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Sport Olympic Service Update

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Andrew Pipes Andrew Pipes | 09:38 UK time, Wednesday, 28 March 2012

China, the US, and Russia came first second and third in the 2008 medal table

New format medal table, showing the 2008 medal tallies

Hi, I'm Andy Pipes, and I work with Cait O'Riordan on the London 2012 programme for BBC Future Media. Specifically, I lead the development of the Olympics area within the Sport website.

Last month, we announced the arrival of some of our new pages, such as key athletes, countries, and events at the London 2012 Olympic Games, and this month we are rolling out some more new features.


The medals table proved to be one of the most popular pages on the BBC Sport web site during the Beijing 2008 Olympics, with almost 20% of the total traffic. For 2012, we're aiming to make this an even more rewarding experience for the audience, and ensure there are plenty of opportunities for onward journeys to our country and athlete pages.

This month we've redesigned the old Beijing table to bring it in line with our new look (above). Currently it solely concentrates on the countries awarded medals but, during the 2012 Games, we'll have a version that lists the medalists alongside the countries.

Top Medal Sports at Beijing 2008: Gymnastics, Weightlifting, and Diving.

We've displayed the information we collected about Beijing across the new site. Browse to a country which won a medal at the 2008 Games, for instance, and you'll find out which events they excelled at in Beijing. Plus, look out soon for a playful visualisation of countries' top medal performances at the Games, going back all the way to 1896.

Ones to Watch

This year's Olympic Games will feature more than 10,000 competing athletes, 200 countries and 304 medal contests, which represents a wealth of fantastic content. We don't want our audience to miss any of it. In this release we're bringing more attention to our coverage of the world's highest-profile athletes. There are now specific pages of athletes for every sport and country. On those pages, you'll also see which athletes are current Olympic or World Record holders.

Athletes Usain Bolt, Jessica Ennis, and Caster Semenya

On athlete pages, such as Rebecca Adlington's, you'll now see links to team-mates for their sport. We've added a "ones to watch" carousel of athletes on country pages, like on Team USA and of course Team GB. Select a sport from the carousel's drop-down to see the medal hopes for each event, or visit the sport pages (e.g. sailing) to see who Britain hopes to see on the podium this summer.

Something people in our audience testing sessions told us they would like for a big event like this are tidbits of trivia around the Games. With this in mind, we're developing an experience that will give our audience the chance to compare athletes' and countries' key stats. On some event pages, such the men's 100m page, you'll now be able to compare the performances of some of the world's best athletes in that sport using our "head to head" widget. You can see how many medals they've won over the years, and their best times and distances compared with their peers.

The UK has more medals than Jamaica

This complements a feature on some country pages which allows you to compare countries' performances over the past two Olympic Games.

Event Listings

Want to know quickly which medal-winning events make up a particular sport, say athletics? Have a glance at our event listings pages. In this table, you've got an all-in-one summary of who won the gold in Beijing, what day the event starts in 2012, and the current world record in the event. During the Games, this table will update with the medal winners, as well as the latest headlines for each event from BBC Sport.

There are 34 swimming events. You can expand them to see detail - like the Men's 50m and 100m freestyle here.

Event Listings

Hopefully you'll spot some useful design tweaks to our sport and country pages too. They now benefit from a new large-format picture gallery to bring the drama of the Olympics to life.

Our event pages, like Rebecca Adlington's women's 400m freestyle, now contain news links to their related events, so that the user doesn't have to go back and forth between the sport category pages and the event pages to find out the latest stories from a given discipline.


Ensuring our content is available and easy to access for all our audiences is one of BBC Online's guiding principles. We have worked hard to guarantee that users of screenreaders can get to their favourite content quickly, and that users with Javascript turned off still have access to all key content on our pages. This is true even for more complicated features like expanding table content, or our "head to head" widget that allows users to compare performances of top athletes. Every piece of content on the site can also be accessed from the keyboard via tabs. We also made sure that screen readers have access to new content that is inserted into the page after the initial page load by updating the virtual buffer.

Microdata & the semantic publishing platform

Embedding semantic meaning into our HTML mark-up with microdata helps search engines and other services to better understand our site's content. For instance, by inserting some structured information about the person into Usain Bolt's page, we are allowing search engines to show more detailed information about him in results, such as the athlete's team, image, age, and association with the Olympics. For events such as the men's 100m competition, we can embed specific dates in the code to tell services when the races begin.

