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Olympics notebook: Mapping the Vancouver Games

The Internet giants have gone to extraordinary lengths to make sure their mapping programs are ready for the Winter Olympics.

Microsoft's Bing Maps has a special Olympic page with a cartographic look at the Games, from venues to medal results. Rival Google also has a map look at the Games, including imagery captured by Snowmobile. CNET

Among the many battles being waged in Vancouver is the Olympic struggle between Microsoft and Google.

The Internet giants are both aiming to make sure that their search engines, mapping programs, and mobile software all capture the spirit of the Winter Games.

Google has been featuring Olympic-themed doodles on its home page, while Bing is featuring Olympic-themed photos as its background, with the images rotating several times a day. Microsoft can also tap the fact it is helping power NBC's Olympics Web site through MSN, giving it access to quite a bit of content from the Games.

More importantly, both companies have turned their mapping software into a great way to keep up with the competition.

Bing Maps has a special Olympics page that lets visitors see medal charts and click on a country to see how its athletes are faring. Meanwhile, Microsoft has also updated Vancouver with new street-side imagery and made it one of three cities (along with Seattle and San Francisco) in which it is trying out new features, such as Flickr integration.

For its part, Google features an interactive schedule, with links to medal results, news, and the venues. To get additional imagery for its maps program, Google augmented its usual fleet of cars with Street View photos captured by snowmobile. (See video below.)

But, as for maps, my personal favorite is one created by Vancouver Sun reporter Jeff Lee, who has been covering the preparation for the Games since 2003.

His Vancouver map, created on top of Google Maps, has pin points for everything from the venues, to public events, national pavilions, and public transit stops and road closures.

Surfing the 'Sea to Sky'
Separating the ice events in Vancouver form the skiing at Whistler is a two-hour-plus ride on the scenic but windy Sea to Sky highway. For those who want to skip the view (and don't get car sick), SnowBus is offering its passengers free Wi-Fi for the journey, using service provided by Vancouver-based In Motion Technology.

Reporter's Notebook
This post will be the first in a series of daily columns running from now through the end of the Winter Games. I leave Sunday for Vancouver, hopefully with all the tools I will need to offer readers a look at the Games, the Olympic scene, as well as the technology that makes the Games tick.

I've got a laptop and a backup, a pocket digital camera, an SLR, a Kindle, and an iPod Touch loaded with the Olympic apps from NBC, CTV, and the Olympic organizers. I have a file of story ideas and a willingness to scrap all my plans and follow things wherever they may lead. Most of all, I have lots of enthusiasm and curiosity. Thanks for joining me on this journey.