This is the new High Definition Television format that is screening in the Cubby Broccoli Cinema at the National Media Museum for the duration of the 2012 Games. It is also screening in London, Glasgow, Washing D.C. USA, and Tokyo and Fukuyama in Japan. The transmissions are arranged by Japanese firm NHK, Olympic Broadcasting Services and the BBC. Technically this new format has 16 times more pixels than ordinary High Definition Television and four times as many sound channels. This gives a high quality image and a superior surround sound experience. Certainly the 45-minute recording I saw was impressive on both planes. There have been some live broadcasts beamed to Bradford (and elsewhere) but these are full, often of VIPs!

The screening I saw started with an introduction to the new format and its relationship to the Olympics. This included some historical references: London 1948 with the first broadcast television coverage: Tokyo 1964 with the first colour transmissions: and Los Angeles 1984 with the first High Definition transmission. The missing Olympics were, of course, those held in Berlin in 1936, when the first television coverage occurred (without being broadcast). One can understand the reluctance to remind audience of that event, though it does appear on the large banner in the foyer, but in smaller relief than London, Tokyo and Los Angeles. I would not want to suggest that there is a great similarity but there are parallels. Notably that they operate under the auspices of capitalism, with large corporations both supporting but also benefiting from the event.

The parallels could be seen in the Opening Ceremony of London 2012, (though I have only seen the 20 minutes highlights). The use of a massive stadium, lights and darkness, mass movement and the pillaging of national history to produce a cultural bricolage reminded me of Riefenstahl’s film Olympiad. The two-plus hours ceremony included Fredrick Handel, William Blake, E. R. Tolkien, the 1948 NHS, The Beatles, and the sixth personification of James Bond. Can I note in passing a royal decline: The Queen (2006) opened with four Corgis and ended with only three, by 2012 it seems they were down to two.

Though it cost 21 million in sterling, the mass of performers were volunteers. They were embroiled in the imagined community that is the Olympics: a community that supposedly transcends class, gender, and social constructions like ‘race’ and ‘sexual orientation’. This is Disraeli’s ‘Young England’ philosophy. It is a sign of the absence of critical acumen in some of the tabloids and in certain Tory Members of Parliament that they could think that this event was ‘left-wing’. Though I suppose there is a slight justification in the report that the ‘Brookside kiss’ was edited out of transmissions in the USA.

Of course, like 1936, the contemporary Olympics are a mass of contradictions. The Opening Ceremony was supposed to express the Olympic ‘family’. But the actual event is presaged on the competition that is central to the Capitalist Market. The day I viewed Hi-Vision was also the day that four badminton players were disqualified at the Olympics for being too competitive. The relationship of this to elements of chauvinism was apparent in the one event screened in this session. The Women’s 400 metre freestyle swimming event. It was competition up and down the 50-metre pool, raising to a crescendo on the final lap. Then we had the Medal Ceremony, or to be exact, Rebecca Adlington receiving her bronze medal  – at which point the recording ended with the NHK logo. Even for this Olympics that did seem rather blatant: though again, US swimming coaches make it seem less so.

Of course, if you enjoy the Olympics this is great viewing. If you are more like me, well, it is still worth seeing this new Super Hi-Vision, it lasts under an hour and it’s free.

Here’s an explanation of the system: