The 1948 Olympics | Behind the scenes at the Austerity Games

Radio Times - Televising the Olympic Games

Exciting times for the new BBC television service.


Radio Times

July 23, 1948

Televising the Olympic Games
Ian Orr-Ewing, Outside Broadcasts Manager, writes about the big preparations made for the XIV Olympiad, which will provide a 'Shop Window for British Television'

[Column 1]

The 1948 Olympic Games provides Television with one of its greatest opportunities; an opportunity which has been whole-heartedly seized. Live television will cover all the main events at Wembley, where one unit is being installed in the Stadium and another in the Empire Pool. Viewers will thus have the opportunity of seeing the Opening Ceremony, the athletics, the boxing, the swimming, the diving, the football, the hockey, the riding and the Closing Ceremony. Television Newsreel will enable evening viewers to see something of the events like rowing, shooting, cycling and yachting, which are taking place at centres other than Wembley, as well as the most important events being televised live in the afternoons.

The opening of the Games on Thursday will be one of the most impressive ceremonies ever televised. It will start at 2.45 and its climax will come at the moment when His Majesty the King declares the Olympiad open, just before four o'clock. A fanfare of trumpets, a salute of guns and the release of several thousand homing pigeons will precede the arrival of the runner carrying the Olympic flame.

When the Olympiad ends on Saturday, August 14, Television will have broadcast more than fifty hours of programmes, an average of three and a half hours a day. But this does not mean that there will be no studio programmes, for the Service will continue to provide one and a half hours of programme every day. From correspondence received it is clear that a large percentage of viewers still try to see all the programmes televised. It is hoped that this habit will not persist during the period of the Olympic Games or viewers will be easily recognised in the streets of London by their pallid appearance!

Programme Announcements Each Day

Selective viewing is essential during this period and to help viewers in making their plans it has been arranged to announce at the end of each evening's programme details of the events which will be televised the next day. In addition, announcements will be made every half an hour during the programmes. The Radio Times will, of course, publish the planned programmes, but a measure of flexibility is being retained so that viewers may have a chance of following the progress of the British competitors in the various events.

A special television cable has been laid from the centre of London to Wembley and the pictures should be equal in quality to those recently transmitted from Olympia and from Lord's Cricket

[Column 2]

Ground. Two new mobile units are due for delivery early in July and if these can be brought into service we shall be using, for the first time, modern cameras with turret lenses which will enable us to provide the ideal angle of view for each individual part of the same programme. The effect of these improvements will be that each camera, instead of having only one lens, will be able to use three, and viewers, instead of getting three different views, will get nine.

The BBC has taken over the Palace of Arts for the period of the Olympic Games. This 'nerve centre' will house not only the broadcasting studios which will be required to feed sound commentaries all over the world but the control rooms for the television service. As our diagram shows, the engineering control vans will be parked close to the camera positions, and the pictures from the three cameras will be fed to television screens in the programme control rooms of the Radio Centre, from which the producer will direct the programmes. It is certain that these arrangements will enable us to achieve a high standard of production.

During the last year, large numbers of commentators have been tested in an endeavour to select the best possible team for our Olympic Games programmes. Regular viewers will understand that television commentary demands a technique different from
that which has been established for sound broadcasting; a television commentator is not merely describing what he can see but is explaining the picture in the light of his expert knowledge of the subject. In the tests that have been conducted the
object of the preliminary interview has been to plumb the depths of the aspirant's knowledge; a silent film has been used to test his voice, quickness of reaction, sense of drama and general aptitude for television commentary. As a result of these tests and subsequent trials in programmes the following Olympic commentary team has been chosen: -

Opening and Closing Ceremonies: Richard Dimbleby and Michael Henderson.

Athletic: Roy Moor, Pat Lansberg, and Jack Crump.

Swimming: Fred Milton, John Webb.

Boxing: Peter Wilson and Dudley Lister.

Football: James Jewell.

Hockey: Michael Henderson.

Riding: Col. Allenby and Peter Dimmock.

A large amount of installation work has been necessary for the most ambitious series of programmes ever undertaken. That is why there have been no television outside broadcasts since July 11. The television engineers have been working long hours installing and testing equipment, much of which will be new.

[Column 3]

Britain's Television Service is going to be 'on show' to thousands of overseas competitors and visitors. The Radio Industry is making certain that television will keep them in touch with the progress of the Games. Receivers have been installed by
the industry in the chief games centres and at camps, hostels, Embassies and Legations. Receiver manufacturers have balloted for the privilege of installing these sets, which will be under the care of a team of expert engineers to make certain that viewers will see Britain's television at its best.

Among the places to be equipped are the Royal Box and Press Centre at Wembley; the hostels in Richmond Park and Uxbridge, Bisley Camp and the Royal Military College at Camberley; Henley; the U.S., Belgian, Czechoslovak and Italian Embassies, and
the Danish and Hungarian Legations.

When "Olympic Radio Centre" comes on the air at 2.40 p.m. on Thursday a series of programmes will be inaugurated which it is hoped will redound to the credit of British Television throughout the world.

Image of a diagram with the caption "How the Television Units will operate at Wembley."

[Document ends]

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Document Type | Magazine

23 July 1948

Document version




Plans are announced for an unprecedented 50 hours of coverage of the Olympic Games, with innovative equipment and filming techniques being introduced to help launch this new era of sports broadcasting. Concern is also expressed for viewers who are not getting enough sun as they stay indoors to watch the event on television for the first time.

The page is shown in full on page one of this display and broken down into sections on subsequent pages, to make them easier to read.

Article courtesy of 'The Radio Times' Magazine.


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