Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Digitally generate opening and closing ceremonies for London 2012 Olympics

The London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games 2012, plans to spread the opening and closing ceremonies accross multiple venues in London. I suggest it should be possible to digitally stitch this into a spectacular TV show. I discussed some of this in my presentation to the Beijing Organising Committee for the 2008 Olympic Games and some in the talks at the China New Media Conference 2007 (and their discussion forum). But there will need to be limits placed on what can be digitally generated, to avoid the faked fireworks which marred the Beijing opening ceremony.

THE UK will ignore the traditional stadium-based extravaganzas seen at the Beijing games, spreading its opening and closing ceremonies over the entire city of London....

From: London goes for grass roots Olympics, Paola Totaro, The Sydney Morning Herald, September 1, 2008
While watching the Beijing opening ceremony via TiVo, I though that Zhang Yimou's Beijing Opening Ceremony had too much reliance on projection screens. Beforehand, I had heard that the scenes of massed drummers on the great wall used in Channel 7's promotions were special effects, using just one drummer copied over and over again. Watching the 2008 drummers in the opening ceremony I had the uncomfortable feeling I was seeing another special effect.

The fact that part of the fireworks were digitally generateddigitally generated, suggests interesting possibilities for future Olympics. Rather than call this a fake, as many of the media have, it should be seen as opening up new options, freeing the games from restrictions which do not apply in the digital age.

It has not been possible for smaller, less prosperous countries to bid for the games, due to the cost and logistics. However, that most of the audience is via TV (and in future the Internet) removes this restriction. The Games could be held, for example, in several African countries, each with a small venue, specialising in one sport. For the opening ceremony, these could be digitally stitched together into one event. Those in the stadia could watch their live segment combined using projection technology with those of the other sites.

Perhaps London 2012 could be the first of the games of the new digital age. Many of the viewers of the 2012 games will not be watching conventional digital TV, but via TiVo and other computer based systems. This will create a different more involving experience for the viewer, who can use software to create their own perspective. Even those at the opening ceremony will be using their own mobile devices to watch part of it, and perhaps be involved in creating the digital experience. The challenge will be to make it an authentic virtual experience.

ps: But while digital effects might be okay for the opening ceremony, the sports themselves need to be genuine, for the event to be enjoyable. A suspicious number of swimming records have been broken. Perhaps the Olympic committee needs to bring in independent experts to measure the pool and make sure it is the correct specification. The Australian TV comedy "The Games" about the Sydney 2000 Olympics had one episode with a "100m" running track which was shorter than 100m.

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Monday, August 18, 2008

Beijing 2008 Olympics Website Accessibility Problems

The E-Access Bulletin reports that Henny Swan from UK Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) says the web site for the Beijing Olympics website has several problems making it difficult for people with a disability.It will be interesting to see how the London 2012 Olympics does.

The item mentions the accessibility case for the Sydney 2000 Olympics. My expert witness statement assessing the accessibility of the Sydney Olympic Web Site for the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission hearing is available online (8 August 2000). A decision was delivered 24 August 2000 and $20,000 damages were awarded. BOCOG invited me to Bejing to talk about that case and what was needed for Making an Accessible and Functional Website for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
The website for the Beijing Olympics is not accessible to people with disabilities, a leading accessibility expert has told E-Access Bulletin.

With the games in full swing this month, their official website which include a full results service could be among the most visited sites in the world (http://en.beijing2008.cn/). But Henny Swan, senior web accessibility consultant at the RNIB, said the service is inaccessible in a number of key ways.

"There are.no text alternatives for multimedia which means many people, including mobile users, will be locked out of content. New windows also seem to open from within Flash movies, which is not only an accessibility but also a usability issue." Other findings include instances of animation that fails to stop moving after three seconds, she
said. "This can be a distraction for people with reading problems or people with low vision.

Last year Swan undertook an initial advance study of the accessibility of the Beijing Olympics site, then still under development. While the findings of her work were not all negative, the indications at that time were that various improvements were needed before the website would meet even the basic level of compliance with international Web Content Accessibility Guideline.

Returning to the site this month, she said there had been some improvements, although "where one issue may have been fixed, others have taken its place." Overall her findings indicate that the organising committee for the Beijing games seem not to have developed a clear accessibility plan for the website.

Olympic websites have a mixed history in terms of accessibility. The site for the 2004 games in Athens raised few complaints, but the organisers of the 2000 Sydney Olympics were successfully sued for failure to make their website comply with accessibility standards.

