22 Jul 2021 David Titmus

It Takes an Olympic Effort to Caption the Summer Games

The Tokyo Summer Olympic Games Open this Friday, and VITAC is Ready

Five multicolored rings on display for the Summer Olympic GamesThousands of individuals are putting the finishing touches on months of preparation leading up to this Friday’s opening ceremonies, ensuring that Tokyo, Japan, is safe, secure, and prepared for the start of the Summer Olympic Games.

At VITAC, nearly every department is heavily involved in preparing for the Games, too! Starting July 23, we will begin a two-week surge in captioning as we caption over 2,200 hours of Olympics programming in English and Spanish across more than a half dozen different NBC Universal networks.

Coordination for an event like this spans several departments, including Captioner Management, Realtime Technical Services, and Sports. Our preparations started a few months ago with meetings to determine networks, hours, and schedules. Internally, we’ve been working nonstop to ensure equipment and captioners are ready for the games, testing primary, back-up, and redundancy scenarios, as well as IP connections, phone lines, and audio lines.

Our captioners will be on air around-the-clock for the duration of the games, doing their best to ensure that viewers see the most accurate captions possible.

Production coordinators will keep an eye on Olympic schedules and work with the network to create preparation materials that captioners use to improve accuracy while writing live captions on the fly. These materials include, among other things, the names of athletes (both those competing this year and those who competed in the past — essentially anyone that could be referenced on the air), historical data, and scripts for the opening and closing ceremonies.

Once the games begin, coordinators will work with scheduling teams to ensure captioners are slotted for the events and monitor network feeds to make sure captions are displaying correctly on the broadcasts. We’ll also keep a running tally of medals won as a reference for captioners, recording the names of athletes and countries and whether they took home the gold, silver, or bronze.

Though the Summer Olympics certainly will captivate much of the television audience over the next 17 days, our normal captioning activities don’t stop when the Olympics begin. Competing networks still will be broadcasting programs that need captions of their own, and captioners not on the air for the Olympics will be working to cover our regularly scheduled programming.

OF NOTE

  • The Summer Olympic Games officially take place from July 23 to August 8, however some of the first events (softball and soccer) have already begun. The Paralympic Games are scheduled to be held August 24 to September 5.
  • The Olympics will feature 33 sports at 339 events across 42 venues. The Paralympics will feature 22 sports at 539 events across 21 venues.
  • The Games were postponed from last year because of COVID-19.
  • The Tokyo Games mark the 13th Olympics captioned by VITAC, including, most recently, the Olympic Games in PyeongChang (2018), Rio (2016), Sochi (2014), London (2012), Vancouver (2010), Beijing (2008), and Athens (2004).