Biathlon World Championships 2012 in Ruhpolding
The media has played a big part in the planning just as it has taken over the years in the development of the sport to reach the common goal of presenting Biathlon at its best. Over the one and a half week of the 2012 championships the host broadcaster ARD/ZDF showed a worldwide audience the best Biathlon entertainment, each day filled with thrilling competitions and the emotions of the athletes and fans, achieved with the inclusion of numerous special cameras giving a detailed insight into the fascination of the sport of Biathlon.
Biathlon has its origins in an exercise for Norwegian soldiers, as an alternative training for the military. The world's first known ski club, the Trysil Rifle and Ski Club, was formed in Norway in 1861 to promote national defense at the local level.
Called military patrol, the combination of skiing and shooting was contested at the Olympic Winter Games in 1924, and then demonstrated in 1928, 1936, and 1948, but did not regain Olympic recognition then, as the small number of competing countries disagreed on the rules. During the mid-1950s, however, biathlon was introduced into the Soviet and Swedish winter sport circuits and was widely enjoyed by the public. This newfound popularity aided the effort of having biathlon gain entry into the Winter Olympics.
The first World Championship in biathlon was held in 1958 in Austria, and in 1960 the sport was finally included in the Olympic Games. At Albertville in 1992, women were first allowed in Olympic biathlon.
A biathlon competition consists of a race in which contestants ski around a cross-country trial system, and where the total distance is broken up by either two or four shooting rounds, half in prone position, the other half standing. Depending on the shooting performance, extra distance or time is added to the contestant's total running distance/time. As in most races, the contestant with the shortest total time wins.
All cross-country skiing techniques are permitted in biathlon, which means that the free technique is usually the preferred one, being the fastest. No equipment other than skis and ski poles may be used to move along the track. The rifle has to be carried by the athlete during the race at all times. The target range shooting distance is 50m. There are five circular targets to be hit in each shooting round. When shooting in the prone position the target diameter is 45mm, when shooting in the standing position the target diameter is 115mm. On all modern biathlon ranges, the targets are self-indicating, in that they flip from black to white when hit, giving the biathlete as well as the spectators instant visual feedback for each shot fired.
At the 2012 World Championships a record forty-five nations were represented in the mixed relay, relay, sprint, pursuit, individual and mass start competitions:
The 20km individual race (15km for women) is the oldest biathlon event. The distance is skied over five laps. The biathlete shoots four times at any shooting lane in the order of prone, standing, prone, standing, totaling 20 targets. For each missed target a fixed penalty time of one minute is added to the skiing time of the biathlete. Competitors' starts are staggered by 30 second intervals.
The sprint is 10km for men and 7.5km for women. The distance is skied over three laps. The biathlete shoots twice at any shooting lane, once prone and once standing, for a total of 10 shots. For each miss, a penalty loop of 150m must be skied before the race can be continued. As in the individual competition, the biathletes start in intervals.
In the pursuit the biathletes' starts are separated by the time differences from the previous sprint race. The contestant crossing the finish line first is the winner. The distance is 12.5km for men and 10km for women, skied over five laps. There are four shooting bouts - two prone, two standing - and each miss means a penalty loop of 150m. To prevent awkward and/or dangerous crowding of the skiing loops, and overcapacity at the shooting range, World Cup Pursuits are held with only the 60 top ranking biathletes after the preceding race.
In the mass start, all biathletes start at the same time and the first across the finish line wins. In this 15km for men or 12.5km for women competition, the distance is skied over five laps. Again there are four bouts of shooting - two prone and two standing - with the first shooting bout being at the lane corresponding to the athletes bib (Bib #10 shoots at lane #10 regardless of position in race) while the rest of the shooting bouts are at the lane in the position the athletes arrive. As in sprint races, competitors must ski one 150m penalty loop for each miss. Here again, to avoid unwanted congestion, World Cup Mass starts are held with only the 30 top ranking athletes on the start line.
The relay teams consist of four biathletes, who each ski 7.5km (men) or 6km (women), each leg skied over three laps, with two shooting rounds: one prone, one standing. For every round of five targets there are eight bullets available, though the last three can only be single-loaded manually one at a time from spare round holders. If after eight bullets there are still misses, one 150m penalty loop must be taken for each missed target remaining. The first-leg participants start all at the same time. Every athlete of a team must touch the team's next-leg participant to perform a valid changeover. On the first shooting stage of the first leg, the athlete must shoot in the lane corresponding to their bib number (Bib #10 shoots at lane #10 regardless of position in race.), then for the remainder of the relay, the relay team shoots at the lane in the position they arrived.
The most recent addition to the number of biathlon competition variants, the mixed relay, is similar to the ordinary relay but for the composition of the teams, each of which consists of two women and two men. Legs 1 and 2 are done by the women, legs 3 and 4 by the men. The women's legs are 6km and men's legs are 7.5km as in ordinary relay competitions.In order to keep track of the contestants' progress and relative standing throughout a race, split times (intermediate times) are taken at several points along the skiing track and upon finishing each shooting round. Large display screens at biathlon arenas, as well as the information graphics shown as part of the TV picture, will list the split time of the fastest contestant at each intermediate point and the times and time differences to the closest runners-up.
