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NFL investigation into Super Bowl outage

JULIAN LINDEN
Last updated 08:20 05/02/2013
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Ray Lewis of the Baltimore Ravens celebrates his team's victory over San Fransisco in the Super Bowl.

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The National Football League, the Superdome and a utility investigating the cause of a power outage at one of the world's most watched and meticulously planned events, today exonerated the halftime show from blame in the Super Bowl mishap.

With more than 108 million Americans watching along with television viewers in 180 countries, about half the stadium lights went dark early in the second half of the game, in which the Baltimore Ravens defeated the San Francisco 49ers, 34-31.

The 35-minute disruption came moments after performer Beyonce lit up the Superdome with a halftime spectacular that officials said was powered by generators and would not have sapped the stadium's electricity.

"There's no indication at all that this was caused by the halftime show," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell told reporters on Monday. "I know that's out there, that Beyonce's halftime show had something to do with it. That is not the case from anything we have at this point."

The Super Bowl ranks with the Olympic Games and soccer's World Cup among the most planned sporting events in the world, and viewership is so intense that advertisements costing $4 million for 30 seconds on US TV are considered part of the show.

"It (the outage) was on an epic scale for them (organizers) across the board. They start planning Super Bowls approximately four to six years out. It's the same thing with Olympic committees," said Dave Longwill, vice president for special events at TBA Global, which stages large events.

"I'm sure they're already looking at reviewing what's our contingency plan if this happens at the next one," he said.

Entergy Corp, the utility providing power to the Superdome, said its distribution and transmission feeders were serving the Superdome at all times.

A piece of equipment designed to monitor electrical load sensed an abnormality in the system where the Superdome equipment intersects with Entergy's feed into the building, triggering an automatic cut in power, Entergy said in a joint statement with the Superdome's management company, SMG.

"The halftime show, as the commissioner said, was running on 100 percent generated power, which means it was not on our grid at all," said Doug Thornton, senior vice president of SMG.

"There were no injuries, people remained calm, we had a pre-programmed announcement that was actually played. These are things that we actually drilled for," Thornton said.

None of the players or coaches said the stoppage had any impact on the game, and Goodell said the power problem would not adversely affect future bids by New Orleans to stage the Super Bowl.

Such power interruptions are often not caused by a power supply issue, said Jeff Spence, president of Atlanta-based Innovolt Inc, whose products help protect sensitive electronic devices from a variety of power disturbances.

The grid is just fine, but any building or facility built more than a few years ago is unlikely to be able to keep up with current power demand and the complexity of the power system in use, Spence said.

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"We would not have been able to get the lights on sooner," once they were knocked off, Spence said. "Ideally, what you want to do is make sure the lights don't turn off. That's a bad thing; it takes a long time for them to get going."

- Reuters

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