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Germany

Further, Faster, Fitter: the Internet at the Olympics

Starting on the 8th of February, millions of TV viewers will tune in to the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. But the internet is also pumping up and getting into shape for the games.

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The internet is gearing up for a jump start in the Winter Olympics

During the Olympics, fans will spend their evenings flipping from channel to channel for the best coverage of their national sports’ heroes. But after suffering through a series of annoying five minute ad breaks, the remote-control surfer will have gotten so fed up, that when the perky moderator says, "and don’t go away, we’ll be right back after our commercial break", the viewer will simply zap the whole tube off.

That’s not the case in the internet. Here, the user can indulge in an unbroken, uninterrupted pursuit of the Olympic dream, or at least the observer side of it.

Because the majority of independent internet sites (i.e. those not associated with an "official Olympic" media provider) are forbidden from offering live coverage, most websites will focus on informative background reporting and profiles of favorite athletes.

Curling basics

A good example of background coverage on the internet is the website "Curlingbasics". Along the motto "everything you wanted to know, but were afraid to ask", the website offers plenty of information on the main topics in the icy sport, illustrated in detail with animated graphics.

For example, "what exactly is a back house weight?" Answer: "A stone thrown with sufficient momentum to reach the ‘back of the house’; the back of the house is the portion of the 12-foot ring behind the tee line and in proximity to the center line." Everything clear? If not, just click the rock icon and the play is put in motion: an animated stone moves across the court and falls into the described position.

The back house weight is only the beginning of a detailed explanation of what’s sure to become the www’s hottest Olympic sport.

Star-studded sports

The Olympics wouldn’t be what they are today without the stars. Who’s forgotten the story of Tanya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan?

The internet is ideal for perusing the latest gossip on Olympic athletes. Almost every star has their own homepage or a fan website with their athletic and family history, favorite colors, foods and music.

In Germany the hottest young star athletes compete in the coldest sports: the ski jumpers Sven Hannawald and Martin Schmitt. And both have their own popular homepages, frequently visited by teenage girls.

Sven’s page is full of juicy personal details from his favorite cake recipe and thoughts about going to the Olympics to a cut-out of a full size poster of the skiing hero. Internet savvy fans can download the cut-out, piece it together with others collected over three months for a life size picture of the heart-throb in leather jacket. Emotions run rampant on the 600-page Hanni (Sven) forum, which is almost exclusively visited by idolizing girls.

And if that’s not enough to bring the star-cult alive, internet surfers can visit Sven’s competitor’s page for even more in-depth reporting. Martin Schmitt’s forum is equally as frequented. It’s obvious what German girls will be wondering during Salt Lake City: "Can someone please tell me (two question marks)?? How you know, that Martin has a girlfriend (six question marks)??????"

Less the internet and star-cults be accused of gender discrimination, the men also get their full share with the speed skater Anni Friesinger. The Olympic favorite offers a professionally designed website with a comprehensive photo gallery. Alongside the numerous photos of Anni and her cat Snoopy, men get an eye full of Anni’s other talents: erotic modeling. Not surprising, the guest book is full of marriage proposals and professions of undying love.

Information

Where do you click if you need quick and detailed information about the games themselves? Since most internet providers are prohibited from offering live broad band streaming and moveable pictures, they won’t be able to offer everything the die-hard fan wants.

The first stop for those looking for more virtual action is the official page of the games. Here you’ll find a schedule of events, game line-ups, locations, results, portraits of the winners, and sports’ history. The webpage for Salt Lake City also offers lots of information on the activities around the games, for instance, when and where protests may take place.

Second stop for live coverage is one of the websites for the official media providers. In English, the American TV station NBC offers the most up-to-date online coverage including a 20-minute highlight film streamed onto the site throughout the day.

Official media providers in other countries will also have their websites. Their focus will be more on their home athletes and favorite national sports, but they offer a great alternative to the American-driven info-sites.

And for those interested in taking a peak at the German and European angle, be sure to check out DW-WORLD’s Olympic special.

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