Wall-to-Wall Television Coverage
The television coverage of the eleven events was unprecedented, with thirty-nine cameras covering every angle in the stadium and on the tracks. The images captured were distributed world-wide under the cooperative banner of Germany’s two main networks: ARD and ZDF.
ARD and ZDF (the host broadcaster under the leadership of ZDF) covered the biathlon events in creating a healthy mixture between emotional closeness and the critical distance to the activities that took place at the shooting range and on the course. Independent of the nationality of the athletes a thrilling and attractive history of the competitions and the athletes was told. The main priority was to demonstrate the necessary respect for the achievments of the athletes regardless of which position they had at the end of the race – and this was fulfilled in every aspect.
Particular challenges were the sprint and individual competitions. As several actions with great sporting importance took place at the same time, some actions only could be shown briefly or played out later as a recording. Therfore the focus was on the finish line and the last shooting, sometimes as a visual combination (picture in picture) of various camera signals. In addition it was important to transport the fantastic atmosphere from the stadium in Ruhpolding to the viewers at home.
The host broadcaster achieved to transform the cameras and microphones to become the eyes and ears of millions of viewers around the world. The viewers were able to see the favorites, their competitors, the winners, but also the losers and felt the spirit of the competition. Also the balance between the two elements - shooting and skiing was kept.
Technical Realization of the International TV Signal
The host broadcaster produced the world feed in 1080i/25 HDTV with embedded stereo audio. SD SDI format was not available. Also the isolated feeds were available in HDTV only. Graphics were all designed in 16:9 aspect ratio.
Within the total of 39 cameras (23x Ikegami HDK-727P and 6x Grass Valley LDK-8000 with Fujinon ENG or box lenses and Rosenberger OSI connectors) a variety of different special camera systems provided amazing views of the action. The following special camera systems were used: 1 Sidercam (with a Panasonic AK-HC1500, provided by PMT), 3 remote rail track cameras (one for the first time running 304m up and down the "Schießplatzberg" with a Sony HDC-1500 integrated in a Cineflex 5-axis stabilisator, provided by SCS, one HDC-1500 running on a 70m rail following the athletes when arriving at the shooting area, provided by MAT and one on a 90m rail running in front of the shooting targets, provided by TVSL), 4 SuperSloMo cameras LDK-8300 from Grass Valley, 1 NAC Hi-Motion camera (shooting with up to 600 pictures, provided by TopVision), 1 tower camera on top of the “Schießplatzberg” and two remote crane cameras (a 12m crane located at the “Fischer S” and a 3m crane covering the shooting area, both provided by MAT). Finally two GoalCams from TV Skyline were installed, one on a 35m high lighting tower for beauty shots and one in the leader box.
The camera signals were controlled and monitored in the new state of the art ZDF OBVans MP4 & MP5. Both OBVans are similar in their construction and in their technical configuration. For security reasons the control and shading of the even and uneven camera numbers were spread over both OBVans. This camera distribution would have provided maximum track coverage in case of a faulty OBVan (which did not happen). The video (on a Snell Kahuna with 56 active inputs) & audio mixing (on a Lawo mc²66) was done in MP4 while the 14 SloMo and SuperSloMo operators were located in MP5. 12 EVS XT2/XT2+/XT3 systems supported the TV production with SloMo replays, highlight editing and analysis. For intercom 4x Riedel Artist 128x128 matrixes have been combined into one matrix to guarantee the communication between the two HD OBVans, the cameramen on the track and the other crew members.
Georg Eisengräber was the head of engineering for the host broadcasters HD OBVans. The two heads of camera shading were Jochen Rösch (MP4) and Bernd Brehm (MP5). The responsible sound engineers were Heiko Bulirsch (MP4) and Gerd Braunewell (MP5) and responsible for the intercom was Robert Tann. The two directors for the coverage of the lateral signal were Andreas Lauterbach and Rainer Rosenbaum.
In addition to the 39 cameras, which produced the international signal, the host broadcaster provided six unilateral live and ENG camera positions for the RHBs. These positions were carefully identified along the course, at the shooting range and close to the finish area. Unilateral ENG teams could find a suitable position along the course and several spots were suggested by the host broadcaster.
On the first day of the competition an ENG team in a helicopter captured stunning images of the Chiemgau Arena and the surrounding snow covered mountains. The images were recorded on P2 cards, played into the EVS XT network and became part of the opening sequence on the first day of the competitions.
Graphics, Timing, Data
SIWIDATA provided the timing, results and graphics services as part of the ongoing contract with the IBU as their partner for all major events. Each Athlete was equipped with AMB ChipX transponders which sent a signal to a decoder at each timing checkpoint. The decoder recorded the exact time that the transponder passed over the central axis of the detection loop. The unique feature of the AMB ChipX system is that it uses active RFID transponders. Each transponder is equipped with a battery that is used to power its circuitry and antenna. The internal circuitry of the transponder is only activated when it comes near a detection loop. Powering each transponder ensures that its unique ID is transmitted to the detection loop enabling 100% capture of the passing of all athletes in the competition.
