Arena Sport and RTS Serbia share host duties for European Aquatics Championships

Arena Sport producers Sasa Ljubisic (left) and Miša Laketić at the diving platform in Belgrade

The European Aquatics Championships is organised by LEN, the governing body for aquatics in Europe. The championships are held every two years and since 2022 have included five aquatics disciplines: swimming (long course/50m pool), diving, synchronised swimming, open water swimming and high diving.

The 2024 championships took place in the heat of Belgrade from 10 to 23 June, serving as the final meet to qualify for the Paris Olympics. It’s the first time the event has been held in Serbia, and as such it fell to public broadcaster Radiotelevizija Srbije (RTS) and pay-TV operator Arena Sport to share host broadcast production duties on behalf of rights holder, the European Broadcasting Union.

Long course plus synchronised swimming took place at the pool, with open water at a separate venue and all diving disciplines at an outdoor diving platform. An RTS production team was responsible for the world feed broadcast at the pool, with Arena Sport covering open water and the diving venue.

Dragan Projovic, producer for RTS, said the broadcaster has “13 cameras in total on-site at the swimming pool, with 10 HD broadcast cameras from our side including a Railcam and a 4.5x beauty camera plus two underwater cameras, and [in addition to poolside coverage] a Spidercam camera with cable above the pool. The underwater cameras and Spidercam are rented with their operators, and everything else is from our side.”

RTS’ plan for 12-camera coverage at the pool: an additional Spidercam captured overhead shots

Speaking to SVG Europe on Friday (21 June) Projovic said: “We have more than 50 people on-site every day: engineers, technicians, riggers, audio engineers and assistants, camera control, EVS operators, SNG operators, commentators and reporters, director, producer, camera operators, vision mixer, ENG crew and security.”

Sasa Ljubisic, producer for Arena Sport, told SVG Europe: “We have two host broadcasters here. One is public service media RTS who are host at the swimming pool. There are two competitions there, artistic swimming and swimming. Arena Sport, represented by Miša Laketić and me, are host broadcaster for open water and diving.

“We don’t have many broadcasters here, just commentary positions and some live mixed zone. No live cameras from other broadcasters. The same at the pool with RTS, only commentary positions and dedicated live mixed zone for interviews.

“For the open water, everything in terms of facilities is local with a small production company, Santa Monica Production. For diving, we have Visual Impact with a large OB truck, as there are more cameras.”

“Open water was not initially planned to be covered live,” continued Ljubisic, “but European Aquatics pushed for it and the decision was made a couple of weeks before the championships to cover it live. We started out there with five cameras and finished with seven.”

“Here at the diving we have many more cameras, 14 in total,” added Laketić. “We have the super slow pool cam, an underwater camera, three cameras on each of the three diving platforms – in front, at the side and behind – then we have a beauty camera without an operator and a drone as well. Finally we have a hand-held camera at the side of the pool where competitors wait to hear their results from the referees.”

Ljubisic acknowledged some of the production challenges faced by the Arena Sport team, operating sometimes at short notice to overcome the intricacies of camera coverage and shooting angles for the different diving disciplines.

“Every day we are learning something new, you know! Especially with the height of the judges’ chairs. When they placed those chairs on match day minus one we found out our camera positions were not in the right place,” he recalled.

“It was challenging for us to imagine all the platforms and where the high chairs would be, challenging to put cameras and referees in the same place. And in diving, for some main camera shots, the referee was blocking the view of the diver entering the water. But all was solved before the first production.

“It was also not planned to cover the diving preliminaries, but again European Aquatics pushed for inclusion. And, of course, in preliminaries there are a lot more divers and everything is going much faster in the afternoon sessions. We don’t have time except to show one slo-mo, but for the finals we do have time to put one slo-mo and one super slo.

“Of course, we didn’t know what it would be like during our preparation, as any video clip or YouTube you can watch of previous top-level championships like the Olympics doesn’t include the preliminaries!”

It was all hands on-deck for the Arena Sport team, with no-one based remotely or back at base, instead working through the searing heat at the Belgrade aquatic venues. “We are old-fashioned you know, nothing without cable and on-site! Here at the diving we have around 20 people in the mornings and then about 40 for the afternoon sessions,” said Ljubisic.

“The only challenge is the heat, because we have extreme heat here and the AC on the truck is on full capacity during the whole day. It is over 30 degrees from nine in the morning, and this is the main thing we are worried about here, hoping that everything will keep going until the end on Sunday.”

Meeting of European federations

Representatives of European Aquatics, European Athletics, European Gymnastics, Union Européenne de Cyclisme (online), and the European Canoe Association met in Belgrade during the European Aquatics Championships to discuss potential future collaborations.

Among the topics discussed were how to strengthen the existing partnership and potential projects of common interest related to several areas, including corporate social responsibility, education, development, digital transformation, competition formats and access to EU funding for sport-related projects.

European Aquatics president Antonio Silva said: “It was an honour and pleasure for us to welcome our friends from other European federations here in Belgrade. This is the first step in what I am confident is going to be a new era of mutual cooperation and support, which will help us to develop sport projects across the continent.”

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