IAAF World TV Seminar for the

 1991 World Championships in Athletics

Under the patronage of the International Athletic Foundation~

Tokyo 11 ó13 May, 1989
Session 1

Presentation on 1987† Championships Coverage




by Mr Tomassetti, RAI

When we were assigned the World Championships, the group of directors that was appointed did not have any experience whatsoever in the coverage of a sports event of such an importance. The preparations that led to the World Championships of September 1987 began with the encounter with the Finnish producer Raimo Piltz in July of 1985, more than two years before the event was to take place.

My intention is to explain briefly how the group of directors spent these two years.


I believe that the most important effort that a director must make when undertaking a new assignment is to force himself to use his imagination. In July 1985, we anticipated the problems that might have been met concerning the direction of the championships and we were suddenly faced with two possibilities: the use of Central Direction and the use of a Terminal Direction Room (Switching Direction Room). (See diagrams)

We all know that there are advantages in both types of set-ups:
we decided on the latter. The choice between those two systems surely depends on many factors, not least of which is the single exclusive system of shooting, much better guaranteed by the former.

However, we had other reasons for picking the latter: first of all, we wanted† to guarantee that the foreign broadcasters capture the TV signals of† every† event so that they could add a personal touch to their broadcasts with their own TV cameras. I would also like to add that we were apprehensive about assigning to one person alone the management of such a complex system.

But the real reason far this choice, the fundamental reason, is cultural:† we were aware that in order to deal with that type of programme we had to abandon a method that was individualized and creative far one that was collective and highly planned.

This was a cultural improvement as far as the direction was concerned. We no longer have one creative director (who nevertheless deserves all any professional respect) but a group of directors involved in a collective project and dedicated towards the achievement of the collective goals of the project rather than the aims of each individual director. This principle conditioned every development: every single discipline contained in the overall project† was capable of fitting in with each other, thus achieving project unity.

I believe that it is necessary to explain how this came about for every discipline and far the whole. Instead, I would avoid explaining our philosophy concerning the shooting: I believe that this can be understood by the material that I shall present. For about one year we carried aut a collective phase of research and documentation. Our objective was to realize an international standard level of shooting. Our sources:

From our files we carefully examined material from:

  • the World Athletics Championships in 1983 in Helsinki

  • the World Cup in Canberra in 1985

  • the Moscow Olympics

  • the Los Angeles Olympics

We attended the following events:

  • Moscow: the Goodwill Games of 1986

  • Stuttgart: the European Athletics Championships of 1986

  • Seoul: the Asian Games of 1986

  • New York: the Marathon of 1986

  • Zurich: the Meeting of 1986

  • Edinburgh: the Meeting of 1986

  • Indianapolis: the World Indoor Athletics Championships of 1987

On these occasions the talks we had with our colleagues who were covering these events were helpful; likewise, the exchange of ideas and experiences on the occasion of the Seminar held in Rome by the IAAF in April of 1986 was also useful.


We tried to seek, in these internatianal experiences, the ABCís needed for our task, and this wasnít very difficult. For each event we decided on the shootingóangles fundamental for positioning the TV cameras.

The events are:

  • short-distance races

  • long-distance races

  • shot put

  • discus throwing

  • javelin throwing

  • high jump

  • pole vault

  • long jump

  • the long-walk

  • and the marathon.

At this point we had to construct plans far the sequences of each event and we decided to use a story board that would allow†us to make the necessary cuts. For example, in the case of a throwing contest:

  • the presentation of the athletes and the necessary information

  • the throw

  • the close-up of the athlete

  • the first replay

  • the close-up of the athlete and the result

  • the second replay

  • the close up of the athlete, a view of the spectators, general† panorama.

It is clear that this sequence can be cut after the result or after the reactions of the spectators.

All our sequences were constructed in this manner so that the director in the terminal direction room could easily carry out the task of switching from one event to another. Some examples can be presented (BVU follows).


This was our plan. The technical equipment can be briefly explained as follows:

  • an outside broadcasting van for the races with 7 ó 8 cameras and 4 replays

  • 4 outside broadcasting vans, each with 4 cameras and 2 replays

  • a terminal direction van with 1 - 2 cameras and 2 replays and furthermore, for the race walk and the marathon, an electric automobile with 2 TV cameras, a inatorcycle with one TV camera, a helicopter with† 2 TV cameras† and two helicopters for reception and re-transmission.

This system thus produced 5 separate signals each leading to 5 separate vans each, in turn, with its own data terminal; the 5 vans were linked up to a terminal direction van which produced a multilateral signal.

