Fun Projects

Sydney Olympics

Sydney Olympics

Project: The summer Olympic Games is a job that no one contractor can handle alone. No one contractor has the personnel or equipment to cover all the events going on all over wide portions of a large city and the far reaching countryside. During the games just about everyone in the industry participates, each of the two or three dozen qualified companies that are selected for their own specialties and/or capabilities for the event. EFI personnel were tapped to assist a wide ranging crew of portable/mobile video microwave professionals by Winemiller Communications the prime contractor for the Sydney outside racing events. These events included distance running, bicycling, equestrian and the like.


Execution:Using a fleet of 4 helicopters, and a high altitude fixed wing (10,000 feet), “backup” aircraft (contracted with independent aircraft operators from all over Australia), 3 motorcycles and a lead vehicle, (custom built in the Carlisle, PA facility of Winemiller Communications) and

The Goodyear blimp painted as the G'Day blimp

two widely separated receive/production sites. And of course a production crew of about 70 men and women from all over the U.S., Canada, Spain and Australia were required to make it was possible to present to the world, in real time, the outside racing events of the 2000 games. It is anyone’s guess what the total number of equipment and crews were required to present the entire 2000 games show. (track and field, yacht racing, basketball, baseball, gymnastics, ping pong etc., etc., etc.) On a side note, gymnastics, ping pong etc., etc., etc.) On a side note, there were two additional aircraft in the air with the SOBO, (Sydney Olympic Broadcast Organization) the U.S. broadcaster decided they needed their own helicopter to exclusively cover the American athletes,and the Australian Goodyear Blimp was on scene. (Though it had to be repainted as the “G’Day” blimp because Goodyear was not an official sponsor of the Olympics.)





The FUN! (A personal comment by Steve Koch) Growing up in the 50s and 60s I enjoyed the old Hollywood movies on a black and white TV. I remember the Andy Hardy movies when the kids got together to produce a stage show, and the older Busby Berkley stage extravaganzas. Lots of fun!


The Olympics, behind the scenes, is like putting 20 Berkley stage shows on an overdose of steroids,.. at the same time. This production gives hundreds of aging, tiring and experienced technical professionals a double shot of the youthful, positive exuberance and team spirit to accomplish the shining goal of Andy Hardy! Good Stuff. ☺



Sydney Olympic Complex

Planning for the two week event begins years in advance. Giant stadiums are designed and built, but never used until the event. (Therefore there has been no shake out of the infrastructure and required upgrades and repairs. This can require 24 hour scramble to visit every Radio Shack in the country for needed parts.) Site surveys by TV production, set designers, camera positions (in the thousands), and of course in the case of wireless video, redundant transmission links to the broadcast center. (There are no second takes or do-overs!)


The choreography of the dance by all productions crews working to present a coherent show to the viewer is convoluted and intricate. Multiple technical crews and directorial staff that often don’t even speak the same language, but work in front, behind and beside each other to make the other look good. The show must go on!



Start/Finish line at the opera house

When your office, each day, is in a helicopter looking over one of the most beautiful harbors in the world, you are happy you don’t have to pay your employer for the job! But it would be worth it! (Shhhshh, don’t tell them know that!)


Many of the outside races, bicycling, marathons, 10 k etc., began and ended at the iconic opera house. The bright blue is the start/finish area. Located on the edge of the bay, with a perfect view of the bridge, city and on the north edge of the Royal Botanical Gardens, it is a must for all visitors to Sydney. (Sorry for the commercial for Sydney, but my next vacation will be back there, after eleven years, this time with my wife and kids!)


As you might know, to get a live picture up to the satellite and distributed to the world, it may take a series of links. In the case of outside races there are vehicles (lead car and several motorcycles) with cameras giving close ups of the racers as they move. As you may be aware video microwave requires a “line of sight” to get high quality pictures reliably. So, there were five helicopters overhead the race, some had cameras and some were simply repeaters for the cameras below.

A busy sky-5 Helicopters and the blimp within a few hundred feet following different runners, going in different directions


Catching up on ZZZZs between events

Early start on a cold morning

The vehicles shot straight up, the repeater aircraftreceived that signal and re-transmitted back to two central receive sites. (two because you had a back up if one lost power) From the receive site it is sent to the broadcast center where there are walls and walls of monitors showing all the events that are in action at the same time. The Broadcasters for each country select the video they want to broadcast to their country in real time. Of course, some events are recorded and aired at a later time, but there is almost always some event available for live broadcast 12-15 hours a day and the technical crews sometimes work 20+ hour shifts.


Some event venues were too far from the airport to return for refueling. In those cases fuel drums were pre-staged in any available landing spot. The helicopter continued to turn as a crew member jumped out, rolled the drums up to the A/C, inserted the hand pump and pumped about 80 gallons from two drums. The pilot would yell “wipe your feet!!!” before the crew climbed back in the bird.


The Sydney games allowed the world to see what a beautiful and friendly city and country Australia is. But most of all I wish to thank the people of Australia for their warm and friendly hospitality. They gave me the time of my life! Thank you Sydney.