As you may have noticed the Olympics have started in London during the past few days, no matter what your viewpoint on the games like Marmite, love or hate... No matter television has been the number one medium to see the games on and this has been shown in the remarkable viewing figures for the Opening Ceremony and also events which would not be called mainstream at all outside of the usual big sports.
Television has played a major part in the Olympics development and bringing them to the people, from using them as propaganda through to both historic and also tragic moments as well.
The first televised Olympics were in 1936, when Adolf Hitler used the games to show off his ideal society and ideal image through sport. A closed circuit television system using 180 lines was set up in association with a radio system to bring the games to over 41 different countries, two different companies Telefunken and Fernseh using different systems themselves retrospectively bringing 72 hours of live coverage to special booths set upto to allow the public to watch the events live, based in Potsdam and also Berlin, this gave the public for the first the opportunity to watch live action of the athletes competing.
But this was to backfire on Hitler, when Jessie Owens won four gold medals at the games with apparent ease. Allowing the historic footage to be captured not only live but on film as well, capturing the first of many moments in Olympic history to be replayed again and again.
With the outbreak of World War Two, the planned Olympics which were meant to take place in both Tokyo and also London were cancelled. Though in London's case they hosted the first post-war games in 1948, with the BBC covering the events zeal allowed even more coverage to be beamed to even more homes then ever before allowed live coverage to the lucky few people who had television sets at that time. It can be said that a different type of propaganda was used to persuade austerity Britain to see this great event and buy a television set, patriotic pride maybe but on television's journey in Great Britain this was another step along the way.
The Olympics went through both the Helsinki, Melbourne and Rome games with Melbourne being the first games to allow pictures to come from the other side of the world but still on film but with a delay, the new watchword was live and live is how the public wanted to see the events of the games. With new technologies coming in such as satellite technology allowed events to be covered almost live but more live then they had been than ever before, meaning events that had happened on that very same day. The Relay 1 satellite allowed only 15-20 minutes of broadcast to take place during each of its orbits allowing European viewers to see pictures, plus as also the Telecast satellite allowed pictures to beamed to the United States but also allowed the pictures to be beamed to Relay 1 as well.
This was to be the first major Olympics were one man came to the attention of the whole of the nation and not just sports fans, one David Coleman was the main athletics commentator whose reputation as one the best commentators in Britain was made in one race. The 800 metres featuring Britain's Anne Packer, the favourite for the women's 400m. The finish itself of the 800 metres, saw packer overtake Mayvonne Dupureur of France in a thrilling finish to allow Coleman's enthusiasm to come through the screen and into living rooms to experience the event themselves. A stalwart of every Olympic Games up until his retirement after the 2000 Sydney games, his most proudest moment has to be the linking of the tragic events of the Israeli Athletes hostage situation at the 1972 Munich Games where his journalistic training came into its own, staying live with events for several hours live whilst the events unfolded and also at the memorial service for the dead athletes and the other who had died a few days later.
Such was his contribution to broadcasting that the outgoing International Olympic Committee President Juan-Antonio Samaranch presented Coleman with the Olympic Order in 2000 in recognition of his services to the Olympic ideals. There are so many other moments with David Coleman, he represents a huge part of British Olympic History in which for many people he was the voice of the Olympics.
The Mexico Olympics was another turning point for Olympic coverage and television, with Satellite technology now improved it meant that for the first time totally live coverage could happen allowing the viewing public to see the event at the same time as people in the venues themselves but more importantly that BBC 2 had started broadcasting in colour in 1967, that the fully majesty of the technicolour aspects of the Olympics could be seen such as what colour the athletic track was, how blue the water in the swimming pool was but also in the Opening Ceremony as well, in future years would allow people to the full spectacle live and direct as well.
Coming up next time, we go to Germany, see Canada nearly go Bankrupt, America not turn up behind the Iron Curtain but Britain does and does rather well plus the USSR don't do as well and a different kind of rocket man and UFO...