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Not so wintry Olympics

Vancouver has to its name a number of Winter Olympic 'firsts': First host city at sea level, the biggest city to host the Games and also the warmest city to do so.

The last of those facts is ringing rather too true at the moment.

Cypress Mountain, near Vancouver, is short of snowSince arriving in the city last Thursday as part of the BBC's advance party preparing for the Games, the constant talk has been of lack of snow at Cypress Mountain on the city's outskirts, which is the venue to the snowboard and freestyle skiing events.

Conditions at the relatively low elevation (910m) have not been helped by a recent spate of unseasonably warm weather, and the arrival of the Pineapple Express - a weather system originating in the Hawaiian Islands which has brought heavy rainfall here in January.

The resort has had to close its facilities to the public three weeks early to preserve what little snow there is.

However, the organisers of the Games (Vanoc) are if anything extremely resourceful.

Snow has been stockpiled above the competition slopes in a sort of 'giant snowball' and a fleet of vehicles are waiting to be mobilised to bring truckloads of snow from higher ground if required.

Although the fears of cancelled events are premature, there will still be a few headaches to contend with: for example the spectator stands and camera platforms have all been built to allow for two metres of snow underneath them - which just isn't there at the moment!

Away from the troubles at Cypress, everything else does seem to be progressing well as planned. It's still relatively early days at the IBC (International Broadcast Centre) where most of the BBC team will be based, but broadcasters will be arriving in numbers soon.

The BBC office has been fitted out ready for occupation, and the set design from our interior broadcast position in the IBC has been installed.

studio226.jpg

The BBC has a relatively small team of 75 in Canada - but that's nothing compared to the national Canadian broadcaster CTV.

Serving three English and two French-speaking networks, they have a total of five separate studios and programme control rooms in the IBC and have a staff contingent of nearly 1500.

The Winter Olympics are hugely significant in Canada and CTV have been rehearsing since last year.

They have just won the rights from public service broadcaster CBC and are under a lot of pressure to deliver - we can't even show any pictures of their studios here as they're being kept under wraps for the big launch on 12 February.

Despite the issue with Cypress, these Winter Olympic Games should be spectacular. It's been snowing heavily in Whistler, where the alpine and nordic skiing take place, and the scenery in both Vancouver and Whistler is fantastic.

helicopter226.jpg

In order to capture these memorable images, and to provide a sense of the geography and location of the venues, BBC has teamed up with the US broadcaster NBC to shoot some dramatic aerial footage.

The helicopter, complete with gyro-stabilised camera has been flying over the last couple of days, and we hope that the pictures will greatly enhance the BBC's coverage of the Winter Olympics which begin on 12 February.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Phew only 75 thank goodness for the restraint...

  • Comment number 2.

    I'd be interested to see what kind of coverage the BBC provides with their 'relatively small' team of 75, especially in the context of the team of 407 staff sent to Glastonbury, currently being looked at by the NAO.

  • Comment number 3.

    Seems like a small team, but hopefully the coverage will be good. Am slightly concerned that the hours of coverage seem fairly restricted coverage hours, especially during the 'primetime' slot of 2100-2320.

    Can you detail how many streams will be available on Freeview now 302 has been shut down?

    And can you confirm (or otherwise) if Barry Davies will be part of your commentary team (specifically for the Ice Skating)?

  • Comment number 4.

    Nearly all of the BBC's outside broadcasts are fantastic so I don't think a meagre staff of 75 will cause too much of a problem.

    A lot of emphasis has been placed on the problems as Cypress. With Whistler benfitting from one of the highest snowfalls ever recorded this season, I am sure, in their 8000+ square acres of mountain, they will be able to move the venue for the snow boarding and the freestyle up there if necessary.

  • Comment number 5.

    Eurosport are offering 24 hour coverage in HD/SD

  • Comment number 6.

    Lets hope to that the commentary teams on the sports have been doing their homework as the last winter Olympics they were at best useless with no knowledge of the sport they were covering. Well the events I'll watch will be covered by their own official website streaming it live.

  • Comment number 7.

    Posts #1 and #2 be fair please.

