Game changer: the first Cloud Olympics


Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the 2020 Summer Olympics (brand name Tokyo 2020, held in 2021, and the official name of the 32nd Olympic Games) to be held at an unprecedented time will be remembered not only for the extraordinary performance of the athletes. One of the most technologically advanced games ever.

Cloud technology was used for the first time in the Olympic Games. As a technical expert, I am very happy to see that cloud technology plays an important role in promoting the digital transformation of the Olympic Games. Cloud infrastructure supports innovative technology applications, so the Olympic Games can successfully overcome many obstacles caused by the pandemic, while laying a new foundation for the broadcast, organization and participation of the Olympic Games and other major sports events. Fans of the future. Undoubtedly, we are already excited about the opportunities that cloud technology will unleash in future Olympic Games.

The biggest technological change since satellite transmission

As an example of how cloud technology can revolutionize the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, we should look at one of the most important components-the global broadcasting community that serves millions of viewers. The Olympic Broadcasting Service (OBS) produced more than 9,500 hours of content during the Olympic Games, an increase of 30% over the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, and some of the content was in 8K format for the first time. In Tokyo this year, when spectators are not allowed to enter the venue, the role of broadcasters has become more important for the Olympic Games and fans around the world.

By cooperating with OBS to support the service delivery of copyright holding broadcasters (RHB) for the first time, a powerful and secure cloud platform called OBS Cloud provides a new content delivery model to improve operational efficiency and greater agility. OBS Cloud runs entirely in the cloud and demonstrates the tremendous flexibility provided by this technology, which aims to promote the true transformation of the media industry and prepare for all the opportunities presented by the digital age.

As the pandemic prevents fans from participating in the Olympics, global broadcasters must obtain high-quality content that can be distributed across multiple platforms to help share the drama and emotion of the game. To this end, during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, OBS Content+ staff produced as many as 9,000 short content clips to help enhance the coverage of RHB. RHB’s digital and social media teams can access these clips from anywhere in the world to supplement their own Olympic coverage. This technology enables broadcasters to cover the Olympics from anywhere in the world in a more cost-effective, safe and flexible manner, ensuring a stable and consistent stream of broadcast content throughout the Olympics, which delights millions of hungry fans. soup!

It is easy to understand why this broadcast development excites Yiannis Exarchos, CEO of OBS. In his view, the cooperation with Alibaba Cloud has changed the way the Olympics are broadcast to the widest possible audience. He believes this is “the biggest technological change in the broadcasting industry in more than half a century since the introduction of satellite transmission.” This is a great milestone, because satellite transmission was first introduced into the Olympic broadcast coverage as early as 1964.

As part of the post-production workflow, OBS uses the Content+ platform for remote editing and standard conversion, which will be extended to RHB as a service for future Olympics.

Protected by the cloud-to ensure employee safety

Of course, event organizers and staff are the core of hosting the Olympics, and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics posed challenges for them due to the intense heat. To illustrate the risks faced by Olympic staff, more than 8,000 people in Japan were sent to hospitals with symptoms of heat stroke between July 19 and 25 this year, and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics officially kicked off on July 23.

I believe that technology can help effectively deal with such critical situations. Therefore, we launched a cloud-based solution to help reduce the risk of heatstroke for field workers exposed to the weather. Through smart in-ear devices, the technology helps track employees’ body temperature and heart rate. Based on this information and the surrounding heat index (including temperature, humidity, and direct or radiant sunlight), a cloud-based system can identify the level of heatstroke risk in real time. It then sends alerts to employees who are at high risk and recommends preventive measures—such as drinking more water—to reduce the chance of heatstroke.

Hidemasa Nakamura, head of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games (TOCOG) main operations center, welcomed this innovation. Perhaps more importantly, it was welcomed by game staff; it turns out that the 2020 Tokyo Olympics is reported to be one of the hottest Olympics in history.

Continuous interaction with fans

Unfortunately, the pandemic prevented fans worldwide from participating in the Olympics. But technology can always play an active role in meeting challenges. Last year, we spent a lot of time working with TOCOG to develop a digital remote fan participation program called “Share Passion”. Using cloud and digital editing technology, this outstanding project encourages sports fans around the world to support their favorite teams and athletes on a more personal level, no matter where the fans or teams are located. It uses artificial intelligence technology to aggregate real-time videos uploaded by fans on social media platforms and broadcast them in stadiums to provide cheers, support and incentives for athletes. You can imagine the excitement brought by this innovative solution, while delivering a high-energy, positive atmosphere between fans and athletes, and the cheers of the audience filled the stage.

Connections are irreplaceable, and the Olympics are one of the best examples of connections between fans and athletes, different generations, and cross-border sports communities. Upholding this value, we created our first Cloud Pin, which is a cloud-based digital pin designed for broadcasting and media professionals, and working tirelessly to cover the Olympics for all of us. This wearable digital device enables contactless information exchange, and aims to help media professionals working in the International Broadcasting Center and the main news center to connect with each other and exchange social media handles in a safe and interactive manner. It can be worn as a badge or hung on a lanyard, combining the tradition of exchanging contact information with cloud-based real-time convenience.

Other exciting measures further encouraged the participation of fans and viewers. For example, the International Olympic Committee launched the Olympic Store on Alibaba’s e-commerce platform Tmall. In addition to serving as a global store for fans seeking official Olympic brand merchandise, it also acts as an information portal to help fans keep up with all the latest Olympic news and information. This is a place where retail and commerce merge to further please sports fans and at the same time bring the Olympics into a new era of fan participation.

Unleash the full potential of athletes

The other beneficiaries of cloud technology—many would say the most important—are the athletes themselves, through a technology called 3D Athlete Tracking (3DAT).

3DAT cooperated with Intel to let the audience know the athlete’s performance in real time. Without motion tracking sensors, 3DAT uses standard video, artificial intelligence, and computer vision to extract more than 20 3D points on the athlete’s body and convert these data into rich visualizations to enhance broadcasters’ narrative capabilities for key events.

Looking forward to a more exciting sports experience

During our first Summer Olympics, we are happy to elevate our sponsorship role to a new level beyond traditional commercial packages. As a global exclusive partner for cloud services, we are honored to be able to provide a new cloud-based foundation for the Olympic Games broadcast and operation in a variety of ways. Similarly, we believe that the cloud will play an important role in reshaping the broadcast, organization and sharing of experiences with fans of major sports events in the future. We are proud to help Tokyo 2020 reshape the role played by the sports and broadcasting industries in an unprecedented way. We did not stop there; the 2020 Tokyo Olympics is only the beginning of the digital journey of the Olympics.

This content is produced by Alibaba Cloud. It was not written by the editors of MIT Technology Review.



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