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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 August, 2004, 15:54 GMT 16:54 UK
Online thrills for Olympic fans
By Tony Matthews

With more than 1,200 hours of television and 200 hours of radio, the Athens Olympics will be the biggest operation BBC sport has ever mounted.

Olympics stadium
Athens has been working hard to finish all the venues
But this time round, keen sports fans in the UK will be able to watch thousands of hours of coverage that was previously unavailable, thanks to digital TV and the internet.

"The Olympics provides over 3,000 hours of television," said Olympics executive producer for the BBC Martin Hopkins.

"Digital enables us to offer more output and give our audiences more choice about what they watch. The viewer has greater control."

The 250 hours of BBC One and BBC Two coverage will be supplemented by a further 1,000 hours delivered to digital TV viewers.

The service will also carry Olympic commentary from Radio Five Live, which is planning 180 hours of coverage.

Satellite and cable viewers will be able to choose from four extra events in addition to what is on the mainstream channels, while Freeview will offer access to two additional events.

The service from 7am until around 11.30pm daily will be supported by a tickertape service, up-to-date results and medals tables and a schedule tool to enable viewers to navigate through it all more easily.

Broadband treat

Television is only part of it, Athens 2004 is being billed as the first interactive Olympics and broadband will play a major part.

The BBC sports site offers live coverage and highlights to the desktops of residential broadband customers in the UK.

Graphic of Olympic stadium

"We're going to stream live and on demand action for UK broadband subscribers," says Ben Gallop, editor, BBC Sport Interactive.

"The service will carry the same five streams as those offered on interactive television.

"There will also be an on-demand service, which will allow people to pull up the big events of the day and review the performances of the British competitors.

"We think it will be attractive for users looking to catch up on the day's events while also doing other tasks on their PCs such as reading news and results, accessing the message boards or playing online games.

"The latest figures show that 30% of broadband users don't have digital TV, so there's a sizeable proportion of people there we could reach," he explained.

Interactive summer

A new BBC Sport video player was introduced for Euro 2004 and Mr Gallop is confident it will be robust enough to cope with the scale of the Olympics.

The window size is adjustable, but at full screen size it will offer picture quality equivalent to VHS.

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There will also be a 2.5G Wap video service for suitably equipped mobile phones.

"This is our first ever interactive summer Olympics," said Andrew Thompson, head of development, new media and sports news for BBC sport.

"Our broadband service will complement interactive TV allowing us to offer a variety of platforms to access the world's greatest sporting event."

A version of this column appears in the BBC magazine Ariel


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