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Alibaba at the Winter Olympics: Bringing Beijing 2022 to broadcasters around the world

As the Winter Olympics in Beijing draw to a close, the organisers lift the lid on the role Alibaba’s cloud technology has played in broadcasting the event to audiences across the globe

With the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Beijing drawing to a close, the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) broadcasting arm has revealed details of how Alibaba’s public cloud technology has helped sports fans all over the world enjoy the event.

The Olympic Broadcasting Services (OBS) organisation has drawn on Alibaba’s cloud portfolio of services to make it possible for more than 20 broadcasters across the globe to access live footage from the event through the public cloud for the first time during the Beijing Games.

This has meant that during the event, which is due to conclude on Sunday 20 February, sports fans internationally have been able to experience a more immersive viewing experience from a much wider range of viewpoints, said the OBS.

According to OBS estimates, more than 6,000 hours of content will have been produced by it during the two-week games, including 900 hours of live sports and ceremony coverage, as well as 1,200 hours of unseen competition footage.

OBS CEO Yiannis Exarchos said: “OBS Cloud is one of the most profound technological changes to our operation. It not only offers broadcasters unprecedented efficiency, but also enables endless opportunities for innovation and to seamlessly deliver the excitement of the Olympic Games to the widest possible audience.”

As previously detailed by Computer Weekly, OBS began supplying live footage to broadcasters with the help of the Alibaba public cloud during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

This was on the back of a “lift-and-shift” migration of the OBS Content+ platform, which Exarchos hailed as being “perhaps the biggest technological change in the broadcasting industry for more than half a century”.

Several years before this announcement, in January 2017, Alibaba said it had secured a 12-year contract to provide the IOC with cloud services until 2028.

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One of the benefits of the OBS-Alibaba cloud technology tie-up, it is claimed, is that broadcasters no longer need to build out and rely on their own dedicated, costly, on-premise hardware to send live broadcast footage back to their home countries.  

“Using the highly scalable, resilient and secure global infrastructure of Alibaba Cloud, the digital technology and intelligence backbone of Alibaba Group, OBS is able to deliver all the live multilateral content in high quality over the public cloud at a fraction of the cost and minimum time for set-up,” said the OBS in a statement.

“That leads to a significant increase of productivity for broadcasters, while the stability, elasticity and agility of cloud also ensures the quality of broadcasting, even during a surge in demand for livestreaming of the most popular events.” 

It also makes it possible for broadcasters that, for whatever reason, are unable to be on the ground at the games, to still cover the event, said Selina Yuan, general manager of international business at Alibaba Cloud Intelligence.

“Transmitting live content through cloud is a particularly useful resource for broadcasters that cannot attend the Olympic Winter Games in person or afford the heavy upfront investment of on-premise infrastructure,” said Yuan.

“We hope that cloud technologies will not only reduce the cost associated with broadcasting, but also bolster the coverage of the Olympic Winter Games as more [rights-holding broadcasters] can access the live footage and choose the feeds they prefer. Ultimately, we hope more sports fans around the world can enjoy the excitement of the Olympic Winter Games.”

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