NOTE: For our full report on the accessibility of the Beijing 2008 Olympics website see section three, this issue.

From: Beijing Games Website Inaccessible On Multiple Counts, E-Access Bulletin, ISSUE 104, Headstar, August 2008

I ran a quick automated TAW Test which reported:

Test summary outcome

AutomaticHuman review
Priority 1275
Priority 27182
Priority 3019

The two Priority 1 issues were:

Found issues:

Priority 1[WAI] Priority 1 accessibility issues. A Web content developer must satisfy this checkpoint. Otherwise, one or more groups will find it impossible to access information in the document. Satisfying this checkpoint is a basic requirement for some groups to be able to use Web documents. 2 automatically detected problems and 75 problems that require human review have been found.

6.2 Ensure that equivalents for dynamic content are updated when the dynamic content changes.

  • Missing accessible alternative content in the body of IFRAME (1)
    • Line 222 ...

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Sensors to win at the Olympics

Bob Buckley from the Australian Institute of Sport will talk on "Some applications of sensor devices at the AIS", in Canberra at the ANU, 2008-07-24:

Some applications of sensor devices at the AIS

Bob Buckley (AIS)

DATE: 2008-07-24
TIME: 11:00:00 - 12:00:00
LOCATION: CSIRO Seminar Room S206 Building 108 (CSIT Building)

The AIS currently uses a number of sensor devices in the monitoring and analysis of athlete training and performance. There are ongoing parallel efforts to exploit existing devices, analyse the data we collect and to develop and improve devices. Bob Buckley will present a seminar describing recent developments and plans for using sensor devices, sometimes associated with video, for elite sport going into the next Olympic cycle. Also present (and able to answer questions) from the AIS will be: * Col Mackintosh and George Jacob from the Applied Sensors Unit * Doug Rosemond, Senior Biomechanist, Track and Field, Biomechanics and Performance Analysis * Mark Davis, Research and Development Technician, Biomechanics and Performance Analysis

Bob Buckley wrote his first computer program in 1963. His initial work in the late 1960s and early 1970s was in realtime systems, operations research, computer modelling (including object oriented programming) and data analysis. He was awarded the first ever Comp. Sci. Hons I from UQld in 1979. He taught subjects in computer science and computer systems engineering from 1977 to 1995 at QIT, Warwick (UK), Macquarie and UniSA (and Monash in 2004). Through the 1990s he helped run one of the top 10 consultants to the Defence Department. He was responsible for the technical development, data analysis and presentation for the ADF Activities Survey. From 2001 he worked for Cray Australia in HPC and his involvement in bioinformatics resulted in a visiting fellowship in John Curtain School of Medical Research. He joined the AIS in 2006 as a founding member of its Biomechanics and Performance Analysis Analytics Group.

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Monday, March 17, 2008

London 2012 Olympics Website Accessiblity

In contrast to the Commonwealth Games Delhi 2010, the organizers of the London 2012 Olympics seem to have put some thought into the accessibility of their web site. The site passes a basic automated test. It has some interesting features, such as three versions of the color scheme and layout:
  1. Normal
  2. Dyslexia: Limited graphics and only one column of text.
  3. Highvis: The high visibility version has yellow text on a black background.
Unfortunately these are accessed via three icons of increasingly large images of the letter "A". These are usually used to access versions of a web site with larger text. The reader is going to get confused when instead they get a different layout.

The London team made some unfortunate choices with their visual materials, with some animated footage reported to trigger photosensitive epilepsy seizures. This is covered by W3C web accessibility checkpoint "Verify that there is no blinking content in the page".

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Internet and Mobile rights for Olympic Games

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has been negotiating agreements for distribution of content from Olympic games for the Internet and on mobile phones, separate from the traditional TV broadcasting rights.

The IOC launched a tender process for Internet and Mobile Rights in China in early 2007. For the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, internet and mobile platform exhibition rights within China have been awarded to CCTV.com, who also happen to have the "over-the-air" (that is broadcast) rights.

i-CABLE Sports Limited won the tender for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, as well as for London in 2012 within Hong Kong.

It may not appear to make sense in the age of the global Internet to have specific geographic territories allocated for Internet rights. The reasoning is outlined in the Olympic Marketing Fact File:
The IOC is the owner of the broadcast rights, including television, mobile and internet, for the Olympic Games and Olympic Winter Games. The IOC is responsible for allocating Olympic broadcast rights to media companies throughout the world through the negotiation of rights agreements. The IOC manages Olympic broadcast partnerships to ensure that the long-term interests of the Olympic Movement are protected. ...

