Google Maps The Rio Olympics For Actual — And Virtual — Visitors

The Google Street View imagery around and in the Olympics arena has also been revamped to give virtual travelers an insider's look at the stadiums.

Roughly 10,000 athletes and half a million travelers have descended on Rio, Brazil for the Olympics 2016 and Google Maps is offering a detailed view both inside and outside of the events.

To give the fans in attendance and those who couldn’t make it a “you are there view” from an athlete’s viewpoint, the Google Street View feature offers 360-degree view of the 25 stadiums, arenas and pools where the likes of Usain Bolt, LeBron James and Michael Phelps will compete.

“Street View gives users a unique chance to see the venues from the same perspective that athletes will have during the Games,” said Rio 2016 communications director Adriana Garcia.

As Google Street Maps attempts to bring more indoor location views beyond its road and and avenue imagery from the 360-degree camera mounted on cars, the inside looks naturally have to be collected on foot. To do that, Google has sent out “Trekkers” wearing a 40-pound backpack fitted with 15 sophisticated cameras that is carried around the venues. In addition, the “Street View Trolley,” which is mainly used for navigating inside buildings, fits all the necessary recording equipment onto a push-trolley mounted with a camera system.

Olympic Aquatics Stadium Estádio Aquático Olímpico by Google Local Guide Werner Kühnert
Olympic Aquatics Stadium
Estádio Aquático Olímpico by Google Local Guide Werner Kühnert

Looking beyond the Olympics, the improvements that Google Maps has added has implications for its wider travel app offerings.

“The favelas of Rio aren’t well-known to many outsiders, partly because there’s limited information about these areas to include on maps,” writes Marcus Leal, Product Manager, Google Maps, referring to the country’s urban neighborhoods, in a blog post. “We partnered with the local Brazilian nonprofit Grupo Cultural AfroReggae on a project called “Tá No Mapa” (“It’s On the Map” in English).”

By working with with AfroReggae, Google trained 150 favela residents on digital mapping skills and in just two years they’ve mapped 26 favelas and gotten more than 3,000 businesses on the map.

“Not only does this allow locals to find businesses like Bar do David—an award-winning restaurant in the favela Chapeu Mangueira—it’s helped some local residents get a mailing address for the first time,” Leal says.

As Uber works to build up its own global mapping intelligence assets designed to link its drivers and riders to specific places and businesses, Google Maps has been expanding its sights — literally as well as figuratively — into surveying indoor and outdoor locations, even at the store shelf level.

Aside from Uber, Apple Maps, MapQuest, Here WeGo, have all been advancing their respective mapping tools to cut into Google’s dominance.

In the meantime, Google’s traffic navigation app, Waze, is also making sure that it’s worldwide hegemony remains intact, as both entities have been capitalizing on the intense attention the Rio 2016 Olympics attracts.

Case in point: last week, Waze began letting its 55 million global users the ability to employ a “coach voice” to provide navigation along their daily routes. In addition, users can (virtually) join their home country’s team. The driver’s Wazer icon will display any country’s flag in-app.



About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.