If you haven’t yet been exposed to the Winter Olympics in Torino either on TV, the Internet, word of mouth or the 20th Winter Olympiad’s “official brain implant chip” (I heard that technology’s on its way for the Beijing Summer Games in 2008) you’re probably living in a wooden cabin in the wilderness without electricity, water, sight, hearing or a functional nervous system.
This year’s version of the games, nestled in the mountainous terrain of northwest Italy, has inundated homes around the globe to an unprecedented degree.
I certainly never thought I’d hear so much about flying tomatoes and speeding white sausages while watching the world’s premier sporting event. But sure enough, I found myself getting hungry after witnessing the performances of American snowboarder Shaun White and German luge legend Georg Hackl, whose respective nicknames hold to a similar culinary theme.
I’ve reached the point where I know more about Michelle Kwan, Bode Miller and Apolo Anton Ohno than I do about Michael Jordan, Joe Montana and George Herman Ruth (As a matter of fact, I’m also aware that Hackl’s second alias is “The Babe Ruth of Luge”). Chad Hedrick is becoming a bigger name on campus than Chad Henne, and pictures of Tanith Belbin have become more sought-after than images of Angelina Jolie or Anna Kournikova. Alas, Belbin’s ice dancing partner, Ben Agosto, has yet to receive the attention that Jolie’s significant other has.
ESPN.com and NBCOlympics.com have teamed up to provide followers of these Games with a barrage of information – some useless, some relevant, some downright ridiculous – so comprehensive, not even the most intrepid investigator could digest it all.
For example, did you know that Lindsey Kildow – the U.S. gold medal favorite in the women’s downhill whose practice crash was covered extensively on the websites yesterday – could speak German? If reading that fact isn’t enough for you, the “Worldwide Leader” and the official Olympic network even have a video clip of Kildow speaking about breaking her pole in her first race of the season auf Deutsch. Not to mention a childhood photo gallery, a clip of her first-ever Olympic run (2002 at Salt Lake City), a detailed bio and life story, a question-and-answer segment, career competition results and five additional photo galleries, including shots of Kildow and a cow she won for a first-place finish in France last year. Look hard enough, and you might even discover that a “14-year-old Kildow bought a replica U.S. Ski Team uniform and passed herself off as a team member who had lost her credential. She was able to get into various athlete-only areas and got several autographs, including that of Bode Miller.” Bode who? I don’t think I’ve ever heard of him.
But Americans aren’t the only ones with detailed dossiers on the web. A full 519 athletes have profile pages on NBCOlympics.com. While the total falls far short of the nearly 2,500 total participants in the games, it’s pretty unlikely that even a majority of those Olympians with their own place in cyberspace will generate much traffic. Unless, that is, you have a burning curiosity to find out more about Ukrainian figure skater Ruslan Goncharov (who’s never won an international competition) or Liechtenstein’s Marco Buechel, an alpine skier who finished two spots behind Miller’s disappointing fifth-place time in the men’s downhill event on Sunday.
A Winter Olympic-record 416 broadcast hours will be aired on a laundry list of networks: NBC Universal, NBC, USA, MSNBC, CNBC, NBC HD, Universal HD, BET, VH1 and the Playboy Channel (OK, maybe not those last three).
Yesterday, I was watching women’s luge qualifying when NBC reporter Bob Neumeier presented an enlightening expos