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Digital Life: Aussie sport fanaticism is fuel for the digital flame

When we're not actually playing sport, it seems we're ready to watch it on TV, text its heroes or play the video game.

Pam Carroll

When we're not actually playing sport, it seems we're ready to watch it on TV, text its heroes or play the video game.

One week down, one to go of the Athens 2004 Olympic Games. I don't know about you, but I'm getting pretty tired. One, because watching all those super jocks inspired me to make a long-time-coming return to the gym and pool last weekend. (Hey, anything worth doing is worth immediately overdoing - right?) And two, because I've spent so many late nights and early mornings watching that damned addictive Olympic coverage.

Did you previously realise that badminton doubles players stand behind one another for the serve? Speaking of serving, how weird is the way pro table tennis players hold the paddle with their arm bent? What's that guy doing wearing a different coloured shirt in the back row of the volleyball? And how can the commentator tell whether the trampoline competitor was supposed to do a two-and-a-half or three flip/spin manoeuvre whose technical name now escapes me?

These are not issues that are normally of great concern to me. I blame the lingering euphoria hangover of the 2000 Games in Sydney, but it seems that I, like so many others, will forevermore be sucked in to Olympic fever every four years.

How does that impact our digital lifestyle? Let me count the ways….   

The figures are not yet available, and HD coverage has been a complete fizzer, but you can bet that widescreen TV and DVD recorder sales will show a definite sales spike. Manufacturers watched the number of screens sold soar for the previous Olympic Games, as well as for major sporting fixtures like the soccer and rugby union World Cups, and so have thrown serious marketing dollars at trying to leverage similar success from the Athens spectacle.

Our sports addiction is drawing attention in other quarters too. Telstra has hit the big time with its HeroMessage service which allows you to send messages of support to Aussies competing at the 2004 Athens Olympic and Paralympic Games.  After only the first four days, Australians had sent over 38,000 SMS and Internet text messages to Athens athletes, already far surpassing the Sydney Olympic final total of 22,000.

Telcos are searching for other opportunities as well. Content-hungry 3G networks are another potential channel for live sport entertainment. Swedish mobile phone vendor, Telia, purchased the "exclusive" mobile video content screening rights for the Athens Olympics for an undisclosed sum and the European Broadcasting Union has purchased the rights for the next Winter Olympics in Vancouver and the 2012 Summer Games for the tidy sum of 700 million euros.

One the local front, Hutchison Telecommunications, operator of the only operational 3G network in Australia, doesn't have direct broadcast rights from the IOC, so it is leveraging its content partnership with Fairfax, SkyNews and AAP to deliver Olympic news reads with pictures.

A Hutchison spokesperson has said that "people are using their phones for a lot more things and this [watching sporting events] would be one of them".

And finally, if the live action ever dies down, you can always play the game or watch the superstar's memoirs on DVD.  Games and DVDs are the serious drivers of the home theatre market and savvy sports managers are cashing in big time. Athens 2004 from Sony is this month's hot game. (Oh well, there that little Doom 3 release too).

So the bags under my eyes will last another week. But then there's always the US Open tennis, followed by Grand Finals in a couple football codes, overseas tours by said footie teams… Oh, and then its cricket season…