These are just two examples of ways we are working towards our goal of being one of the most semantically advanced services on the web, following on from what we did with the Vancouver Winter Games and World Cup websites, the latter winning industry praise for its use of RDF and open-linked data.

The pages that our audience see on the London 2012 website aggregate content produced by the BBC Sport team and tagged with various concepts, each modelled according to the Sport ontology. This is a critical piece of our semantic DNA, explaining to other machines, as well as librarians and other data curators, how to understand and interpret the Sport domain. Competitors' names aren't just labels in an unintelligent system; they are athletes competing in medal-winning events, as part of wider disciplines. All these specific relationships help to organise BBC content and make it easier for other parts of the BBC, and external partners, to work with our content.

It also represents a big step forward for our editorial team, who can now add stories to dozens of pages on the Sport site in one quick process, instead of having to add them manually to indexes and remember to maintain those pages. That manual process would never have scaled to allow us to manage the thousands of athlete pages that will arrive on the Olympics site in the future.

Coming Soon

Here's a quick list of some of the features that are almost ready to meet the audience.

  • Comprehensive event schedule: With more than 300 medal-winning events taking place this summer, it's important to allow our users to zoom in on the schedule of activities that mean the most to them. We've launched the full event schedule pages already, but will be adding more detail to the event pages themselves very soon.  
  • Homepage improvements: The new Sport Olympics landing page will be adding a few bespoke features, such as profiles for the key Team GB contenders, and a countdown to the Games. 
  • Venue guides: Expect to see areas of the site where you can find out much more about the locations hosting the Games, and what's going on at each. 
  • Follow-an-athlete/event/country: We'll be making it easier for people to get alerted to the latest news from their favourite people and sports by making it possible for people to personalise a page of things which interest them. 

Andrew Pipes is Senior Product Manager, Sport & Olympics 2012, BBC Future Media



  • Comment number 1.

    Any sign of a BBC Sport app, that was much promised over a year ago?

  • Comment number 2.

    Andy . Cait has told you how much posters (ie users of the sports site stuff) hate whats happening? Your brave attempts suggest you still dont get it. Oh well guess sky sports it is.

  • Comment number 3.

    @masterville I know that many of you have posted your ideas and feedback about the wider Sport redesign on other posts. There is a lot of work in progress to correct some of the issues we were finding, but these changes do take time, and we thank you for your patience. I can tell you that the the Olympics site has been developed with significant audience testing throughout the process. Did you have any feedback specific to the Olympics features that I am blogging about today?

  • Comment number 4.

    Andy. As you kindly responded I will post my thoughts later. But just to respond to your reply , this statement "There is a lot of work in progress to correct some of the issues we were finding, but these changes do take time.." is interesting. A lot posters have said that even if there was a response that said what "work in progress" was taking place. Your response as it stands actually says nothing.
    Thanks for responding though.

  • Comment number 5.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 6.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 7.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 8.


    Is it planned to move the over image text (that in many cases obscure faces) from the top left of the picture to the bottom left of the picture 9so that it can no longer obscure faces)? Or (if that change is approved) remove in photo texts?


  • Comment number 9.

    Disregard my comment #8: that change has already been implemented. Wow, that is what you should have written in one of your blogs. Great improvement. No more big yellow stripes over athletes faces. Kudos for listening.

  • Comment number 10.

    @JamesRogers: I'm glad you noticed. You're right, I should have mentioned it here. Although a small change, it was something that had been mentioned a few times in the posts on the blog.

  • Comment number 11.

    Admittedly, the BBC new mobile app is a magic and it serves my reading appetite amazingly great. Features include, sharing on social media, emailing and video streaming.

    The fonts are friendly to the vision impaired

    I am not using the video streaming capabilities for fear of explosive mobile phone charges. But I will definitely use it at the appropriate time.

    I will recommend it, especially, to people on the move.

  • Comment number 12.

    Hi. Thank you very much for the detailed blog. Looks like event info is already updated at https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/olympics/2012/schedule-results/list , but how I can access to the data in the structured format (json, xml, etc). You mentioned the use of rdf and open linked data, but was not clear to me how I can access them. Would appreciate if you can give me pointers to these info, as I am planning to organize a hackathon related to london and sports and the game result info is very crucial . Thanks (@makoto_inoue)


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