The following is the organizational plan of direction:

Van X: races and awards

Van A: races outside the stadium, broad-jump and triple-jump

Van B: high jump and shot put

Van C: discus, javelin and hammer throw

Van D: pole vault

Terminal direction van.


This discussion of the personnel is just a preude far dealing with the system of communications which allowed us to cover these World Championships. A director, an assistant director and a consultant from the Federazione Italiana di Atletica Leggera (the Italian Athletics Federation) were present in each van. It was deemed useful far each van to have an aid on the fiežd where the events were taking place.

In the terminal direction-van there were also a director, an assistant director and a consultant but here the director communicated with the competition officials instead of the aids on the field; these officials controlled every situation on the field with the assistance of the judges.

As you all can understand, our task was very complicated. This entailed:

  • beginning with each single event on the field

  • covering it with its respective van

  • allowing to be incorporated into a finaž pragramme

  • so that it would be a correct interpretation of the situation on the field.

These 4 aspects can be illustrated as follows:

EVENT†††††††††††††††††† VANS†††††††††††††††††† TERMINAL DIR.†††††† COMPETITION††††† EVENT†††††††††††††††††† EVENT††††††††††††††† VAN†††††††††††††††††††† OFFICIALS

races†††††††††††††††††† Van X

marathon†††† Van A
long jump

high jump††† Van B
shot put

javelin†††††††† Van C
hammer throw

high jump††† Van D


How can these 4 aspects be connected to each other?† With a system of communication that serves to link them to each other.

By employing instruments that allow the terminal direction to construct a relationship between the events on the field and the broadcast of these events.

The system of communication is effected in the following manner:

communication between the vans and the aids on the fieid:

  • by walkie-talkie

communicatian between the vans and the terminal direction van:

  • by intercom between the directors

  • by telephone between the consultants

communication between the terminal direction and the competition officials

  • by telephone

communication between the competition officials and the field:

  • by telephone

This invožves 2 overlapping systems of communication: one for the directors and one for the consultants. One system is concerned with the events themselves and the other with their television broadcast.


The personnel know† exactly what a director wants during the coverage of an athletic competition with multiple events. He would like each one to anticipate what is about to happen on the field and signal it to him: a sort of intelligent clock, capable even of being aware of the eventual changes in programme.

I had tried to construct a production plan far each competition, transferring the programme for the event on millimetered paper.

With this plan and with a list of the athletes far each discipline, I took my position as a broadcaster at the European Championships at Stuttgart, hoping to anticipate the selections that my friend Marc Froideveau would have made from† the direction room.

The means at my disposal were utterly useless because they needed to be brought up-to-date every time each athlete completed his turn. I discovered, however, that there was an instrument already available and continually brought up-to-date: the monitor for data information.

At Rome I then supplied the direction van with 5 of these monitors in correspondence with the signal output monitors. This way I had the situation under control in front of me. I could then anticipate when to switch over from the shot put to the high jump or from the javelin throw to the broad-jump.


The monitor far data information was my main work instrument when switching from one athlete to another. The selection criteria are determined by rules and regulations that have been internationally acquired by now and are known to everybody: races up to 1500 m are braadcast† live; finals are given preferential coverage over semi-finals and these have preferential coverage over qualifying heats; preferential coverage is given to those events whose outcames are uncertain (such as throwing competitions or long and triple jumps), where there are world famous athletes, where the outcame between two rival athletes is in doubt, etc.

We decided to avoid fragmentation, that is, unnecessary switchlng back and forth from one event to another. We agreed to declare beforehand the event or events that were to be covered and to broadcast the replays of the important results of the others. In any case, the results of all the events would have been transmitted before the programme ended.

I lacked an instrument that woužd allow me to have a general outlook on the programme and could, at the same time, be brought up-to-date; a minute-by-minute summary.

I† elaborated it on the computer and it became an instrument of preferential communication between the terminai direction room and the competition officials.

†It specified the programme order, the programme caption, the opening scenes, a synthesis of the previous session, the live broadcast and the selections that the director would have made. The terminal arrived in all the editing stations of RAI and the places where the commercial interruptions were inserted or where the times for the beginning and ending of the broadcasts were determined or where interruptions during other broadcasts were determined to communicate important bulletins.

Unfortunately, this terminal did not have the possibiiity for sending its programme to the monitor far data information and so we stamped up-to-date information for the broadcasters at the beginning of each session, informing them of †the changes.

A computer terminal was placed in the room of the competition officials and those in charge had the possibility of knawing what would go on the air at a certain hour.

It was very simple, with a minute-by-minute summary, to programme the awards and the director would not have been caught off-guard. It was so simple that we even managed to make a mistake; only once, but a mistake nevertheiess! †I believe that a documentation of the error is more important than presenting the situation so well done.