The stunning scenes of the Torch Relay linger in the minds of all in Hong Kong; behind the camera, the excitement was felt even more deeply by the broadcasting team. The 25-kilometre route through Hong Kong, Kowloon and the New Territories showcased Hong Kong’s unique scenery, but the different terrains also posed transmission challenges to engineering staff of seven local broadcasters, who combined their efforts and wisdom to push aside all obstacles to make the unprecedented nine-hour continuous live television (TV) broadcast a success.
Starting in March, the whole party conducted endless trial runs to make adjustments, from using a helicopter for signal relay to employing a diversity reception system. To ensure secure signal transmission, we also utilised mobile surveillance techniques using the 3.5 gigabit network provided by the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department for backup signals. When asked by the Chief Executive, Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, on April 18 about anticipated problems in the live broadcast, we could only say trial runs were still under way to find the best system, given the complex and unpredictable nature of the task where every test conducted was based on assumption.
In preparation for such a large project, we looked at various hypothetical situations so that we would be prepared for different contingencies, such as disruption to live broadcasting in TV House, or inclement weather. Every assumption had to be made and contingency measures set up accordingly. As for unpredictable situations, it required the ability to meet an emergency, the successful execution of which brought great satisfaction. Thanks to the professionalism of the shooting team and their skills in putting into place contingency operations, TV pool signals were transmitted in time despite the early arrival of the plane flying in the tinder lamp and the shooting team’s hold-up by security check procedures – the team arrived at the apron with just 10 minutes to spare.
Another set of challenges lay ahead following the arrival of the tinder lamp: the unexpectedly shortened ceremony at the airport necessitated immediate adjustment of the arrangements in the Hong Kong Cultural Centre; the early morning rain initiated the rainy day contingency measures; the low clouds struck out aerial shooting by helicopter, and the humidity negatively affecting the video transmissions had rendered it necessary for the immediate use of stand-by signals…
Embracing the many unpredictable challenges beyond our control, we broadcasters acted like magicians who could produce miracles in a flash. I was greatly moved to see the Olympic Flame beginning its first solemn journey across Chinese soil and by the joyful cheers of the large chanting crowds along the streets, and much gratified by the efforts of the broadcasting team.
More related programmes on the Beijing Olympics are available at the Radio Television Hong Kong webpage: