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"Wavescan" is a weekly program for long distance radio hobbyists produced by Dr. Adrian M. Peterson, Coordinator of International Relations for Adventist World Radio. AWR carries the program over many of its stations (including shortwave). Adrian Peterson is a highly regarded DXer and radio historian, and often includes features on radio history in his program. We are reproducing those features below, with Dr. Peterson's permission and assistance.

Wavescan, October 7, 2012

Australian Olympic Radio: 1956 Summer Games

As you will remember, here in Wavescan two weeks back, we presented the story of the Olympic Games on shortwave, and we covered the prewar eras up to the year 1936. During the 1924 Summer Games in Paris and the 1928 Summer Games in Amsterdam, there was news coverage on radio about some of the these sports events, but no live coverage on radio.

Then in the 1932 Winter Olympics at Lake Placid in New York, there was live coverage on radio of some of these sports events for the 1st time, and these programs were broadcast on mediumwave throughout the United States, and on international shortwave also. However, as Jim Hilliker pointed out in his research, the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles were accorded some news coverage on radio, both local mediumwave and international shortwave, but no live coverage was permitted, even though requests for live radio coverage had been lodged.

However, during the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, these sports events were accorded wide coverage on local radio and also on international shortwave. The German government installed a total of 8 additional shortwave transmitters at 50 kW at Zeesen, near Berlin, specifically to ensure worldwide coverage of these sporting events.

Interestingly, during the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne, Australia, extensive news coverage on shortwave was given to these sporting events, though in a very different way. That is what we look at today here in Wavescan.

The Australian continent is widely separated from all other major land masses on planet Earth. The only way in and the only way out is by boat or plane. Likewise, for wide spread international news coverage, the only practical way is by undersea cable, or by shortwave radio.

The very first occasion in which there was shortwave coverage for sports events in Australia was for the British Empire Games in Sydney during the summer of 1938. These summer games were held in the Cricket Grounds from February 5 - 12, and they formed part of the 150th anniversary of the founding of the city of Sydney.

The ABC was granted exclusive rights for the live broadcast of these sporting events and local mediumwave radio covered the major highlights. On shortwave, it is understood that both VK2ME with 10 kW at Pennant Hills & VLR with 2 kW at Lyndhurst relayed this information to the world.

In order to ensure maximum coverage of the Melbourne Olympics throughout the world, the Australian government directed that all available shortwave transmitters in use on the continent should be made available for the flow of news reports to countries overseas. This directive applied to government and commercial shortwave stations, as well as to those in use by the armed forces.

As a result of this co-operative gesture to the international news media, it is estimated that a total of somewhere around 50 shortwave transmitters in Australia carried Olympic reports in 1956. These reports were in the form of live and recorded commentaries, voiced news reports, fax reports, and fast speed Morse reports for publication in newspapers. The BBC alone co-opted many linguists in Australia to report on the Olympic events in 40 different languages for inclusion in their World Service broadcasts.

At home, all 160 mediumwave stations throughout the continent, ABC & commercial, carried various forms of Olympic coverage, as well as the 4 new experimental FM stations operated by the ABC. At the time, television was very new in Australia, and all 6 stations, in Melbourne & Sydney, ensured that they were ready on air for the occasion.

On shortwave, the ABC Home Services operated 9 transmitters at 10 kW & 2 kW in 4 states, as well as 1 at Port Moresby in New Guinea, and they all carried Olympic news at whatever was on the air from their local mediumwave counterpart at the time.

Two additional transmitters were installed at Radio Australia, Shepparton for increased Olympic coverage, and these were an American made 50 kW RCA unit on the air as VLD, and a 10 kW Australian made STC unit as VLY. These 2 new units supplemented the coverage from the 3 already existing units, VLA & VLB at 100 kW and VLC at 50 kW.

The very new shortwave communication station located at Doonside near Sydney in New South Wales also carried Olympic news coverage, though it is not known just how many transmitters were in use for this purpose. It is known though that several transmitters were already on the air, ranging in power from 10 kW up to around 30 kW.

The Doonside radio station was a replacement for the more familiar AWA station at Pennant Hills that had been on the air with the pre-war programming of VK2ME, and the wartime programming of Australia Calling, Radio Australia. However, to ensure adequate coverage of the Olympic events in 1956, Pennant Hills was kept alive as a back up for Doonside as needed.

It is understood that the huge radio transmitting station operated by the Royal Australian Navy at Belconnen, near the federal capital Canberra, was the main carrier for the flow of news to overseas countries. At the height of its capacity, this station VHP, was on the air with 38 shortwave transmitters and 44 antenna systems. However, it would be obvious that not all of these units were turned over for temporary Olympic usage.

It is also possible that the navy radio station near Darwin in the Northern Territory, station VHI, acted at times as a relay station on behalf of its Belconnen counterpart VHP, as was the case when required for the onward transmission of regular navy messages.

We are told that the army radio station at Diggers Rest in Victoria with its shortwave transmitters also forwarded Olympic messages from its quite new re-built facility. In addition, it is also stated that air force transmitter stations carried Olympic news, but the details of these facilities is at present unknown.

At the time of the Melbourne Olympics, the AWA Beam Station at Fiskville in Victoria was still in use for the coveyance of international messages, Morse & voice. It would appear that their 3 transmitters at around 10 kW under the callsigns VIY & VIZ would have been utilized for Olympic purposes as well.

