Sport on the Internet

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EVENTS WITH a dress code usually have a wealth of tradition behind them. The official Badminton Horse Trials site, for example, strongly advises country clothing and sensible shoes for those visiting this year's event from Thursday. Men hoping to enjoy a spot of corporate hospitality in the Portcullis Club or company marquees are requested to don jackets and ties.

Of course, Badminton's tradition goes back before corporate entertainment was a twinkle in the eyes of marketing men, and the site carries an illustrated history stretching back to 1949.

Vital trivia is in there, for example that the New Zealander Mark Todd rode two-thirds of the 1995 cross-country course on Bertie Blunt with only one stirrup before getting disqualified at an inspection the next day. An excellent resource for those ignorant of the sport who would like to hide their lack of knowledge - something the Internet is generally useful for.

More prosaically, all the hard facts about the event, how to get to the grounds and how much it will cost to get in are on the site, along with a ticket purchase facility and the inevitable online merchandise shop.

An interactive map of the course has some neat mouse rollovers. Move the cursor over a jump, and a pop-up window provides a detailed graphic of what it has in store for horse and rider.

Last year the site hosted a limited Internet radio link. This year, licence deals appear to have been worked out so that it can broadcast live from 7am to 7pm each day. A G2 RealPlayer plug-in will be needed, so if you are still using an older RealAudio version you'll have to visit RealPlayer's site and upgrade beforehand.

The official site will provide a results service, but eQuestrian might present a fuller picture. Badminton is just one of the events this site covers. It also embraces American, European and World Cup events - trials, as well as individual discipline competitions.

Besides giving a wider view of the equestrian scene, it has set up a team of its own photographers and reporters to bring up-to-date news results and post-race interviews. As well as hosting a link to Radio Badminton Live it also has a photo gallery in place, and a video gallery where highlights of the official video will be transmitted.

Eventing is prominent on the Equestrian Times international news network. Where it scores is in that it was the first site ever to post to the Web a virtual walk of a horse trials course. It has a members-only area for $30 (pounds 19) a year, with virtual walks of last year's Badminton, Burghley and Blenheim. The previous year's Badminton and Burghley virtual tours are open to non-members.

Despite all this, the site is not quite as spectacular as it sounds. There is no video, just a sequence of 31 fences complete with photographs and informed descriptive text provided by a rider. It is a step in the right direction, but a video shot from a rider's hat would be a better inducement to surfers.

Site Addresses

Badminton Horse Trials

http://www.badminton-horse.co.uk/

The eQuestrian

http://www.equestrian.co.uk/

Equestrian Times

http://www.horsenews.com/

RealPlayer

http://www.real.com/

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