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Olympics on the web, live, worldwide: when?

Filed in: culture, media, sports, Wed, Aug 6 2008 13:48 PT

On the eve of the first Olympics in which live and on-demand content will be available on the web in most countries, I have to wonder how long it will be until the IOC recognizes that they should no longer bother to embargo content to match the prime-time schedules of viewers around the world.

This time, broadcast licensees in many countries will be running their own Olympics video sites (and 77 more will have a YouTube channel, restricted to their countries by geolocation). This builds on the 2004 coverage, which was spectacular in the UK, thanks to the BBC, but generally pretty poor everywhere else. It served as a good proof of concept, at least. I do think, though, that the feedback this time around will be that users will be confused, or frustrated about content not being where they expect it to be, since the networks will hold on to it until it’s been broadcast.

Hardcore Olympics fans don’t care when it’s prime time. And they get impatient when they know the event is finished, but still, they don’t see the results. On top of that, we have time-shifting technology, which evens out the playing field for everyone. So when will the IOC finally realize what’s good for them, and require broadcasters to show events online, in real time?

My guess is no later than 2016. Beijing is the largest experiment yet in web video, and they’ll have enough time to learn in time for the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver/Whistler. The Winter Games are much smaller, in terms of events, participants and viewers, so this could be a great dry run. London hosts in 2012, and their infrastructure is probably much better suited to a widescale video deployment. My only question is whether there are too many signed agreements already, which would preclude a full, real-time Games.

After London, it’s hazy. The Winter Games in 2014 are in Sochi, Russia, and even six years out, I don’t have high hopes for them to take the lead in Internet distribution. That leaves the 2016 Games, which are down to Madrid, Chicago, Tokyo and Rio de Janeiro. All but Rio could pull it off easily, and maybe with 8 years of preparation, Rio would be ready too.

Any longer than that, and I think people the world over will start to wonder when the Olympics, an event created to sponsor international unity, will live up to its billing and put the athletes in the spotlight, even when that spotlight falls at 3am Eastern, or Central European, or Japan Standard Time.

Torino

Filed in: media, personal, sports, Mon, Feb 13 2006 23:58 PT

I didn’t know it until now, but apparently minimalist techno god Richie Hawtin composed some of the music performed in the opening ceremonies of the XX Olympic Winter Games this past Saturday. Sweet.
It’s a little-known fact, usually recycled every two years or so, that I’m a hardcore Olympics geek. I worked for the US Olympic Committee for a short period in 1995, and was in Olympic House when Salt Lake City won the 2002 bid. I may still have the hat from that, which featured a logo that ended up being replaced. I carried the ’95 US Olympic Festival torch, and hope someday to carry the real one. I was quoted in USA Today in 2000 talking about the sad shape of Olympic TV coverage in the US. (CBS’ Nagano coverage was a low point; 2006 gets a B+ so far.) And I can name the sites of both winter and summer Olympics dating back to 1960.

So I’m digging out my Beijing 2008 hat tomorrow, and looking at real estate in Whistler, though that may be just a little overkill. I expect that I will spend at least a few days in Vancouver for the 2010 Games, but I’d really like to see what the Chinese will do in ’08. I was there in late 2003, and the work was already in full swing. If I miss both of them, then I suppose I’ll have to start my Olympic tourism with London in 2012, innit?

How to show support, NFL edition

Filed in: sports, Fri, Sep 2 2005 17:11 PT

There’s too much to say about what’s going on with the Hurricane Katrina, and too many people are talking about it for me to have much of anything you haven’t read. So here’s a subtle suggestion for the NFL. There will be sixteen opening games on the weekend of September 11th. Let all sixteen fields have the New Orleans Saints logo on the 50. It’s a small thing, really, but to the serious football fan, it may be enough to trip some subconscious triggers, and show a little solidarity throughout the league in the process. This year, the Saints are America’s Team.

Wade Boggs

Filed in: sports, Tue, Jan 4 2005 17:08 PT

Wade Boggs has been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Boggs played over 10 years with the Red Sox, followed by five with the Hated Yankees (during which he won a World Series ring), and finished his career as the crowd-drawing veteran in Tampa Bay. (He also pitched So he’s in the Hall, and the only question going through my mind was: what hat is he going to wear? You see, the bronze plaques of the Hall of Famers can only bear one team’s logo, and the Hall decides which team the player is most closely associated with. Were he to enter as a Hated Yankee, much of New England would be devastated.

But, good news: the Boston Globe reports that he is most likely to be immortalized in a Red Sox cap. Woohoo!

(This post is only irrational if you didn’t grow up in Massachusetts.)

Red October

Filed in: sports, Thu, Oct 28 2004 15:45 PT

I have waited my entire life to say this:

Congratulations to the World Series Champion Boston Red Sox.

Ahh. That’s better. Now I don’t have to repeat Marty Nolan’s famous suffering Sox fan quote for the rest of my life: “The Red Sox killed my father. And now they’re coming after me.”

My new Red Sox hat

Filed in: culture, personal, sports, Sun, Sep 26 2004 06:20 PT

This week, I reclaimed my New England heritage. I bought a new Red Sox hat.

With 8 games to go in the baseball season, and a looming playoff showdown against New York, Boston is in the midst of Red Sox mania. It’s made all the more present by a 3-game series against the Yankees at Fenway Park. You can see it on the subway (that is, the T): the Sox hat is a uniform here. Even the women are wearing them. Yankee apparel, by contrast, leaves you open to at least a verbal altercation.