    The BBC offer outstanding coverage of any outside event they cover. Having lived in half a dozen countries, not one of which does outside broadcasting like the BBC I can only applaud them and wish the narrow minded and nasty would appreciate something that country excels in and leads.

    I cant wait for it to begin in the full knowledge that coverage will be superb

  • Comment number 8.

    I went to Vancouver for a week in the Summer in 2008 and the temperature dropped to about 5 degrees at it's coldest! And there was snow on the top of the mountains near Whistler where the ski-ing will take place. Vancouver is a brilliant city and the people there absolutely lovely so I'm quite jealous of the BBC 75!

  • Comment number 9.

    "Barry Davies will be part of your commentary team (specifically for the Ice Skating)?"

    Surely that gig should go to Tony Gubba - he's so knowledgeable and informative on Dancing on Ice!

  • Comment number 10.

    Comments #1 and #2 just make me laugh.

    All this moaning about BBC coverage of events etc is just politics and people moaning about their TV license. Take away the BBC coverage (I dont see many other broadcasters going to Vancouver / Glasto) and your left with bland ITV and C4 reality shows.

    People dont realise how good they have it until its gone.

    GL with the coverage and I will be tuning in!

  • Comment number 11.

    Im flying out to Vanccouver for 3 weeks on the 11th. And have been in close contact with grouse mountain (sister mountain to cypress)and friends and family!

    Its jsut crazy! Grouse should be 3-4 metres deep right now, and there struggling to keep the mountain open, there are patches were there is NO SNOW! quite worrying!

    The one thing I wish to know is...how long will this pineapple express (weather system) last

  • Comment number 12.

    Looking forward to the games, though a shame we're one stream down on Freeview and that the BBC Trust won't allow BBC Parliament to be used again even though Parliament is in recess (again) for most of the games. I just hope that during the day you manage to replay some events in full rather than just continually looping the same highlights programmes.

    Elsewhere though coverage looks fairly good and I'm happy you're in Vancouver rather than a London studio - it really does make a difference for the hosts to be absorbed by that Olympic spirit. A bit disappointed at first coverage wasn't continuous from the 7pm start on BBC2, but looking into the schedules unlike the summer games there aren't numerous events happening all the time - indeed from what I can see there is never more than 4 events going on at once - so the coverage seems appropriate. Just gutting we on Freeview have lost the interactive stream for an HD channel we can't receive yet. It would have made sense to delay closing 302 until after the games.

    For those who want more details on the BBC coverage: http://www.bbc.co.uk/pressoffice/pressreleases/stories/2010/01_january/19/winter.shtml

    (And thank god we don't have the mountains to host the games in the UK. A bit of snow and we'd have to cancel them!)

  • Comment number 13.

    The big question - will the Ski Sunday theme tune be back? After being the theme of teh winter games for over 30 years it would be a shame if we heard anything else on our screens! I hope the new Olympic Trailer music is not the same as the one we will hear for the actual games!

  • Comment number 14.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 15.

    I'd be glad to see the back of the Ski Sunday theme really and like the Summer Games have something more tailored to the host city for each games.

    A wider issue but I wish the BBC would think their winter sports coverage outside of the games. It's ridiculous really it's mainly skiing where Britons rarely feature when events such as Curling and Bobsleigh/Luge/Skeleton where Britain is competitive and has world champions are only ever shown once every 4 years during the Winter Olympics.

  • Comment number 16.

    Brekkie - You say you wish they would show more winter sports outside of the Winter Olympics! They are not showing any of the Winter Paralympics!

  • Comment number 17.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 18.

    #2 have a read of page 22 of the NAO report. There were 271 staff at Glastonbbury not 400+

    The number of people needed for an event will depend on what they actually need to do. At Glastonbury and Wimbledon the BBC is the host broascaster so needs a large amount of camera staff and those that support them. Thats not the case for a lot opf events where the BBC jst takes the feed from the host.

    For Vancoouver most of the coverage will be provided by the host broadcaster so the BBC needs a lot less of its own cameramen etc

    Anyway I am looking forward to the games coverage.

  • Comment number 19.

    Amazing conditions for a Winter Olympics in the North currently - anyone for Peak District 2018??

  • Comment number 20.

