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50 days and counting

Ben Gallop Ben Gallop | 18:29 UK time, Thursday, 19 June 2008

I've mentioned before that we like a landmark at the BBC and today marks 50 days until the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics.

Yes, I know it's not quite the same as a decent anniversary (and I'll be honest, my research merely consisted of looking at the countdown at the top of our Olympics homepage) - but 50 days to go still feels like a good enough reason to report on how our plans are progressing.

The first point to mention is that Beijing offers the BBC particular challenges, not just from the logistical perspective of all major sporting events, but also because there are so many political and cultural dimensions to these Games.

Our coverage needs to reflect the complexity of China and tell the story in the kind of impartial and independent fashion that people expect of the BBC.

My colleague Dave Gordon, who as Head of Major Events for BBC Sport runs the whole of our Beijing operation, knows more about this than most, having covered the Olympics for 30 years - and he believes the 2008 Games are the most challenging he has worked on.

One way we hope to reflect all the elements of this multi-faceted Chinese story is through our new China portal which pulls together all the best material from across the BBC in a single, easy-to-use page - with everything from the latest news stories to the fabulous Wild China documentary series and even a beginner's guide to Mandarin.

The second major point, and one that is close to my heart, is that the Beijing Games will be an opportunity for BBC Sport to offer even more choice to our audiences.

BBC Sport's Olympics homepage

There is a lot of talk in media circles about slightly dry subjects like 'multi-platform broadcasting', 'time-shifting' and 'convergence'. I know this kind of jargon can grate with some people and to be honest it doesn't tend to mean too much when it's used out of context.

But what excites me is when all the theory and strategy starts to turn to reality - and that's what I'm convinced we are starting to see this summer, firstly with Euro 2008 and secondly, I hope, with the Olympics.

Back in the spring we re-designed the BBC Sport website to give more prominence to video and it's been great to see the results of that over the past couple of weeks.

We've offered live streaming of all the BBC's Euro 2008 matches as well as clip highlights of every game - and we're seeing record numbers of people watching the football on our site.

It feels like we're getting to a point where watching video on the web is no longer the preserve of a fairly niche audience. It's now hitting the mainstream, as the advent of the BBC's iPlayer has shown.

I'm convinced the Olympics can help take that process to the next level, not least because the time difference in China will mean much of the meaningful action will be taking place overnight and in the morning, UK time. Our audiences will want to follow the Olympics on their terms and it's up to us to offer that, with as much choice and convenience as we can possibly provide.

For Beijing we'll provide up to six different streams of live action on the red button and broadband; an in-depth website with all the latest reports and analysis; and an Olympics blog, which will draw on the best journalism the BBC has to offer. We're also looking to take our mobile services to another level, building on our successful WAP site by adding in more video options.

There is a lot still to get done. We'll keep toiling away, working on all our new media output, so that by the time 8 August comes around we'll be ready to put on the kind of show that the Olympics demands.

Suddenly it feels like those 50 days are going to slip by really fast...

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