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Tour of Flanders Virtual Cycling Race

 

Can a global pandemic stop one of the most prestigious sporting events? Despite the challenges, the organizers of the Tour of Flanders decided to get creative and carry on. Instead of canceling the race as other events have done, Flanders Classics collaborated with Kiswe, Bkool, and Sporza to find an innovative solution to continue the 104-year tradition.

 

In just 11 days, the team came up with a virtual version of the race titled De Ronde 2020: The Lockdown Edition, inspired by the rising trend of indoor cycling programs. Using cycling simulator Bkool and Kiswe’s remote production platform, 13 professional cyclists raced the last 32 km of the Tour of Flanders on their bicycles at home. The broadcast brought in live feeds from 16 different cameras: three virtual and 13 smartphone cameras of each cyclist from around the world. The setup was as simple as a smartphone or webcam connected over WiFi which sent an RTMP feed to Kiswe, followed by distribution through Sporza’s media network.

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Not only was the race conducted remotely, but so was the production and commentary. Over 15 people produced the event from home or in off-site studios across the U.S., the U.K. and Belgium. Behind the scenes, the directors, camera operators and athletes collaborated through text- and audio-based communication. Additionally, remote commentators provided their unique narrative of the live event, appearing through video PiPs (picture-in-picture) or audio. Audiences were able to view a dynamic event in the language or commentary of their choice, along with different point-of-views, scenes and real-time stats. In particular, the option to watch on various social platforms increased viewership among younger audiences.

 

The virtual Tour of Flanders inspired dozens of other sporting events by showcasing the capabilities of remote production during an unprecedented time.