Thus it was, that for a period of just 17 days, Australia's massive shortwave capability was pressed into service in the interests of international good will and friendship. In fact, it was stated in the newspapers at the conclusion of the Melbourne Olympic Games of 1956 that they were rightly nicknamed, the Friendship Games.

World's First Jamming Transmissions

International radio monitors in our world of today are quite familiar with the matter of the jamming of radio broadcast programming. For example, some of the countries in the Middle East and the Far East are currently jamming the broadcast of what they consider undesirable programming from another country, on both shortwave and mediumwave.

The usual procedure is to tune a jamming transmitter onto the same channel as the incoming and supposedly undesirable broadcasts, and then modulate the jamming transmitter with noise, or music or noisy programming. In this way, it becomes very difficult or even impossible for listeners in the target country to hear the programming from the distant radio station.

Back during the era of the Cold War, shortwave listeners all around the world were aware of multitudes of jamming transmissions that were heard all across every international shortwave band. This annoying procedure began around the year 1948.

However, it was on the evening of November 29, 1988, that the Soviet Union ceased to jam all foreign radio stations. Thus it was that the extensive jamming era that lasted for 40 years was now over. It is stated that when the USSR switched off their massive network of jamming stations, they were operating more than 1600 jamming transmitters in about 120 jamming radio centers.

Radio historians tell us that the earliest known jamming of radio broadcast programming took place in the late 1920s. During that era, Berlin was jamming the broadcasts of Radio Komintern in Moscow.

At that time, Moscow was on the air with 40 kW on 1450 metres (207 kHz) under the callsign RA1. The antenna tower was the famous and historic Shukov Tower, standing more than 500 feet tall that was located for so long at 37 Shabolovskaya Street in Moscow.

However, the story of the jamming of wireless transmissions goes back much further than that. Back in the era of wireless experimentation under the famous Guglielmo Marconi, it was discovered that two wireless transmitters on the air at nearby locations at the same time succeeded in turning the Morse Code signals of both transmissions into an unintelligible mess, a hopeless garble. This was simply an unintended case of jamming, due to the fact that the wireless emanations in that era were untuned and very wide band.

In September 1899, Marconi visited the United States at the invitation of the New York Herald. It was arranged that he would send out news releases in Morse Code on the progress of the 10th America's Cup, a yacht race between two contenders, the American "Columbia" owned by the financier J. P. Morgan & the British "Shamrock" (1) owned by Sir Thomas Lipton of tea fame.

In order to cover the race as it proceeded off the coast of New Jersey, Marconi placed wireless equipment on the ship "Ponce", owned by the Puerto Line, and the "Mackay Bennett", a cable ship at anchor near the Sandy Hook Lighthouse. During the three stages of the race, lasting for 2-1/2 weeks, Marconi successfully Morsed the information back to the New York Herald. We might add, the American contender, "Columbia" won the three successive events outright.

Two years later, there was a re-run of the same race at the same location between the same two sparring partners, J. P. Morgan with his same "Columbia" and Lipton with a newly designed yacht, the "Shamrock 2". However, due to the success of the Marconi news reports by wireless 2 years earlier, two other wireless companies got into the act.

Marconi equipment was installed into the ship "Mindora" with the landbased station installed at the Navesink Twin Lighthouse, and news bulletins were Morsed ashore for AP, the Associated Press.

Another company, headed up by Lee de Forest, placed wireless equipment on an old schooner, the "Maid of the Mist" which was towed around by the tugboat "William J. Sewell". The de Forest news bulletins were Morsed ashore for the Publishers Press association.

In addition the International Wireless Telegraph company also installed wireless equipment on board ship and at a landbased location at Galilee in coastal New Jersey. Morse code coverage from this station did at times produce some form of jamming against the transmissions from the Marconi & de Forest stations.

Initially there was some on air squabbling between the Marconi & the de Forest stations due to the fact that both temporary wireless stations were using untuned equipment, but for the benefit of both, they worked out a mutually agreeable sharing of time for their transmissions. Once again, the American "Columbia" was the winner over the British "Shamrock 2."

However, two years later again, there was another running of the America's Cup, the 12th since the original event in 1851, when the American yacht, "America" won the race around the Isle of Wight in the English Channel; hence the name, "America's Cup". In the 1903 event, the American yacht, "Reliance" owned by another financier Cornelius Vanderbilt was competing against the British "Shamrock 3", owned still by Sir Thomas Lipton. During this event, there was at times some form of deliberate jamming apparently by a 3rd party.

Both the American Marconi company and the Lee de Forest company placed wireless equipment on ships hired for the occasion so that they could transmit news bulletins back to the shore. However, there was this 3rd contender, and it was Dr. Gustav P. Gehring and his International Wireless Telegraph company with a powerful wireless station at the Navesink Twin Lights Lighthouse.

It was arranged in advance that the Gehring station would transmit long dashes in Morse Code, and that the arrangement of these multiple dashes would indicate various aspects of information associated with the yacht race. Even though these very long dashes in Morse Code did signify news information, the real purpose was to jam the transmissions for the other two news organizations, Associated Press & Publishers Press Association. This jamming transmitter succeeded in totally obliterating the news bulletins on behalf of the two other news organizations, AP & PPA.

The results of this 12th America's Cup were that the American yacht "Reliance" won the three stages of the 1903 race, and neither AP nor PPA received any reliable news bulletins by wireless. This was the 1st known case of the deliberate and planned jamming of wireless transmissions, and it happened just 109 years ago, in the summer of the year 1903.