Behind The Scenes

ESPN’s 2012 Summer Olympics operations in London

From ESPN’s London Olympics headquarters, Jose Ramon Fernandez (l), host of ESPN Deportes’ Olympics coverage, works with co-presenter Jacobo Zabludovsky. (Credit: ESPN)

As the 2012 Summer Olympic Games begin, ESPN is in London with its largest ever on-site production team.

Domestic and International entities will be broadcasting from Marshgate Lane and the International Broadcast Center (IBC). Settling on the IBC was easy. Finding the right location outside of the Olympic stadium was a bigger challenge.

It has been 16 months since senior coordinating producer Maria Soares and other employees from ESPN’s International production department visited London in search of a broadcasting hub.

With rights in 10 countries throughout South America (roughly 200 million homes), ESPN needed a location capable of supporting its standing as both a rights holder in these countries, as well as a non-rights holder in the U.S. and other regions.

Being close to the Olympic Village was key, and space was tight.

(L-R:) Producer Yoyotzin Zuniga, director Luis Zuniga, and Armando Benitez, senior director of production, ESPN Mexico, help coordinate London coverage. (Credit: ESPN)

After considering several potential spots, Soares and her team found just the place — a parking lot.

For Soares, the months of construction were out of sight but never out of mind as she returned to work in Bristol, Conn., following the scouting trip.

Now that the ESPN London Hub is fully operational, the enormity of the project has sunk in.

“Our first trip out to London to look at potential spots was back in April 2011. When we settled on Marshgate Lane, it was difficult to envision it as the future home for so many of our ESPN entities,” she said.

“Now, to finally see this all come together is almost surreal. It’s definitely the most ambitious Olympic coverage we’ve done as a company.”

Now, mere hours from the Opening Ceremony, the retrofitted parking lot is a world-class production studio. For more than 100 ESPN employees, this will be home for the next couple of weeks.

Some fast facts:

Number of different countries represented by ESPN employees in London for Olympics coverage: More than 20 different nations, including Argentina, Brazil, Canada, El Salvador, England, Israel, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Scotland, Serbia, Spain, Venezuela, Wales and the United States.

Years of combined television experience for ESPN’s Spanish-language commentator team: More than 220 years, including 84-year-old Jacobo Zabludovsky, who has 66 years in the business. Jose Ramon Fernandez follows with his 40-year run.

Cable used in the broadcast facility to produce more than 1,700 hours of coverage: More than 10,000 feet.

Marshgate Lane will house: ESPN Deportes, ESPN Domestic (English), ESPN International (non-rights holders), ESPN Brazil, ESPN Star Sports and ABC.

Languages spoken by ESPN commentators: Spanish, Portuguese and English.

ENG crews on site: 29

Content produced from London studios: About 458 hours, which roughly equals two-and-a-half weeks

On-site studios: 5

Production Control Rooms: 4

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