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Throwback Tuesday: Delving deeper into Ward-Beck’s history with the Olympics

With the conclusion of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics and the entertainment networks returning to a more "normal" process after taking over the world by storm, it's a good time to delve deeper into Ward-Beck Systems' history of supplying equipment for the Games. 1976 was the first year that Ward-Beck provided equipment for use at an Olympic event. This began our long association of designing and manufacturing equipment for use at both Summer and Winter games.

More specifically, the WBS model 75046 mobile audio console, designed to CBC's specifications, were used at the 1976 Montreal Games in CBC's Olympics vans. Four of these units were built for the event and installed in mobile trucks. Post Olympics, these consoles were used to broadcast Hockey Night in Canada and many other sporting events. Below, you can see the M1002 which was mentioned in our previous post about the Olympics. Fifty-five of these babies were used by CBC and ABC in their coverage of the 1976 Summer and Winter Games, and proved to be a great hit. (Fun fact: Both the Winter and Summer Olympics were held in the same year every four years, until the IOC decided at the 1986 Session in Lausanne to hold the Winter Games two years apart from the Summer Games, and this new system was put into effect in 1992.)

Ward-Beck Systems has also supplied Olympics equipment to several major networks in the United States. At the 1980 Lake Placid Winter Olympics, ABC used a WBS matrix intercom system in its mobile units. This system allowed point to point and point to multi-point communication. Engineering alone had a 48 by 48 matrix, which was no small feat for the technology of the time. CBS was a big purchaser of compact WBS consoles for sporting events, such as the 24-channel WBS 74062, designed for TV mobile applications. NBC also got in on the game, no pun intended, with some large purchases for the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul. These consoles were refurbished at the Ward-Beck factory in Toronto and were redeployed for use at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona.

(Above: he console from the 1984 Olympics.  This console is currently in Hamilton Ontario. Photography courtesy of Anthony Kuzub of APK Audio.)

At an event like the Olympics, where versatility and dependability as well as high quality is crucial, Ward-Beck products have excelled. Did you know that at the 1988 Winter Games in Calgary, audio mixer Norm Mallalieu mixed the feed from the entire bobsleigh run with a 32-channel WBS console? It’s true. Another memorable Olympics product is the M460LA input channel strip which was based on the M460 design. As the name might tip you off, this channel strip was designed specifically for use in the 1984 summer games in Los Angeles. Offering a 4 band parametric equalizer, these units are still sought after today for audio recording/production and are in use in sound studios worldwide.

Getting a little closer to home, our products were no slouches at the 2010 Vancouver Games. We supplied products for the CTV Olympics Broadcast facilities. The entire CTV broadcast centre was constructed in a warehouse near our Toronto plant for pregame training, before being shipped off to the Games in Vancouver. If you click on this article on organizing the 2010 Vancouver Games, you will see Robert Miles, who was in charge of designing the infrastructure for the CTV Olympics coverage for Vancouver 2010, making adjustments to an AMS16-2AM, our high-quality Multi-Channel Audio Monitor.

At Sochi 2014, there is no doubt the Ward-Beck products supplied to CBC, NBC and others were still going strong. It is humbling to think that the equipment manufactured at our facility has played a part in helping to broadcast major sporting events like the Olympics, Super Bowl and more all around the world.

(Thank you to Eugene and Colleen for looking this over and adding more details, and to Gerry Bell for all his Olympics stories that contributed to this article.)

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