The Olympic Winter Games Nagano 1998 adopted as an initiative, “the utilization of high technology that coexists with the beautiful and lush nature.” Panasonic’s RAMSA, the sound system of Nagano 1998, was tasked with how to realize this concept. After all, what exactly is an “environmentally-friendly” sound system? First and foremost, it was necessary to minimize sound spillage into the surrounding countryside. At the same time optimum sound had to be delivered to every corner of the venue. It was decided that directional speakers, highly lauded a year earlier at the pre-Olympic Games, would be used.
Optimal Installation for the Venue
Close attention was paid also to outdoor speaker installation. In heavier snowfall areas, the temperature dropped to -20 degrees Celsius overnight and daily snowfall occasionally reached 2 meters. To maximize outdoor durability, special water-repellent nets and resin coating, resistant to ultraviolet rays and temperature changes were used. At the snowboarding course where rhythmic music and live announcements were indispensable to the competition, the challenge became how to achieve clear, even sound on such a bumpy, uneven terrain.
Mac Takeuchi proposed to the team members, “Let's try doing it digitally. If we transmit using optical cables, there won't be any drop-off in signal even over long distances. We will be able to produce the highest quality sound production ever.”
This was the first-ever attempt during the Olympic Winter Games at using a sound system with optical cables for digital transmission. Digital transmission can maximize RAMSA’s elaborate sound design. The goal then, became the realization of “an indoor-quality of sound, outdoors.”
Achieved a Lag-Free Audio Environment Using Digital Transmission
For high-altitude, distant speakers, signals are first transmitted via optical cables to the unmanned sound room mid-way along the course. There the signals are amplified and applied an optimal delay according to speaker, so that the sound is homogenous across the entire course. Snowboarders take no more than one minute to hurtle down the slope. However, in reality it is a large task to transmit clear sounds that are uniform and lag-free across the uneven 1km terrain.
“Pleasant, congruous sound” is something taken for granted by the athletes and spectators who gather at the Olympic venues. However, behind this natural sound creation was RAMSA's advanced technology and the passion of Panasonic engineers seeking to shape the future of sporting events.