Experiencing the London 2012 Olympic Park
Initially buying tickets that only let you in to the Olympic Park without letting you see any actual live sport does seem a bit stupid. Admittedly, when I first confirmed payment I regretted that I might have paid £10 per person to get ripped off by McDonalds. It’s not even like Wimbledon where you can catch some of the lesser matches around the outside. The closest you can get to seeing the action is the big screen in the north of the park.
But, you get to experience something else; the crowds of people piling in to see the Olympics. The place is rammed with people who are there to see a wide range or things but are all keen for London 2012. The surrounding buzz is palpable as flags, face paint and weird outfits become bizarrely more attractive than they would in the outside world. Cheers can be heard from the basketball and hockey while you enjoy an overpriced chocolate bar. The energy about the place is infectious. And if you are British, there is nowhere you can feel more amongst like minds than in front of the big screen. Every time a Brit comes on, you wave and scream like they can hear you. Actually, they’re only a few hundred metres away - maybe they can.
Super Hi-Vision Television: The Future of Live Sport?
Forget HD TV. Forget 3D with it’s silly glasses and blurry motion. I have seen the future of television and it is MASSIVE!
In partnership with NHK (the Japanese national broadcaster) the BBC are using the London 2012 Olympic Games to test drive some pretty impressive kit. Super Hi-Vision captures 16 times more pixels than ‘standard’ HD. 16 times! The level of resolution is more than the human eye can handle. That means that it can be displayed on an 8 metre screen in Broadcasting House without any loss of clarity.
Over the Olympic fortnight, audiences in London, Bradford and Glasgow are getting a taste of what the future holds and it ain’t just about the big screen. The 22.2 channel surround sound is astounding by itself. The noise from the crowd as Rebecca Adlington’s 400m freestyle final was played enveloped us all. It was fantastic. As the camera panned from left to right during the race, it felt like you were watching it live at the venue - but without anyone’s head being in the way.
This technology is only new, however, and frickin expensive to develop. As a result, there are only 3 Super Hi-Vision cameras in the world thus far. All 3 are at the London 2012 Olympic Park in Stratford. But the lack of vantage points meant that while we watched a static clip of some Opening Ceremony highlights, my mind flashed back to the broadcast TV coverage that was able to capture the historically powerful event from a multitude of angles. I’m sure, as the technology becomes more and more accessible, this problem will disappear.
The theory goes that Super Hi-Vision won’t be ready for the general public to enjoy before 2020. But when it does come, you won’t have to exhaust yourself trying with a frustrating online ticketing system to get an Olympic experience. You could feel like you are there from your own living room.
Lapping Up the Sponsors
As soon as I arrived, I was entirely prepared for the sponsors to be overloading me with marketing mayhem as soon as I entered the London 2012 Olympic Park. But, in actual fact, some of them take some effort to find. Each seems to be restricted to a single booth (albeit a very large booth) somewhere in the vast park making them far less pronounced than expected.
So, twiddling our thumbs before something interesting came on the big screen, we went for a little explore. The first bizarre thing about these booths is that they make you queue, just to make you feel more like a sucker. Not only are they going to bombard you with promotional material, but you will have to wait patiently for it to happen. You stand outside and, when someone comes round to keep you cheery, you have to ask them what you are actually waiting for.
The places operate in shifts, so after about ten minutes we were let into see the official computers and have some strange 3D man jump out at us. The official TV company gave us all heavy 3D glasses and made us watch advert after advert promoting their technology. I might have seen their slogan more than a dozen times, with the day’s Olympic highlights we had come to see limited to under a minute (and it was yesterday’s highlights).
But the prize for the strangest experience belongs to the official beverage provider. This brand has recruited dozens of young dancers, actors, musicians and theatricals to sweep you through their interactive experience. Breaking through the mask, you discover that these poor people have been performing the same 10 second routine repetitively for 8 hours and they are kept going on the sugar from the fizzy drinks alone. As you creep up the building, encountering more and more delirious people along the way, you get to touch parts of the building to make strange noises. As a reward for putting up with crazy employees, you do get a picture with the Olympic Torch at the top. Descending into the middle of the building, ‘future flames’ pop out from the dark with free drinks and move around trying to create a club atmosphere where everyone in a branded t-shirt is having a party and the rest of human kind is stood on the outside looking confused.
I don’t know what to make of everything. Part of me is impressed with their imagination, part of me is bemused as to why all this effort has gone in to try and make me buy an extra can of carbonated drink or a less than capable laptop. In two years time, when I subconsciously associate dancing in a club with the most recognised brand in the world or a space man with a tablet, all this fantastic fluff will have been worthwhile.