Included in the data stream from SIWIDATA was the information from the shooting range (provided by HoRa Systemtechnik). HoRa is specialized in the production of biathlon shooting target systems and was commissioned to provide the service and deliver the shooting results for the duration of the world championships. SIWIDATA generated out of the raw data streams a video signal which was send as Fill&Key to the host broadcaster.The graphics content used the full 16:9 frame size of the screen, however timing and shooting graphics were designed to keep the most important information in the 4:3 area, while some information like the athlete names, their current race positions and shooting errors in previous shooting sessions were truncated to 4:3.
The International Broadcast Center (IBC) with the Master Control Room (MCR)
The IBC was a 2-floor cabin construction with a total of 48 cabins and provided space for all host broadcast services such as the MCR, booking office, etc., as well as space for unilateral broadcasters.
The MCR consisted of a comprehensive system of racks, patch panels, distribution amplifiers, monitors, VTRs, measuring and communications equipment to provide feeds and services to all rights holding broadcasters (RHB) of the IBU Biathlon World Championships 2012.
The MCR also handled all TV injections of the RHBs to play out their pre-recorded material as a pre- or post-unilateral or non-associated unilateral feed in HD or SD (accepted playout formats: IMX, DigiBeta, DVCPro, P2 HD, DVCPro HD, XDCAM and HDCAM). It also offered file transfer service for multimedia files and documents as an alternative to the traditional tape playouts. For this purpose a special network was established in the IBC. The service was unidirectional only (accepted playout formats: USB-stick, USB-hard disk, CD/DVD-ROM). The necessary technical infrastructure was exclusively designed for the IBU World Championships.
Head of engineering for the IBC and the MCR was Florian Rathgeber.
24 commentary positions on two floors were located on top of the roof of the media center. The cabins were provided with sunblind, heating, a table and seats for two commentators, a 22inch TV receiver, CATV, a Commentary Information System (CIS) monitor and LAN connection. Fully and partially equipped configurations of the cabins were available. The fully equipped positions had a commentator unit from Glensound with two headsets and with a local connection to the commentary control room (CCR). Also an ISDN codec from Mayah was provided. G722 was the transmission standard including the international sound.
Commentary Control Room (CCR)
The CCR was located close to the commentary positions. It was the commentary system's main hub and gateway at the Arena. All commentary feedback and communication circuits as well as the telecommunication equipment required to connect the commentary units to the telecommunication facilities were installed, operated and maintained in the CCR.
TV Studio Platforms
Two TV studio platforms with view into the finish area were available. They were located on the roof above the mixed zone and granted an excellent view into the finish area, to the shooting range and the spectator stands. The short distance and direct access to the mixed zone was another advantage of this location.
The mixed zone for live interviews was divided into four parts - live mixed zone positions for TV, live mixed zone positions for radio, the ENG mixed zone and the press zone. All TV positions had standard lighting fixtures from Kobold and a 230V/6A power outlet. In addition two bookable stand-up positions were provided by the host broadcaster.
Power and Power Distribution
On behalf of the local organization committee (LOC) Bredenoord had set up a comprehensive temporary power plant. In every technical area the host broadcaster and the RHBs were provided with a single backed-up and uninterrupted power supply to prevent any hum or disruption. The center of the TV electrical supply was the main distribution panel at the TV Compound. From there the IBC, the lateral and unilateral OBVans and SNGs as well as the broadcast areas in the venue were fed with 230/400V, 1 or 3 phases, 50Hz. The distribution boards were equipped with CEE-3-phase connections for 16A, 32A, 63A and 125A as well as Schuko sockets for 16A. All connections were additionally protected by residual current devices (RCD).
The Opening Ceremony on 29 February 2012
The whole program was centered on the slogan for these Championships, “We are One Family.” With that in mind, the stage was filled with Ruhpolding residents of all ages from young schoolchildren to adults who barely remember their school days. The evening could have been a highlight reel of local Bavarian culture with plenty of Schuhplattler dancing, Alphorns, accordion music, with everyone dressed in traditional dirndls and lederhosen. Biathlon came into play with some clips and stage references to the earlier World Championships held in Ruhpolding.
Of course there was the traditional parade of athletes highlighted by the dancing Belarusian team, Bjorn Ferry’s comical interlude and the huge cheers for the home German team. Interspersed between all of this was a bit of Cirque du Soleil type acrobatics and lasers. As the program neared the end, IBU President Anders Besseberg said, “I declare these World Championships Ruhpolding 2012 open.” His statement was followed by former local biathlon stars Jens Fischer, Ricco Gross, Walter Pichler and Herbert Fitzenwenger carrying in the IBU flag to its prominent position in Champions Park where it was flying until March 11.
There are not enough words to describe the just completed 2012 IBU World Championships. It was simply a great time, full of emotion, surprises, disappointment, and stunning successes.