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Immerse yourself in Rio (minus the Zika) with Google’s new Olympics features

The modern Olympics are a relatively recent invention, believe it or not — French baron Pierre de Coubertin is credited with reviving the ancient Greek tradition in 1896. Much about the games has changed since then, needless to say, not least of which the breadth of coverage around it.

At this year’s games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, you won’t have wait for tomorrow’s paper to find out how Team USA performed in cycling, volleyball, or badminton — tens of thousands of collective television channels, social media networks, live-streams, and live blogs will break the news as it happens. It’s information overload, quite frankly, but luckily, benevolent search giant Google wants to help make sense of it all. On Monday, it took the wraps off Olympic-centric features that’ll help you stay abreast of the game’s most newsworthy moments.

First up, Google is making it easier to surface the very latest from Rio within search. Type a query about an Olympic event in Google and you’ll see a truncated card organized by schedule, athlete, medals, and country. A “sports” tab lists details about the games’ 42 distinct disciplines –that is to say, upcoming events, previously awarded medals by team and athlete, and a list of countries scheduled to compete.

The “Schedule” section, meanwhile, comprises an exhaustive calendar of the Olympics’ 306 individual meets, sessions, and matches. “Medals” shows every participating region’s Olympic standing, and the accompanying “countries” tab reveals more: which athletes from each are competing, the best-performing competitors thus far, and participants experiencing more Google search volume than usual.

Type the name of an athlete and the data becomes even more granular. Search results now surface biographical information about individual athletes, like their country of origin and, the medals they’ve earned, and the list of events in which they’re scheduled to compete. And on Android and iOS, there’s an option “track” favored competitors — i.e., receive automatic updates when they win events or medals.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. On the video side, Google’s added TV schedules in more than 30 countries, and thanks to partnerships with organizations including the BBC, America Movile, and NHK, it will post TV highlights and rebroadcasts across more than 60 countries on YouTube. Live clips will be viewable directly within Google search results, too.

Not to be outdone by legacy media, though, Google’s contributing its own crop of original content. It’s recruited the top 15 members of YouTube’s Creators program, among them Lia Koshy, Brodie Smith, Ben Brown, Caeli, Chloe Morello, and Felipe Castanhari, to cover the Olympics live from Rio. They’ll be hosting live-streams of selected events and filming 360-degree videos — the latter presumably for later perusal on virtual reality headsets like the Gear VR.

If all that wasn’t immersive enough, Google’s adding a timely new feature to Google Maps that’ll help you get a lay of Brazil’s former capital. The search giant has collated the city’s best-known public parks, monuments, and architecture in a scrollable Street View collection for the web and smartphones. “[You can] the places where the world’s most talented athletes will make history” from the comfort of your couch, Google said.

To say the 2016 Olympic games have been mired in controversy is the understatement of the century. They’ve been threatened by political turmoil, viral outbreaks, and a state-sponsored doping scandal, among other incidences. But on the bright side, at least Google will ensure you don’t miss a second of the fun.

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