In February, I mentioned that I would sadly be watching the Olympics from home. This turned out not to be the case, and I returned this past week from what has shaped up to be a fine par-tay in Beijing.
Now to explain the title: the good came in the hospitality aspect of the Olympics. All of China has come together in such a short amount of time to extend a warm welcome to everyone descending upon their rapidly-growing metropolis. You can read about some of their initiatives here:
“Beijing cheer permeates Olympic atmosphere”: http://www.meniscuszine.com/issue24/olympics2008/beijing-cheer-20080815/index.html
The bad? That would be the press tour that I went on organized by Cartan Tours, a legitimate operator that has had ties with the U.S. Olympic Committee. The logistical issues with Cartan’s operation contrasted sharply with my Olympic experience to the point that I would not recommend Cartan’s packages to any individual in the future. Since many other travelers had similar issues and planned to file complaints, I felt that it was important that fans considering Vancouver 2010 and London 2012 be warned well in advance:
“Cartan Tours turns Olympic dream into nightmare for travelers”: http://www.meniscuszine.com/issue24/olympics2008/cartan-tours-20080816/
It’s a long piece, but I hope that it is helpful. Given how long the company has been in business, it’s inexcusable that Cartan would miss the mark across the board when it comes to sports tourism, putting their travelers at risk in the process. If you’ve had a similar experience with these guys, feel free to share.
Sportsbiztech takes a step back from blogging about gadgets and gizmos to examine what is trying to become a New York institution: the in-progress Tribeca Film Festival. Trying to emerge from the huge shadow of Sundance, Tribeca is in its seventh year and quickly already moved away from its original roots of revitalizing an area suffering economically after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
One of the ways that founder Robert DeNiro and Co. have shifted gears is to strike up a partnership with ESPN, which began last year, complete with sports-themed films, panels, contests, and an outdoor sports festival with celebrity appearances, games and promotional tie-ins with local teams. Dubbed the Tribeca/ESPN Sports Film Festival, co-founder Jane Rosenthal said at the time that “the films in this program not only tell the stories of athletes and competition, but highlight how sports can be a positive social force for bridging racial and political divides.”
At first, this convergence seemed to be a bit far-fetched, as there don’t seem to be many film snobs doubling as sports fans and vice versa. But a year later, it has suddenly made total sense. Growing up, I had always considered sports to be the original reality show, with competitive drama making much better theater than what currently passes as “reality” now. Magnify this reality on the big screen and, not surprisingly, film becomes a very appropriate technological medium with documentaries dominating the Tribeca/ESPN venture (nine out of 12 films this year, 11 out of 14 last year).
One of these is “Run for Your Life,” directed by Judd Ehrlich. The documentary focuses on Fred Lebow, the Romanian-born, disarmingly eccentric founder of what has become the New York Marathon. Completely devoid of narration, anecdotes from various friends, athletes, journalists, adversaries and even Fred himself piece together the tale of how the marathon came to be. The metamorphosis of Lebow’s escape from the Nazis to his adventures in the Big Apple is adorned with wonderful nostalgic shots of the city from the 1970’s. Lebow himself was not an athlete – “Fred ran like a duck, except he was slower than a duck,” a friend described – but was able to use his savvy to scrape together a global platform for his hobby, drawing from his experiences as a businessman in Manhattan’s Garment District and, believe it or not, his love for parties and young women.
The most pivotal and memorable part of the storyline is the buildup to the 1976 New York Marathon celebrating the U.S.’s bicentennial, detailing Lebow’s crucial decision-making as well as the involvement of the city to make the event a resounding success. After that, the story sags a bit like the middle of a long race: one too many first-person accounts and a couple of aspects of Lebow’s personal life are not necessary to the film. By the end, however, you’ll be cheering for Lebow as he literally crosses the finish line and appreciating what he did to transform the sport of running.
“Run for Your Life” screens five times at the Tribeca Film Festival (twice on Apr. 27 and once a day between May 1-3). For ticket information, go to www.tribecaespn.com.
A couple of weeks ago, Hitwise – a firm that measures online usage and data (or “online competitive intelligence”) – released its figures for March searches in the United States. Not surprisingly, in a sample of 10 million users, Google came out on top of the four engines with 67.25 percent of searches that month, followed by Yahoo! (20.29 percent), MSN (6.65) and Ask.com (4.09).
But then the numbers for “category traffic” told an interesting tale. “Sports” is one of 172 different categories that Hitwise keeps track of, containing, at last count, 6,628 Web sites alone, according to Matt Tatham, the firm’s director of media relations. The percentage of category traffic from search engines for last month was just 12.93 percent, which was lower than categories like “Health and Medical” and “Shopping and Classified.” The Google numbers for the Sports category weren’t high either (for the full report, go to Hitwise’s Apr. 7 press release). Which begs the question: why?
“Search plays less of a role for the more popular sports like Football, Baseball and Basketball,” Tatham told Sportsbiztech. “We noticed that more of the outlier sports like Boxing, Soccer, Fishing, Track and Field, etc. are on average receiving more traffic from search engines year over year.”
In other words, if you’re a Yankees fan looking for the team’s official site, chances are that you pretty much already know which URL to go to without having to consult Google for help. Be afraid of the big brand. Be very afraid.
Usually Sportsbiztech is the one searching for stories, but a reader contacted us wanting to pitch a story idea. How exciting!
And it happens to be a good one too: Ideasforlife.tv, a video Web site that features scientific solutions for everyday problems across England’s West Midlands, has created a clip hosted by European 5000m record holder Dave Moorcroft touting the benefits of the Healus running shoes. A visual account can trump any text description that I will attempt to provide, so here’s the link to the video:
The shoes, developed by Dutch marathoner Adri Hartveld with Staffordshire University in the UK, are heel-less in order to deflect the shock resulting from heels pounding the pavement. These seem to differ slightly from the Masai shoes that I wrote about last month. While the Masai shoes also have slightly curved soles, they are also being touted as casual as well as athletic footwear. This makes sense given that some of the runners that tried out the Healus shoes in the video felt like the curvature in the soles forced them to lean forward, ready to nudge them into a run.
To learn more about the shoes, go to the corporate Web site at www.healus.co.uk. One slight problem, though. The site claims that the shoes can be purchased at Bourne Sports in Stoke-on-Trent, but they don’t appear to be sold on the Bourne retail site…