Increased host broadcast coverage has afforded the Olympic broadcast partners greater programming opportunities in more sports and enabled the broadcast partners to deliver more complete Olympic coverage to their audiences around the world. The IOC works in partnership with its broadcasters to ensure that an increasing amount of live coverage is available, and that the latest technologies, inclduding HDTV, live coverage on the internet and coverage on mobile phones is available in as many territories as possible. ...

2004 Athens ... Live coverage is also available on the internet in several territories for the first time. ...

2006 Turin ... The Olympic broadcasters also maximised opportunities in new media technology, providing viewers with more access and greater choice through the Internet, mobile phones and multiple television channels. Telvision coverage is offered for the first time in HDTV and coverage is available for the first time on the mobile phone. ...

The TV Rights and New Media Commission is responsible for preparing and implementing the overall IOC strategy for future broadcast
rights negotiations.

To this end, the Commission collects marketing intelligence and consults with experts, determines the rights and benefits packages to be sold, and organises the tender and negotiation process. The Commission also deals with issues pertaining to the current broadcast rights agreements. The IOC has signed long-term broadcast agreements for the Olympic Games in all major markets, up to 2008. ...

From: Olympic Marketing Fact File, IOC, 2008

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Sunday, November 18, 2007

City Integration Key to Olympic Success

Lawrence Nield of Bligh Voller Nield Architects, talked on Olympic Designs and his experience in planning and design for the Sydney, Athens and Beijing Olympics at Old Parliament House in Canberra today. There is also an exhibition "Olympic Cities: Designing for Winning" at the same venue until 17 February 2008. There was also supposed to be a display of winning entries in a design competition for a The Athletic Village: Designs to Combat Obesity., but I did not notice them.

This is part of the University of Canberra's Canberra Biennial: Winning by Design: Designing for Sport in 21C. This seems to be a poorly organised and halfhearted attempt at a cultural event. Those responsible should either put the resources into the 2010 or cancel it.

Lawrence Nield gave an excellent talk, despite having just arrived from London, where he has been part of bids for the 2012 Olympic venues. He argued that the sport is an important urban ritual. Cities are more important that countries for the Olympics. He pointed out that an Australian competed in the first modern Olympics in 1896. Later games were not just about sport and incorporated art and some where held in conjunctions with expositions (Paris and St Luis). Helsinki has the most influential Olympic stadium architecture. The architect for the 1940 (unofficial) Olympics is unknown. Mexico had the best graphics. Barcelona integrated the games into public spaces of the city. Atlanta had the poorest public transport. Sydney succeeded by bringing heavy rail into the Olympic venue. Athens similarly used transport well.

Lawrence Nield suggested London 2012 would have been better off using the new Wembley stadium than building a new venue. He said that the time of the games could be extended and cheaper venues used to allow African and South American cities to host the games.

For my more modest contribution to Olympic design, see: Making an Accessible and Functional Website for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Beijing 2008 Olympic Games Official Website Preliminary Strategy Plan Symposium, Beijing, November 2003.

See also:
Books on Olympic architecture
Web pages on Olympic architecture

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Sunday, November 11, 2007

Designing for the Olympics

Lawrence Nield of Bligh Voller Nield Architects, will talk on Olympic Designs and his experience in planning and design for the Sydney, Athens and Beijing Olympics at in Canberra on 18 November 2007. There is also an exhibition Olympic Cities: Designing for Winning at the same venue until 17 February 2008 and a display of winning entries in a design competition for a The Athletic Village: Designs to Combat Obesity. This is part of the Unviersity of Canberra's Canberra Biennial: Winning by Design: Designing for Sport in 21C.

For my more modest contribution to Olympic design, see: Making an Accessible and Functional Website for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Beijing 2008 Olympic Games Official Website Preliminary Strategy Plan Symposium, Beijing, November 2003.

Olympic designs Sunday 18 November

conjunction with the Canberra Biennial exhibition Olympic cities: Designing for Winning, Lawrence Nield — principal of Bligh Voller Nield architects, urban designer and distinguished sports architect, will share his experience and expertise in Olympic planning and design in Sydney, Athens and Beijing.

His designs have won numerous awards, including the RAIA Sir Zelman Cowan Award for Public Buildings in 1997 for his work on the University of the Sunshine Coast Library and the Sir John Sulman Medallion for the Sydney Olympic Tennis Centre.