    We have just received the following from Jonathan Bramley in response to some of your comments:

    Thank you all for your comments - it's good to know that there is so much anticipation around the event. Specifically,

    Jordan D in No 4: One additional stream will be available on Freeview, but Freesat viewers will be able to watch all of the Winter Olympics coverage in HD at no extra charge. Barry Davies will not be in Vancouver - Sue Barker and Robin Cousins will form the Skating commentary team as they did for the European Championships recently.

    PeytonManningsLoveChild tww in No. 11: 14-day forecast is for continuing warm weather - hence the current standby preparations:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/olympic_games/vancouver_2010/8494794.stm

    VancouverFan in No 13 & Brekkie in No 15: It was one of the biggest dilemmas for us - whether to use the Ski Sunday theme or not. It really divides opinion - as you two have demonstrated. In the end we have decided to opt for a new theme - just like we did with Monkey for the Beijing Olympics - which you're currently hearing for our trailers. The titles themselves will be similar to the trailers - but with added colour - watch out for them!

    Mingus_101 in 16: Our Winter Paralympics coverage has expanded a lot from Turin 2006: we'll have daily video packages from Vancouver & Whistler on Breakfast, BBC News, Regions and the Sport website, reports on the website and planned Red Button and web streaming of the final stages Wheelchair Curling. There will be reoprts on 5Live and local radio, and a highlights programme is scheduled for BBC2 on 22nd March.

  • Comment number 21.

    Disgrace that you not showing the Winter Paralympics at all. As for the Olympics it is disgrace you not showing it on BBC2 often enough. Ask me it should be on BBC1

  • Comment number 22.

    Good to hear we won't be hearing the Ski Sunday theme - I think it's right that you move on from that.

    As for the Paralympics - has the BBC ever shown the winter version? Compared to the summer games it is a very small event with just five sports on the programme.

  • Comment number 23.

    Holding the events at Cypress is ridiculous. Vancouver is one of the wettest cities in the world and where it is it relies on being the right side of a very fine line to get any decent amounts of snow. I lived in Whislter for a year from November 2008 and the general consensus was it should have been at Whislter due to it's exceptionally reliable snowfall...Cypress was, put simply 'a risk.' The facilities aren't exactly the best either at Cypress. The halfpipe lies across the fall line as where the Whislter one is perfectly down the fall line. I think it's just a logistical thing having the events 20mins from the city centre rather than 2 hours away along a dodgy (yet stunning) highway!

  • Comment number 24.

    So looking forward to the coverage from BBC. Having lived in Vancouver and Whistler, you are all about to have a real treat. I was given this link from a friend, if the BBC could use this for their coverage it would be great to share with the masses. I have no affiliation with the video. Watch it its awesome.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_xMz2SnSWS4

  • Comment number 25.

    That was nice and refreshing - reading a positive spin on the Olympic games. I live in the neighbouring province and there's been so much synicism (did I spell that right?) leaking out of Vancouver that I'm kind of in the mind set of "Is it OVER yet? I'm tired of hearing people complain". This article called the trucking in of the snow "extremely resourceful" (which it is), while the more predominant term here seems to have been "waste of taxpayer money". I'm meeting a friend in Vancouver on the 13th; she's flying up from the midwestern US, and she's really excited to be going! But, I can't get out of the "I'm really sick of hearing everyone complain about the Olympics" frame of mind to be as excited as she is! So, I went searching for news on the internet that would be without the embedded local anger lol. Thanks BBC

    ... CTV is sending 1500 staff!? Good greif.

  • Comment number 26.

    Agree with post #18 - ie there is no valid comparison between Olympics and Glastonbury as BBC is the host broadcaster for Glastonbury but at the Olympics most of the pictures come from Olympic Broadcasting Services.

    For the number of channels you will be having to cover (including World Service and Five Live etc) I think 75 is a tiny number. I assume 75 is actually the TV coverage crew and not radio.

    Changing topic - Cypress is a big concern. I believe there is rain forecast for the next two weeks as well. So the snow they have shifted could go I guess.

  • Comment number 27.

