Today represents a very important day for our country – the start of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games.  Over the next 2 weeks, we are going to be witness to some incredible athleticism and stories with the world united through sport.

I can remember vividly watching previous Olympic Games in front of the television, marveling at the sheer talent and determination of the Olympic athletes in their quest for not only Olympic medals, but also personal bests and the pride of representing their country.  The television networks did a very good job at covering all of the activity in a way that allowed you to maximize the Olympic experience from your living room.

That being said, there are limitations associated with watching such a grand event on the television.  The sheer number of concurrent events means that you can’t always watch an event that you wish to see; the television network will carry events that give them the “best bang for the buck” (hey, they paid big money for the rights to broadcast the content so it only makes sense that high priority events take precedence over other events).  While, for the most part, this isn’t a huge issue, it does limit how you experience the Games in general.

With the advent of rich media on the internet, we have an opportunity to truly shape how large events such as the Olympics will be viewed moving forward.  The fact that the internet is, by nature, interactive means that we have the ability to cater the viewing experience for an event to almost whatever you want it to be. 

In 2008, Microsoft partnered with NBC in the United States to stream the Beijing Olympics via Silverlight, our rich online experience platform.  The results of this endeavour were beyond successful.  For example, in the 2 weeks of the 2008 Olympics, the Silverlight-powered NBCOlympics.com site experienced:

  • An average online viewing time per session of 27 minutes (the average viewing session time for internet video is around 3 minutes)
  • 1.3 billion page views
  • 50+ million unique visitors
  • 70 million video streams
  • 10 million hours of video watched 
  • An average of 5,000 on-demand video clips every day
  • Hundreds of highlights produced every day, delivered to all the major computer platforms (Windows, Mac OS X and Linux)
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With the success from this event, Microsoft has partnered with CTV and its affiliates to provide the same immersive experience for the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver that US-based visitors to NBCOlympics.com had for the Beijing Olympics (and, for the record, NBC has also renewed the partnership with Microsoft for these Olympic Games as well).

When the games officially open on the evening of Friday, February 12, 2010, Canadians will be able to watch the Olympics from their computer through Silverlight.  This experience will allow Canadians full access to every event, both live and on-demand in High Definition with interactive features that will allow the user to select info on the athletes competing, multiple camera angles and the like. 

To access this interactive multimedia portal, simply go to CTVOlympics.ca (for English content) or RDSOlympiques.ca (for French content). 

In addition to the online video and immersive experience through these two portals, Microsoft has also partnered with CTV on a number of other 2010 Vancouver Olympic fronts.  For example:

ie8_h2_rgb[1] Internet Explorer 8
Download the customized IE8 browser (English, Français) for the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games.  Install and enjoy web slices for IE8 specific to the 2010 Vancouver Olympics experience, including Headline News (English, Français), Photos (English, Français) and Video (English, Français).  If you have IE8 but are unsure of how to install a webslice, check out this link to learn how.

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Bing Visual Search and Instant Answers
With Bing, you can search athlete profiles and Olympic events in a visual manner, making it fun and easy to find information pertaining to the Vancouver Games.

Torch Relay with Bing Maps
See where the Olympic torch has been and the route it has taken across our country to arrive at the Olympic stadium in an interactive way with Bing Maps.

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See On-Demand Content through XBox Live
If you have an XBox Live Gold account, you can view on-demand content from the 2010 Olympics directly from your XBox 360 console.

With the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, Microsoft, along with CTV, has provided a new world of interactivity for a truly immersive multimedia experience.  I think it’s fair to say that as we see more of these types of opportunities, we will be seeing a change in how we experience multimedia events both at home and abroad.

- Paul