Free after entry 2.00pm–3.00pm

From: What's On, Old Parliament House, King George Terrace, Parkes, Canberra

Olympic Cities: Designing for Winning

“Olympic Games are about contest, spectacle and cities. Design is therefore not flags and bunting, not expensive over-elaboration, but the necessary ordering of size and significance to give an appropriate, characteristic and memorable background to the world’s biggest peacetime event.” Lawrence Nield

A must see for Olympic planners and anyone interested in the effect on cities that hallmark events like the Olympics cause. The focus of the exhibition is Australia’s premier mind in the field of planning for Olympics, Lawrence Nield.

Lawrence shares his experience working on various aspects of the bids for the Sydney, Athens and Beijing Olympics. The Barcelona Olympics will be included to show a major shift in Olympic planning and London will be featured as a summary of Olympic thinking to date.

9 November 2007 to 17 February 2008 9am – 5pm
Old Parliament House, King George Terrace, Parkes, Canberra, ACT
Admission to the exhibition is free after admission to Old Parliament House of $2 Adult, $1 Child or $5 Family.

The Athletic Village: Designs to Combat Obesity

Design and architecture students from around Australia have entered the Biennial’s Athletic Village Design Ideas Competition. The competition called for students to:
- Explore the impact of design on obesity.
- Encourage innovation and design excellence.
- Explore multidisciplinary design solutions which encourage collaboration in particular between the fields of design and health.
- Stimulate debate regarding the capacity of design to improve public health outcomes.

The Athletic Village Design Ideas Competition recognises that obesity is a critical issue affecting millions of people around the world. It affects not only individuals, but societies as a whole, placing an increasing burden on health and financial systems through secondary diseases, conditions and their costs. The Athletic Village Design Ideas Competition also recognises that the causes of obesity are many, complex, and often interrelated.

Some of these causes are directly related to the built environment, and many others are the indirect result of design issues from architecture, urban planning, landscape architecture, interior design, to the proliferation of home cinemas. Despite the broad influences affecting societal obesity, design arguably presents a key opportunity with respect to rebalancing societies’ long-held attitudes, priorities and needs to attain a more cohesive, fulfilled and sustainable lifestyle. In particular, design has the potential to foster, promote and develop more active lifestyles for people of all ages. While design alone cannot solve the obesity epidemic, it has a critical role to play in addressing some of the triggers and causes. ...

All entries will be displayed at the Olympic Cities: Designing for Winning exhibition at Old Parliament House and online. From 9 November 2007
9am-5pm Admission to the exhibition is free after admission to Old Parliament House of $2 Adult, $1 Child or $5 Family.

From: Exhibitions, Canberra Biennial, 2007
See also:

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Saturday, July 07, 2007

iPhone Smartphone problem for Olympics

On the second day of the China East Asia New Media Conference in Brisbane one of the speakers on a panel before me mentioned the Apple iPhone as an innovative product. Departing from my prepared talk, I pointed out that the Open Moko Neo1973 Smartphone may be more significant. The Neo may be seen as a poor man's iPhone, when in some ways it is more capable.

However, given iPhones are getting attention and may well be the first hand held web device most people see, I thought it was worth preparing a short item on how web pages can be adapted to the iPhone.

If such phones become common by 2008, the organizers of the 2008 Olympics could have a problem. The TV rights have been sold by the IOC. But if thousands of people use video phones to transmit coverage of the events, it would be possible to mashup a reasonable Olympic coverage from them. This would likely be illegal and something the TV companies which have paid billions of dollars for would not be happy about, but which BOCOG could do little about.

Even if this is not feasible for 2008, it is certain for the London 2010 Olympics. This is something the researchers from Westminster University, and other institutions researching for the 2012 Olympic Games in London should look into.

As an example of the type of technology which might be used,Microsoft's Photosynth Technology Preview shows how thousands of photos can be automatically combined to create a high resolution three dimensional image:
Our software takes a large collection of photos of a place or an object, analyzes them for similarities, and displays them in a reconstructed three-dimensional space.

With Photosynth you can:

* Walk or fly through a scene to see photos from any angle.
* Seamlessly zoom in or out of a photo whether it's megapixels or gigapixels in size.
* See where pictures were taken in relation to one another.
* Find similar photos to the one you're currently viewing.
* Send a collection - or a particular view of one - to a friend.

From: Introducing Photosynth, Microsoft Live Labs, 2006

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