BY MICHELLE MALTAIS
LOS ANGELES TIMES (MCT)
LOS ANGELES – Rewind four years to the Summer Olympics in Beijing, and you’ll understand how this year’s marquee sporting event will be unlike anything ever before.
Back then, there was no such thing as an iPad, smartphones were just starting to roll out and Twitter had less than a million users.
Fast-forward to the Olympics in London, where for the first time every event will be streamed live, athletes will be able to tweet every little thing they do, and Facebook users will be able to instantly debate a botched call. It will be the most connected sporting event of all time.
So how do fans keep up with it all? Here’s a guide to the parade of mobile applications to stay on top of the Olympics 24/7 no matter where you are.
Mobile apps available for download
To start, the two official apps of the London 2012 Games are available free on several devices at http://www.london2012.com/mobileapps/.
The Join In app for iPhone, Android and BlackBerry phones lets you connect with everything that’s going on in and around the Olympics with maps, schedules and guides, plus information on cash machine locations, ticketing issues, wheelchair access and more.
You can also follow the torch as it wends its way to the Olympic Stadium. It requires either a Wi-Fi or cellular connection to download content from the Internet.
The Results app for iPhone, Android, Windows and BlackBerry offers news, schedules, medal tables and athlete profiles across all Olympic and Paralympic sports. Users can also follow specific countries for customized updates.
NBC, the exclusive broadcaster of the Games in the U.S., recently released a couple of free apps for Apple and some Android phones.
One app will stream every second of sweat and skill, and you can access it if you are a pay-TV subscriber with a package that includes CNBC and MSNBC. The other will offer highlights _ no pay TV subscription required.
Another NBC app for iPhones, Universal Sports Network, offers coverage of Olympic sports beyond the few weeks of spotlighted competition, with sortable video highlights from “the world of Olympic sports.” They are available for download at http://www.nbcolympics.com/on-the-go/.
If you plan to watch a lot of streaming video, keep an eye on your data usage _ particularly if there’s a cap. The overage fee can get hefty for some wireless carriers.
Social media integrated into experience
We can probably expect NBC’s coverage to be tinged with red, white and blue. For a potentially more worldly perspective, the free BBC Olympics app for iOS and Android devices will give you headlines about your national team based on your location. It also has video features, schedules and details about every sport, country and competitor.
Some national teams have individual apps, such as Team USA, Team Ireland, Team Slovenia and Team Korea, and many others have a Facebook or Twitter presence. You can get the American team’s app in Apple’s App Store and in the Google Play app store.
This year more than before, social media will be well woven into the experience of the Games, from the coverage and the people covering it to the viewers and the athletes – something Twitter Chief Executive Dick Costolo called an “inside-out view.”
Although Twitter won’t go into detail on how it plans to highlight Olympics-related tweets, it is expecting huge traffic. In fact, there were more tweets about the Olympics on a single day in July than during the entire 2008 Beijing Summer Games, according to a Twitter spokesperson.
Facebook also will be lighting up with activity. In addition to millions of users posting and cheering on their teams, NBC Olympics.com can connect to users’ Facebook timelines.