Online News Operations Gear Up For Winter Olympics

By: Anick Jesdanun, AP Internet Writer

(AP) If figure skating on television isn’t your fancy, log on the Internet for the latest on curling, the biathlon and other sports less prominent in the United States. Or learn about the equipment used, brush up on Olympic history, even play a few online games.

Several Web sites plan extensive coverage of the Winter Games in Salt Lake City, which formally open Friday. For 17 days, expect a saturation of stories on events and athletes along with scores and results on every event and finisher.

The only thing missing will be video. The International Olympic Committee won’t allow it,
concerned the Net could interfere with broadcast rights.

MSNBC is producing the two official sites: Olympics.com for the international audience and NBCOlympics.com for Americans. Like NBC television, the NBC site is likely to highlight sports that are most popular in the
United States.

The international version, also accessible at SaltLake2002.com, will change its front page as
various parts of the world are awake. That means ski jumping during periods of peak Asian traffic; biathlon and cross-country skiing for western Europeans; and curling and ice hockey for Canadians, said Tom Feuer, the coordinating producer for the official sites.

“We’re trying to take what we feel are our largest audiences and make sure we’re highlighting those events when they are likely to be logged on,” Feuer said.

In addition, both sites will have special sections for each of the 15 sports and will carry
still images from NBC’s television cameras. Also available: 360-degree panoramas of various venues, along with a day-by-day photo gallery of the Olympic torch relay.

Yahoo!, ESPN, CBS Sportsline and The Associated Press’ The WIRE will be among the nonofficial sites offering stories, photos and results. America Online and CompuServe will also have coverage within their premium online services and limited features on their Netscape Web portal. Much of the coverage will focus on Americans.

Yahoo, for instance, has a deal with the U.S. Olympic Committee to provide bios, interviews and other commentary featuring U.S. athletes. AOL will break out news by country, but its overall layout will target the U.S. audience.

For a truly international perspective, try the British Broadcasting Corp. Web site. Andrew
Thompson, head of new media for BBC Sports, said coverage of British stars and victories will be secondary. While you’re at the BBC site, check out its “Ace Powder’s Mountain Mayhem” game, where the object is to grab medals along a downhill course without hitting rocks, bears and tourists.

For something more educational, The New York Times‘ Web site has sports-themed crossword puzzles, along with lesson plans for school teachers.

AOL, meanwhile, will offer a daily screensaver featuring the best photos. AP’s WIRE has animated graphics on the Games’ history, venues and equipment.

Some athletes will write diaries for ESPN’s site, which will also have insights on the scientific aspects of sports from “The Science Guy,” Bill Nye.

Hometown outlets — The Salt Lake Tribune, the Deseret News, and KSL TV and radio — will have extensive coverage of the host city, including the volunteers, the artists and nightlife.

Ultimately, though, coverage will be about “who won and why,” said Joe Ferreira, vice president of programming at CBS Sportsline. That means quick updates of results and analyses from the site’s network of stringers, he said.

Ditto at MSNBC. “We’re going to have these live results going constantly,” Feuer said.

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