Where to connect with Winter Games

Don't look now, but Vancouver 2010 kicks off quite soon. The opening ceremonies are Feb. 12, to be exact. You don't just plan on watching the Winter Olympics on TV and that alone, do you? Come on, this is 2010. We don't just watch sports anymore; we interact, discuss and get updates in real time.

In that vein, here are a good number of ways social media and the like are playing into Vancouver 2010.

Twitter and Facebook

Perhaps the most useful and interesting use of these platforms comes in the form of the Follow the Flame Twitter account. It's been alive and kicking since Oct. 22 when the flame was lit, and has documented its journey throughout Canada -- in English and French -- along with some photos.

Vancouver 2010's Facebook page is also rather robust; it has nearly 356,000 fans, and has featured news items, discussion items, video, photos, games and contests leading up to the Games. As far as organized chatter straight from the committee's mouth is concerned, you don't have to look much further than this.

Countless athletes are active on Twitter. Some of the more popular U.S. ones: snowboarder Shaun White speedskater Apolo Anton Ohno, skier Lindsey Vonn and bobsledder Steve Mesler.

ESPN.com's Olympics section includes those and other athletes' Twitter feeds. And thanks to the beauty of Twitter lists, Inside the Games has one that features several more Olympic athletes tweeting away on Twitter.

Thanks to the ease of using Twitter, and with several U.S. athletes already active with a large following on the service, expect it to be where most personal athlete reaction emanates from. While the IOC allowed blogging by athletes for the first time in Beijing in 2008 -- as long as they complied with some guidelines -- it's a lot easier for an athlete to use a cell phone to quickly hammer something out than to have to trudge back to the Olympic Village, open up the laptop and type something. Twitter has become a lot more mainstream and popular since Beijing.

Though it's not as if there are no bloggers left: Team USA's Web site features a good number of athlete bloggers who have been posting updates leading up the Games.

iPhone applications

NBC, which will be televising the Winter Games, released a free iPhone app on Tuesday entitled "NBC Olympics on AT&T." The app is pretty much your one-stop shop for coverage of the Games. It features real-time updates on all events, medal counts, news stories, video highlights and even offers a social feature -- public and private discussion groups are available to chat about the Games.

As it's free and it will have video highlights -- something competitors without broadcast rights won't be able to provide -- this is the best app for anyone looking for coverage of the Games on their iPhone.

ESPN's ScoreCenter app will allow fans to add each Olympic sport and a Medal Tracker, and fans can also access Olympics coverage, including scores, schedules and results on ESPN Mobile Web.

The Vancouver Organizing Committee is also offering an official Vancouver 2010 app. It's geared more toward spectators, as it features event schedules and directions to venues that are playing host to the Games in and around the city. This app is also free.

Oh, and one more for spectators: Cowbell 2010. Yes, Will Ferrell's instrument of choice can be yours to cheer on athletes for a scant 99 cents. You can even drape the flag of your country of choice on your cowbell and ring it to your heart's content. It also offers news and info, such as a schedule of events, real-time medal counts and a Twitter feed following hundreds of athletes to boot, so it's more than just a cowbell.

And we all want more than just a cowbell, don't we?

Ryan Corazza is a freelance writer and Web designer based in Chicago.