The hat is a symbol of sporting struggle. And the dirtier, the better. The die-hard fans have a hat they’ve worn since before they can remember. It’s frayed on the bill, and doesn’t look like it’s ever been washed. Even my brand new one looks a little bit faded. If you see a hardcore Sox fan wearing a crisp new Sox hat, it’s a reasonably safe bet that they’re going to a formal event, like a court date or a funeral service.

Entire generations have come and gone hoping for a world championship. And god forbid we finally win. I was in Denver when the Avalanche won the Stanley Cup. There were riots in LoDo. And that was the first year the Avs played there. It’s been 86 years for the Sox. Boston will be a smoking crater. But, I think everyone will agree, it’ll be a hell of a way to go.

Paralympics won’t be seen in US

Filed in: accessibility, sports, Fri, Sep 17 2004 17:06 PT

The 2004 Paralympic Games opened today, and will run until September 28. Whether or not you noticed probably depends on what country you’re in.

If you’re in the UK, the BBC is streaming them on the Web (UK only, just like the Olympics), and will have live coverage on BBC Two for 90 minutes a day. In addition, they’re being covered on BBC Five Live radio, which streams live on the Web.

If you’re in Canada, you’ll be able to catch an hour or two of Paralympics broadcasting each day on CBC, according to their Paralympics site.

If you’re in the United States?

Nothing. Not a single minute of dedicated Paralympics coverage. The USA Paralympic site reports that American coverage is “non-existent”. And not from lack of trying. They say they tried securing a broadcast with several networks.

Now, if I remember correctly, NBC broadcast the Olympic Games at the same site on seven networks: the flagship, CNBC, MSNBC, Bravo, USA, Telemundo, and their HDTV network. They proudly proclaimed that there would be over 1200 hours of Olympic coverage. I wonder how proud they should be now that equally deserving athletes now get no coverage of their Games, simply because of the stigma attached to their disabilities.

This is outrageous. Time was, maybe you’d get to see an hour-long wrap-up of the Paralympics after they were all over, which in and of itself isn’t particularly generous, but this year, we won’t even see that. It is shameful to see NBC give the lie to its own claims that the Games are about the athletes, and their triumphs over adversity. Now we see that’s only when it’s grossly profitable. Otherwise, they can’t be bothered. It’s always sad when reality strikes like this.

Button-mashers: stop the madness

Filed in: games, sports, Wed, Aug 4 2004 17:45 PT

Since this year is divisible by four, we get to suffer though another Olympics game. This time it’s “Athens 2004”, a button-masher just like all the others.

Being a bit of a video-game historian, I can point to 1983’s Track and Field console as the pinnacle of athletics game playability. There were only three buttons, spaced well apart, to execute all of the moves. It was fun, it was exhausting, and sadly, it was never repeated.

I can also state authoritatively that every Olympics video game I have played since then has absolutely sucked. Since the NES-style joystick took hold, the entire physics of the original Track and Field was obsoleted for all but the most hardcore players, who bought arcade joysticks for their game systems. Even now, over 20 years after T&F, the A-B button-mashing treatment lives on, despite the addition of 310 new controls on the modern gamepad. Some of the minigames in the Olympic category may have skill elements to them, but most of them still focus on button-mashing.

Do these people not have money to test this stuff on users, or are they just too lazy to? These games don’t even hold a candle to party games like the Mario Party or Fuzion Frenzy series. It’s understandable for a video game company to buy the rights to a franchise like the Olympics to make a quick buck every four years, but, well, maybe next time they can put a little effort into making it, you know, fun. This quadrennium, I’m sitting it out.

Red Sox: and so it goes

Filed in: sports, Fri, Oct 17 2003 17:30 PT

Boston Red Sox logo with a black border around it

I know what heartbreak is, for I am a Boston Red Sox fan.

Meg Hourihan reports from Boston on what it’s like to see the Sox’ shot at the World Series evaporate. Dave Winer quotes a caller to a radio show who says this is worse than in 1986, when the Sox were one out from winning the World Series, but lost a two-run lead with two outs, and infamously, the Bill Buckner error cost them the game, and ultimately the Series.

And it is worse, in a way, because it’s the hated Yankees who beat us this time. But at least we don’t have that one play, the Buckner, the Bucky Dent, that one moment where you knew it was going to fall apart. (Aside from the announcer’s call, but that’s an acquired taste.) You could say that it was when Pedro Martinez wouldn’t come out, and gave up the game-tying runs to Hideki Matsui, but that’s just baseball.

And so it goes, as I said last night. I can’t look in the newspapers or the sports channels until all this has passed. I won’t be watching the Series, because it’ll be too boring for me. My season is over. Pain gives in to anger, anger to resignation.

And so it goes.

We knew it was trouble

Filed in: sports, 04:09 PT

Boston Red Sox logo

I’m writing this in the bottom of the 8th inning.

Here’s how you can tell if you’re a Red Sox fan. If it’s in the 8th inning with one out, and the Sox leading 5-2, and the announcer says:

“…with the Red Sox five defensive outs away…”

You know you’re in for some trouble.

Still the 8th inning with one out. The score is tied at 5.

Update (16 Oct, 21:17): The Yankees win, 6-5, in the 11th inning. And so it goes.

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