    Ok so You'll "have daily video packages from Vancouver & Whistler on Breakfast, BBC News, Regions and the Sport website, reports on the website and planned Red Button and web streaming of the final stages Wheelchair Curling. There will be reports on 5Live and local radio, and a highlights programme is scheduled for BBC2 on 22nd March.

    Basically "it's not important so we're doing the absolute minimum to say we covered it" Highlights of 2 weeks on competition in 1 programme!? Come on BBC that is terrible. The Paralympics end of the 21st March! Brekkie - only 5 events yes so how hard is it to cover them? According the beeb.... very or they just don't care.

    Sorry to rant but the BBC's coverage of disabled sport is shocking

  • Comment number 28.

    Must admit it's a shame that Freeview coverage has been descoped so much since the heady days of Beijing 2008. Feel this is a step backwards ... and also a shame that Barry Davies isn't there. To me, he's the man who should be accompanying Robin Cousins; Sue Barker - as good as she can be - isn't the woman for the job compared with some of the excellent voices we've had before. It's the same problem the BBC had with getting Huw Edwards to commentate the Opening Ceremony of Beijing 2008, when once again, Barry would have done a far superior job.

  • Comment number 29.

    Dear BBC,

    PLEASE run your stories about the lack of snow for the 2010 Olympics and the 'crippling drugs problems' in Vancouver's downtown East side and do it quickly. Once you've run those yawn-inspiring, hackneyed tales, lets get back to the business in hand.

    As a resident ex-pat, Vancouver is not only a beautiful city-setting but the Games have been well planned, facilities are going to be perfect and I expect the competitions to be awesome. Personally, I can't wait and I hope it isn't over too quickly.

    So please, lets balance the equation a bit here. I'd be more than happy to show ANY of the visiting BBC team around the city. Name the time & place and the first Starbucks is on me.

    Brian

  • Comment number 30.

    Oddly enough I lived in Canada during the 1988 Calgary games, and, funnily enough they suffered the same problems then as well.

    The fact is, the winter olympics requires an abudance of snow, something which although you can predict to a point, is changeable.

    Unlike the summer games, where you can generally run all events regardless of the weather (although the thunderstorms in Beijing spring to mind), the winter games do rely heavily on snow.

    It's just something that we have to deal with.

    Perhaps as Global Warming becomes more a reality, the winter games might need to be shelved.

  • Comment number 31.

    As a new returner to winter sports as life and children got in the way I'm an old Alberto Tomba fan for those to young to remember he was born December 19, 1966 champion alpine ski racer from Italy. He was the dominant technical skier (slalom and giant slalom) in the late 1980s and 1990s. Tomba won three Olympic gold medals, two World Championships, and nine World Cup season titles; four in slalom, four in giant slalom, and one overall title. He was popularly called Tomba la Bomba ("Tomba the Bomb"). Oops sorry I digress can anyone please tell me is the BBC winter olympics trailer music an newly written theme? If so what is it called and who by thankyou

  • Comment number 32.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 33.

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  • Comment number 34.

    Every four years I tune into the Winter Olympics and I must say the 2010 Vancouver games have been very impressive. I think Canada has done

    a fantastic job of holding the Olympic Games and despite some bad news, the Games should be a great success. I regularly watch Online sports so I am very excited by the Olympics this year. A number of sports sites listed at

    www.dozensports.com are saying that this year is the perfect year for skiing wherever in the world you are. At least something good comes out of

    the Big Freeze.

  • Comment number 35.

    Excellent coverage and commentary generally.

    But, ARGHHH! - why-oh-why-oh-why does the one remaining Freeview stream (301) spend much of its time simulcasting the same event that is being shown on BBC 2?! This is completely pointless and extremely frustrating, and totally defeats the object of 301 providing additional choice. Tonight for instance, the GB vs USA curling, followed by the USA vs Canada ice hockey, both went out live on both BBC2 and 301, while other live events were being shown on the satellite-only streams - and this is just one example of what has been happening regularly throughout the games.

    Forgive me if I'm missing something obvious, but I cannot see any reason why BBC2 and 301 should need to simulcast in this way, with other live events confined to satellite. Certainly this does not tend to happen at the summer Olympics or at Wimbledon. Yet it has been happening throughout these games, sometimes for many hours at a time...?

  • Comment number 36.

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