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Olympic Broadcasting Service's coverage of sailing at the Tokyo Olympics wins gold

by Michael Brown / Yachting NZ 19 Nov 00:07 NZDT 19 November 2021
OBS provide the pictures for the Host TV broadcast - Rio de Janeiro 2016 © Richard Gladwell

Denis Harvey has won a fair few accolades in more than 40 years in television and can now add Olympic gold.

The much-heralded television producer played a leading hand in the Olympic Broadcasting Service's (OBS) coverage of sailing at the Tokyo Olympics. Last week it won gold in the Best Olympic Sport Coverage by the Host Broadcast category of the International Olympic Committee's Golden Rings Awards.

"It’s enormously satisfying," Harvey said. "This was my fifth time doing the sailing at the Olympics and to get that recognition from your peers is very satisfying. The team all worked their butts off so it’s great the whole team was recognised."

Harvey was contracted as producer for the OBS coverage of the sailing, which was put together by a team of 110 individuals from throughout the world. There was a heavy New Zealand influence in the team alongside Harvey, with Leon Sefton director and Steve Hartley audio director among the 35 Kiwis on the ground in Enoshima.

A number of innovations developed over the last Olympic cycles took the coverage to a new level, including super-slow motion cameras from on-the-water-giro-stabilised cameras, remote controlled mobile phones for onboard cameras and audio microphones on the athletes connected remotely to the cameras on the boats. What made it more difficult was the fact the team were largely unable to test many of these things ahead of time due to the impact of Covid-19 and cancelled events.

"I think we added some things that brought the sport alive for viewers," Harvey said. "The Olympics sailing production has always captured the sights but what I think what brings it alive is the sounds and that gives the viewers quite a unique perspective into the sport that you don’t get in any other sport. That was built off experience from other sailing events where we’ve seen the power of that audio.

"You also have to take into consideration the degree of difficulty. It’s probably one of the most complex of the Olympic sports to cover by its very nature that nothing is connected to a cable and it’s a moving playing field, and then you factor in the weather. There are so many moving pieces, with things like helicopters and chase boats. No camera stays still, basically."

Harvey has extensive experience in sport but particularly sailing, having been involved in coverage of the America's Cup since 1992 and sailing at the Olympics since 1996. It's the third time the sailing coverage has won gold, and after a bronze in Rio was first for Harvey (he wasn't involved in both 2008 and 2012) and he said he would "certainly answer the phone" if a call came enquiring whether he was available again for the 2024 Paris Olympics.

Next on the agenda, however, is next month's World University Games in Switzerland, which alternate between summer and winter editions. There are bound to be complexities, not least of all going into a winter environment, but Harvey and his team will inevitably find a way around it to give viewers a unique insight.

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