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Friday, August 8, 2008

Google’s Olympic Specials

Today is the day of the Beijing 2008 Olympic opening ceremony. Already, Google launched multiple special sites and services for the Olympics. Thanks to everyone providing pointers for this!

Google’s main Olympics site

Google’s main Olympics page has different designs depending on the country. The China homepage is more colorful than the US homepage. In the US, you can launch videos, gadgets, and see the current medals won overlaid on a Google Map (the latter is also featured on a standalone page). There are stories collected via Google News as well.

YouTube’s special Olympics channel

The YouTube Olympics channel is only available in some countries, being geo-IP-banned elsewhere. “The IOC’s [International Olympic Committee] Channel will be accessible in territories where digital VOD [video on demand] rights have not been sold or have been acquired on a non-exclusive basis,” the press release explains.

+ The countries where this channel shows are...

Afghanistan, Angola, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Benin, Bhutan, Botswana, Brunei, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Congo, The Democratic Republic Of The Congo, Ivory Coast, Djibouti, East Timor, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, India, Indonesia, Iran Islamic Republic Of, Iraq, Kenya, Democratic People’s Republic Of Korea, Kuwait, People’s Democratic Republic Lao, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mongolia, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Syrian Arab Republic, United Republic Of Tanzania, Thailand, Togo, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, Vietnam, Yemen, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

A special Google Olympics logo

The Olympics doodle links to a search for the words Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. Shown in the logo are the Beijing mascots Beibei, Jingjing, Huanhuan, Yingying and Nini, who together spell “Bei Jing Huan Ying Ni” – “welcome to Beijing”. They carry the Olympic flag, which contains rings representing the world’s continents.

Talking about mascots, the two avatars above are not for the Olympics... they’re virtually “patrolling” the web and showing up on sites, likely to show users who’s in charge (in China, what you may or may not say online is part of a controlled system, where e.g. loudly protesting against human rights violations may be censored).

Gold medal count onebox

Searching for e.g. italy olympics or german olympics aims to show the Gold medals won by the respective country in the form of a onebox (a special Google result). The box is linked to the offical Olympics homepage at

Upcoming contests onebox

As previously mentioned, another onebox in results pop up when entering queries like taekwondo olympics, though it doesn’t work in every country (I added the “gl=us” parameter to the search URL here so you can see it).

+ The available sports are...

Archery, Athletics, Badminton, Baseball, Basketball, Beach Volleyball, Boxing, Canoe/Kayak Flatwater, Canoe/Kayak Slalom, Cycling BMX, Cycling Mountain Bike, Cycling Road, Cycling Track, Diving, Equestrian, Fencing, Football, Gymnastics Artistic, Gymnastics Rhythmic, Trampoline, Handball, Hockey, Judo, Modern Pentathlon, Rowing, Sailing, Shooting, Softball, Swimming, Synchronized Swimming, Table Tennis, Taekwondo, Tennis, Triathlon, Volleyball, Water Polo, Weightlifting, and Wrestling.

Google China SMS alerts

China has a page where you can subscribe to SMS alerts in a variety of sports categories.

SketchUp 3D models

The Google 3D Warehouse, which features models for SketchUp and Google Earth, has a selection of architecture related to the summer games.

A YouTube video takes you through the 3D-scenery (corny music alert level raised to orange).

LaiBa Olympics page

Google-powered community Tianya LaiBa has a special page for the Olympics. Social boards like LaiBa are sometimes in contact with the Chinese authorities to receive orders what can and cannot be discussed. For instance (according to a source who likes to remain anonymous and with help of auto-translation), in 2004 one University’s discussion board received instructions which included that “criticizing Taiwan independence” was OK but that no one should “incite group activities.” Google does not tell the press how such communications take place specifically.

iGoogle gadget

Google offers a summer games gadget that’s supposed to show competition results as they come in. (The gadget search when I tried it here did not return any results for either olympic, olympics or beijing, which felt broken. The iGoogle gadget Sports category turned up completely empty.) There is no specific air pollution gadget available specifically for Beijing but Google Earth has a way to show pollution since 2007. Ex-Google employee Ana Yang snapped some photos in China showing not exactly “blue sky days,” as she says (any expert out there who knows how much is fog, if any, and how much is smog?).

Mobile page

Google’s Olympics mobile page offers results for the different sports. Google’s mobile page shows the special Olympics doodle, too (albeit it’s not optimized for that size).

iGoogle China

Google’s iGoogle homepage for China shows a special theme and an Olympics gadget.

Google News Olympics section

Google News presents a category dedicated to the Olympics, containing news coverage from traditional news sources as well as some multi-author blogs, an Olympic medals overview, and schedules for the upcoming events. (The Chinese version of Google News is partly censored by Google.)

Google Desktop gadget

The 2008 Summer Games gadget for Google Desktop contains schedules, results and medal counts, as the description explains.

[Thanks Dominik, Hebbet, Juha-Matti, Mostafa, Brinke, Sadg and TomHTML!]


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