How to watch the 2010 Olympics

By BILL HARRIS, QMI Agency

Watching the Olympics on TV used to be simple. You just clicked around until you saw someone in a garish orange blazer.

An entire generation of Canadian sports fans has known nothing except the Olympics on CBC. But for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, which begin on Friday, Feb. 12, new rightsholder CTV and its army of properties and partners will try to slap you silly with its wall-to-wall coverage.

For the average viewer, it can be a bit intimidating, actually.

Now, a lot of this overkill simply is based on technology, and it probably would be much the same no matter who had the rights to the Games. This is a far more information- obsessed culture than it was 20, or 10, or even five years ago. People expect every cold breath from every hot athlete to be available somewhere, somehow, and CTV will endeavour to respond to those voyeuristic needs.

No matter where you live in Canada, you're going to see a lot of Olympics on a lot of different channels. But is there a way to sort it all out?

Actually, there is. According to CTV, coverage generally will be broken down this way: 'Best of the best' on CTV

The biggest events and the biggest stories will be featured on CTV. So if you just want to be kept up to date on the signature, mainstream news and competitions, you can leave your TV set on CTV and trust that you're not going to miss anything really significant. In addition to live event coverage, CTV will present highlights from events happening concurrently on other channels, directing viewers to additional networks for "extended coverage" of certain events.

'Extended coverage' on TSN and Sportsnet These traditional sports channels are where you'll find start-to-finish coverage of key events. Things like full hockey games (although some big Canadian games will be shown on CTV), curling matches, alpine skiing races, figure skating programs, speed skating, sliding events and more will air in their entirety on TSN and Sportsnet.

'COMPLETE COVERAGE' AT CTVOLYMPICS.CA.

OK, so your distant cousin Sigurd is part of the Norwegian mixed group luge team, or whatever. What to do, what to do? Well, if you don't mind the different sensory experience of watching something on a computer screen, every second of every Olympic competition, from beginning to end, will be available at CTVOlympics.ca. So when Sigurd has his big moment, you can be there in spirit to say, "Gratulasjoner" (I think that's congratulations in Norwegian, or close to it, anyway).

MULTILINGUAL COVERAGE

Different types of entertainment- based and multilingual coverage will be available on MuchMusic, OLN, APTN, ATN, OMNI.1 and OMNI.2, if any or all of those channels are available where you live.

ALTERNATIVES ON NBC

NBC, of course, has the U.S. rights to the Games, so if you're looking for a different perspective, or even just a concentration on some different events, then Bob Costas, Al Michaels and the gang always are an intriguing option. And don't get all smug about Canadian coverage being so much more balanced than American coverage.

Especially when it comes to hockey, we can be pretty jingoistic, folks.

Now, if we've learned anything through the years, it's that coverage of any Olympic Games is a fluid thing. To put it simply, crap happens.

Anything from judging errors and drug scandals to unexpected Canadian successes and failures always can scuttle even the best-laid plans. Stories don't always emerge from the places we think they're going to emerge, and the coverage has to adjust.

But as long as the general model remains in place--big stuff on CTV, fleshed-out coverage on TSN and Sportsnet -- then viewers should be able to find what they're looking for without being paralyzed by too much choice.

And if you still miss the orange blazers, then hey, we're very sorry, but you just have to get with the times.

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

POLL