Speaking in tongues Olympic coverage in 10 languages broadcast from APTN’s Portage Avenue studio


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Behind the huge black curtain that blocks out the light from Portage Avenue, in the cavernous, open space that once welcomed customers of one of Canada's chartered banks, there's a cacophonous sound one wouldn't expect to hear along this city's busiest thoroughfare:

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 13/02/2010 (4565 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Behind the huge black curtain that blocks out the light from Portage Avenue, in the cavernous, open space that once welcomed customers of one of Canada’s chartered banks, there’s a cacophonous sound one wouldn’t expect to hear along this city’s busiest thoroughfare:

Sticks on pucks.

Skates on ice.

MIKE.DEAL@FREEPRESS.MB.CA Charles Clément (above ) is host of francophone coverage; Rick Harp (below) is anchor of aboriginal language coverage.

Skis on snow.

Bobsleighs clattering around frozen banked corners.

It’s the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.

In downtown Winnipeg.

The locally based Aboriginal Peoples Television Network is part of the huge CTV-led Olympic Broadcast Media Consortium, providing coverage of Vancouver’s games in English, French and no less than eight traditional aboriginal languages.

And APTN’s announcers will be calling their games and events while watching live feeds of the Olympics transmitted from the West Coast to their state-of-the-art broadcast studios and play-by-play booths adjacent to the network’s Portage Avenue headquarters.

"I think this is special," says Charles Clément, host of APTN’s French-language coverage of the 2010 Olympics. "Even though we’re detached geographically from Vancouver, there’s such a strong spirit running through this place and the people in it that it actually feels like we’re right there."

It’s a valid observation. If you ask veterans of major sports event coverage about their experiences covering those games, they’ll tell you that when you’re working in a production trailer, a studio or a play-by-play booth, location becomes irrelevant because you’re focused solely on the action on the screen.

"When you’re at an Olympic Games, unless you’re calling figure skating, hockey or curling, everything you call is off of a monitor," says Jim Van Horne, a fixture on Canada’s sports-broadcasting scene for more than two decades who has been coaching APTN’s on-air Olympics crew since last summer. "And that’s what they’re doing here. The broadcast booths they’re working in are probably the finest I’ve ever seen.

"When I was in Beijing, calling baseball, I was calling it off of a 12-inch monitor. Here, they’ve got 42-inch screens in front of them, all in HD. It’s a very impressive setup. They’re going to have everything a broadcaster would have in Vancouver or Whistler, so there’s no reason they shouldn’t be just as effective as someone who’s out there."

APTN’s Olympics coverage will include three separate broadcast streams, all hosted out of Winnipeg. In addition to Clément’s hosting of French programming, familiar Winnipeg sportscaster Mike Beauregard will anchor English-language segments and locally based producer/broadcaster Rick Harp will host APTN’s aboriginal-language coverage. Waneek Horn-Miller will act as APTN’s Vancouver-based host.

Van Horne, well known for his years behind the anchor desk on TSN and Sportsnet, was brought in to train APTN’s crew of mostly inexperienced Olympics announcers. The task of assembling the team was particularly daunting because there simply weren’t any people who were both fluent in traditional tongues and conversant in the language of sport.

"I was a bit concerned at the beginning," he recalls. "When you look at the traditional broadcasting that is done at the Olympics, the majority of the people who are working the games and commentating on the sports are seasoned veterans who’ve been around for a long time. But finding people who are fluent in aboriginal languages and are also broadcasters has been very difficult.

"The notion of training individuals who do not have a broadcasting background and getting them ready to do an Olympic Games is literally starting at the top of the mountain. That was my concern — whether or not some of them could be ready. But from what I’ve seen so far, they’ve worked their tails off and I think they’re going to accord themselves very, very well."

Van Horne adds that he’s been amazed at how hard the quickly assembled APTN crew has worked at learning the sports and finding a way to describe the action in languages that don’t necessarily have words to describe what’s onscreen.

"They’ve actually had to come up with terms that are second nature to us in English but are not used at all in aboriginal languages," he explains. "They’ve had to come up with terms that fit those languages … but they also want to make sure that they maintain the sports aspect. These folks have been working their (butts) off for the last year to get ready for this. The information they’ve put together and the research they’ve done are incredible."

Well, then. Let the games begin. On Portage Avenue.




Languages in which sports will be broadcast:













Events that will be carried on APTN:

Opening and closing ceremonies

Hockey (men’s and women’s)


Speed skating

Figure skating


Freestyle skiing

Downhill skiing

Cross-country skiing



Ski jumping



APTN Olympics facts and figures:

Broadcast team: 138 people, in Winnipeg and Vancouver

On-air staff: 36 broadcasters/commentators

Hours of coverage: 214, in English, French and eight aboriginal languages

Budget: $2.5 million



APTN’s rationale for joining the Olympic Broadcast Media Consortium:

"The key thing for us was to be able to provide coverage of some of these events in aboriginal languages. Some of our languages are in trouble; the population that speaks them is ever-decreasing, and younger people aren’t necessarily picking up the language or wanting to maintain it. What we’re hoping to do is show them that their languages have no barriers (and) they can be used to broadcast events such as the Olympics; we want to show that these languages are living, and they should be proud of them."

— Jean LaRose, APTN’s chief executive officer



Brad Oswald

Brad Oswald
Perspectives editor

After three decades spent writing stories, columns and opinion pieces about television, comedy and other pop-culture topics in the paper’s entertainment section, Brad Oswald shifted his focus to the deep-thoughts portion of the Free Press’s daily operation.

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