The Olympic Games are back in Greece for the second time since the Frenchman Pierre de Coubertin revived the concept. Is the official website of the Games of the XXVIII OlympiadAthens2004.com competitive and does it manage to reinforce the time-tested brand?
The front page reveals a colorful and smartly designed portal. The thinking behind it is revealing in the way the layout takes advantage of color panels, imagery and menus that are fast to download, even on a slow PC. While the page manages to make a big splash, it happens to be composed almost entirely in html text, with about 20 thumbnail and otherwise efficient-to-load images. Overall, the first impression connotes well the spirit of the Games.
The site is written in three official languages, English, French and Greek, with no substantial differences spotted in the design. The same consistent feeling is provided throughout the browsing experience.
If Athens 2004 delivers the emotional benefit of the Olympic brand, how does it score in terms of functionality? Again, it is a home run (we chose “home run” because, for some reason, though baseball has been an Olympic sport since 1992, cricket is still not included). The front page is designed as a portal packed with news and information.
The left side is occupied by a comprehensive but nonetheless succinct navigation menu that covers all the major aspects of the Games from sports news, to schedules, to tickets, volunteering and weather. Its usability is high and, again, it is written in html and does not slow down the website in any way.
Unfortunately, Athens 2004 does not provide much help in terms of television schedules and webcasts, missing an opportunity to tie in with other channels of communication. Unlike the Tour de France, it is unfortunate that this and other major sports events give exclusivity (i.e., a monopoly) to the broadcast of their pictures. Although it may be good business in the short-term, it insults the intelligence of the viewers. Outside their home countries, people who wish to follow their country’s athletes will invariably face frustration. Sports lovers keen to watch great world champions will instead be subject to lengthy background stories of local Olympians, from interviews of their parents to close-ups of their hometowns, in lieu of any real footage of their performance. It can only backlash to deprive people of their right to choose when there is no compelling reason to impose such a ban. As a result, the sports industry may soon face the same passive resistance that the music industry currently faces, with similar long-term economic consequences.
Be that as it may, this website is nevertheless among the best in its class. Diving into the Sports pages, for example, the visitor will find a mine of information that would be expected, including history, rules, schedules and links. It is concise but provides all the basics to follow the Games closely. The site also includes a couple of games such as a Slider Game for kids and a Quizz for their parents.
The flip side of the site’s usability and depth of information is that it is often necessary to click several times before reaching the right page. As long as Athens 2004's server can handle the load, visitors should find their browsing experience most enjoyable.
*Due to the constantly changing environment of websites, some reviews may no longer reflect the current website for this brand.