event, Eurovision Services has deployed a crew of one hundred special technicians and engineers and set up a double 10 Gbps fibre connection to connect to its Eurovision Global Network, plus the venue is equipped with double redundant power supply everywhere, guaranteed by two power generators, one serving all tech operations and the other dedicated only for lighting.
Experienced biathlon director Ola Fagerheim comes from the Norwegian broadcaster NRK, along with some technical crew, while NEP has supplied all technical equipment, rigging, cameras, 8 people for the RobyCam and the host broadcasting OB Truck.
Etienne des Roseaux – Broadcast Engineer – provides some more detail on how the commentary is managed:
“My job is mainly to assist all Eurovision Services customers who booked a fully or partially equipped commentary position. Each journalist finds a warm and completely ready to use commentary booth facing the arena.
We provided mike, headphone, commentary unit, monitor, tablet, video feed, internet connection, power supply, return line, communications and IP codecs.
All signals are delivered to the Master Commentary Room, where a Lawo system, a computer and some audio interfaces by AEQ control and manage everything from mike levels, mixing, to audio-over-IP transmission and delivery.
We have implemented two different transmission modes, e.g. for some customers through a private optical fibre connection to Paris, while for others the transmission is relayed on the internet in order to avoid any possible network congestion.
The main idea is to avoid any possible issues, since everybody here is using the internet, so we are supplying different symmetric 1.5 Mbps connections for each codec. This allows us to exit from Italy to Geneva on a protected path while leaving public internet free for all.
This great connectivity hub allows us to easily handle high-quality audio over IP connections for all, from signal generation to final delivery”.
Patrick Johanny – Supervisor Events Engineering - gives us some more details on this complex hub:
“We are at the end of the Antholz valley, so the connectivity is limited, but we managed to find a solution for the last stretch from the nearest POP in Brunico, in the main valley.
Our multiplexer here guarantees the generation of the three TV feeds, which include pre- and post-competition coverage: the World Feed Program as a main feed, the Shooting Range plus graphics and the third Enhanced Feed plus graphics.
In total, we are covering more than 330 hours of live television on linear TV, with most broadcasters also offering supplementary coverage on their digital platforms.
We also have an SNG truck which we use either as a back-up or as a main unit depending on the technical parameters of the transmission, which we judge on a daily basis. We are in the mountains and the weather has been changing continuously over the past ten days since we have been here.
The biathlon set-up is quite complex, but Eurovision Services has been producing and distributing winter sports events for many years.
The main TV compound is next to the arena, but some other OB vans are set up at the Anterselva di Mezzo Medal Plaza (mainly RAI) with a studio, the South Tirol House, and a show stage. These are linked to our main TV compound by fibre and from here we connect Anterselva to our main POPs on the Eurovision Global Network by double 10 Gbps links. We also provide several broadcasters with managed and/or unmanaged services, while many others prefer to take our full service offering for video, audio and data.
Our main feed is also distributed worldwide to Asia and America.
We started studying everything around one year ago and for some specific installations here like the TV compound, it took around 8 months to be ready.”
Eurovision Services, an EBU Company, is the host broadcaster of the IBU Biathlon World Championships and is the International Biathlon Union’s service provider for worldwide distribution of all of its events.
IBU International Biathlon Union is responsible for the sports side of the competition, EBU for the TV rights and Eurovision Services for the production and distribution.
Copyrights Roberto Landini Presspool.it-SVG Italian correspondent