February 10, 2006 2:47 PM PST
Video, podcasts and blogs track Olympic Games
He's in Turin, Italy, now, preparing for the snowboardcross event, a mixture of speed and style. He's taken the chairlift over the course once and thinks it may be a little longer than the ordinary courses.
"There's always a little bit of fear there, that's what keeps you alive," he says, in one of the U.S. Olympic team's early podcasts from the 2006 Winter Olympics.
Holland's confident, surfer-dude interview is one of a myriad of online features that are bringing sports audiences ever closer to the Olympic Games, which kick off Friday night. This year, podcasts, blogs, video, animation and satellite images of the event locations all will give viewers a more intimate look at the events and athletes' lives than they've ever had.
It's also one of the biggest online events of the year for companies like ESPN, Yahoo and NBC Universal, which has the exclusive broadcast rights in the United States.
Turin 2006 at a glance
Some highlights of Olympic coverage online.
Explanations of events
Torino 2006 animations
U.S. Olympic team
NBC Universal spokesman Brian Walker said the company had more than 2,700 people in Turin, working in all capacities. The company's Olympics Web site is aimed at giving TV viewers a deeper look at the games and the athletes, as well as providing them with a way to get near-instant event results, before the delayed TV broadcasts are aired.
"We've learned that people want to get as close to the Games as possible," Walker said in an e-mail interview.
Yahoo's sports division had its highest traffic month during the Athens Summer Olympics in 2004, attracting 14 million viewers, a company representative said. That experience led Yahoo to invest heavily in covering this year's Games, hiring five former Olympic athletes as analysts, as well as drawing on the services of an Associated Press writer who will work exclusively for the online company during the Games.
"What we always end up hearing from users is that (they) want more analysis," said Yahoo spokesman Dan Berger. "We put a lot of resources behind this. It's really important."
Watching, listening, reading
In the United States, NBC Universal is the place to go for video of the actual events, though it will offer no live video. The British Broadcasting Corporation is carrying live video of some events, but it will block access for users outside the United Kingdom.
The U.S. team is keeping up a Podcast page that features interviews with many of the team's members, including Holland. Traditional media organizations including The New York Times, The Associated Press, and The Baltimore Sun are distributing their own podcast reports on the events, which are available through Apple Computer's iTunes software.
As with virtually all major events today, the games will also be heavily blogged.
NBC Universal has several blogs, including one main ongoing blog by its reporters and analysts in Italy, and one that's been penned by a friend of downhill skier Bode Miller as they've traveled across Europe together on the way to Turin.
The official Olympics site itself offers an occasional blog by Italian cross-country skier Stefania Belmondo.
Several sites offer good explanations of what happens in each event--often important for newer events such as Holland's snowboardcross, or even older sports such as the biathlon cross-country skiing-shooting mix, details of which may be unfamiliar to many viewers.
The official Olympics site provides perhaps the best of these explanations, with detailed animations showing what's supposed to happen at each stage of each event.
For those who want a satellite's-eye view of exactly where all these events are taking place, Google has provided new high-resolution maps inside its Google Earth software program, which allow a viewer to zoom right into the mountains to see where the adrenalin-filled skiers will soon be slaloming downhill.
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