Orchestrating the Olympics Coverage

1977, Ma Goli began taking classes at the newly formed China Institute of Communication. There were a total of 150 students at the school at that time. Today, the school has changed its name to the Communication University of China, with 14,000 students enrolled, and Ma Goli is the chief operating officer of Beijing Olympic Broadcasting, the host broadcaster of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, which will provide the largest broadcast in the history of television in August of 2008.

After graduating from the institute, he served for four years in a military film unit and was then assigned to CCTV Sports. Today, Ma is famous in China as the face of early television sports. That is because in the early ’80s, the sports unit was so small that he was not only a director and producer, but he also worked as a camera operator, editor, and was the main sports anchor.

He had to do it all.

He said that many times, he was even a one-man crew covering sports events. As part of a German-China exchange program he worked for a year with ARD, the German association of public broadcasters. After returning to China, he was soon promoted to director of news at CCTV Sports and then, from 1989 until 2005, he served as the director of CCTV Sports.

Today, all of those early experiences, of all of the aspects of sports coverage in China and Germany, are paying off as he manages a broadcast staff of around 250 that will ultimately grow to more than 4,000 employees during the games.

He said his goal is to provide “perfect” games coverage. As chief operating officer, he believes that his role is to motivate the Beijing Olympic Broadcasting employees to work as a team and to coordinate all broadcast related issues with the Beijing Olympic Committee and the various Chinese entities, including the army and the government.

He said that Beijing Olympic Broadcast has been able to attract quality people who handle the details for the company in each area. His role is to “motivate and coordinate them.”

According to Ma, the upcoming Olympics have provided many firsts in China. This will be the first time that there has ever been live television production coverage from a helicopter hovering over Beijing. After much negotiation with the government, Chinese military pilots will be flying 10 helicopters equipped with stabilized cameras providing live Olympic coverage.

Historically, China has not allowed a substantial amount of RF transmissions around the country. For the first time, the government has relaxed their regulations to allow RF transmissions all over the city. China will also allow the media unlimited access to move around China to gather material for their coverage of the Olympic Games and the country hosting the games.

While only a small percentage of the world has an HD television set, the numbers in China, like the rest of the world, are growing constantly. Beijing will be the first Olympics to be broadcast entirely in HD.

The Olympic demand for HD has dramatically impacted the Chinese television industry with the number of HD broadcasts and HD production companies increasing dramatically. This fits perfectly with Beijing Olympic Broadcasting’s high goals for the company.

They want to leave a substantial television production legacy in China. BOB hopes to help improve the quality of television production within the country. In order to accomplish these goals Ma has been working with the staff to do the following:

• Use as many Chinese personnel as possible. The training and Olympic experience will help move them to a higher level of production at the local level. Ma has actively worked at convincing television stations to share their people with BOB so that they can gain from the Olympic experience.

• They have recruited 1,600 university students to work as paid broadcast production entry-level staff during the Olympics. Many of these students have been chosen from Ma’s alma mater, the Communication University of Beijing. Upon graduation, many of these students will move into the ranks of the Chinese broadcast industry.

Ma’s goals are not just for Beijing Olympic Broadcasting to provide “perfect” games coverage; he believes they can significantly improve the quality of Chinese television production. At this point, Ma says that he is feeling optimistic about the upcoming broadcast of the games.

“We are fortunate to have really good people in each of our departments moving us toward our goals.”

Jim Owens is the chair of the Communication Arts Department at Asbury College in Wilmore, Ky., has worked on the broadcast of nine Olympics and is the author of the book Television Sports Broadcasting . He can be reached at jim.owens@asbury.edu.