By Dr Kamal Jabbour, Contributing Writer
On Saturday February 27, the Carrier Dome at Syracuse University will host the New York State Public High Schools Athletic Association's (NYSPHSAA) Indoor Track and Field Championship. Besides bringing together athletes from across the State in the spirit of athletic competition, this meet promises to carry sports journalism into a new era. A team of Syracuse University Computer Engineering students plan to broadcast the entire meet in live video over the Internet, the first such broadcast in the world.
Since the early days of the world-wide web, local computer engineers have harvested the power of the Internet in the service of running. Recognizing its unlimited potential and reach, they turned to the Internet to disseminate running information and results, and led the world in broadcasting live numerous track and field meets.
Syracuse's running adventure on the Internet began in April 1995 with the creation of the Syracuse Running Page, followed by home pages for the Syracuse Chargers Track Club and the Syracuse University Track and Field program. In July 1995, complete results from the Cazenovia 4th of July road races were posted within hours of the end of the race, including the times and places of all thousand runners.
Syracuse's place in running journalism history was assured with the successful live broadcast on the world-wide web of an all-comers track and field meet from Manley Field House in January 1996. During that broadcast, heats were entered as they formed, and results were displayed at the end of each event. The world took notice, and Runner's World attempted similar coverage of the US men's Olympic Trials for the Marathon a few weeks later.
In February 1997, the BIG EAST Indoor Track and Field Championship were broadcast live from the Carrier Dome at Syracuse University. This time, in addition to team rosters, heats and results, a minute-by-minute commentary of the activity on the track was transmitted over the Internet, and digital pictures were posted throughout the meet.
The NYSPHSAA indoor track and field championship was held in the Carrier Dome on March 7, 1998. The event was broadcast in live audio on the world-wide web, carrying the announcer's comments and the sounds of the Dome to a world-wide audience. Once more, the world took notice, and it was only a matter of time before major national and international meets followed suite.
Next Saturday, the NYSPHSAA indoor track and field championship returns to the Dome. This time, the computer engineering team will attempt the ultimate in Internet coverage by broadcasting the entire meet live in video and audio. Viewers with the proper equipment can tune in at http://uplink.syr.edu/NYSPHSAA starting at 8:30am.
The planned broadcast was made possible by new Internet standards for real time streaming data, and by advances in data compression algorithms. By using Real Networks G2 components, the team expects to broadcast images at a resolution of 320 pixels by 240 pixels, at a refresh rate of 20 frames per second. This resolution approaches the quality achieved by broadcast television, and requires a high bandwidth for transmission.
Saturday's broadcast from the Carrier Dome will be carried at 220 kilo bits per second, a rate that exceeds the capacity of telephone modems. Therefore, only computer users connected to corporate or academic local area networks, and subscribers to cable and satellite internet providers, will be able to watching the high-speed streaming video.
Far from using off-the-shelf technology, the planned broadcast required extensive analysis and lengthy planning. The placement of the various components of the system necessitated a special network configuration to reduce the number of routers on the critical path. In addition, a high-speed connection of 100 mega bits per second was established directly onto the Internet to prevent network congestion at the source.
Next Saturday, as viewers from around the world watch on their computer screens the images of high school athletes tearing down the track, they will be watching the dawn of a new era in sports broadcasting.
Kamal Jabbour will watch with great expectations the world's first live video web-cast of a track meet. His RUNNING Column appears in The Post-Standard on Mondays. He maintains The Syracuse Running Page and receives email at firstname.lastname@example.org.