Here's a chance to cheer for a cheetah, root for a roach, or perhaps shout for a shark.

Cable's Discovery Channel is launching "Animal Games" to determine which animal athletes are the fastest, strongest and otherwise most talented.

Teams from five animal nations -- mammals, birds, fish, herpitiles (reptiles and amphibians) and insects -- vie for medals in a virtual stadium.

To ensure a level playing field, each animal is scaled to human size of six feet, said Maureen Lemire, executive producer.

That means an American cockroach is scaled up about 46 times its normal size while a mako shark is scaled down to half.

Scaling also gives viewers an idea of how the animals would compete against humans as well as each other, Lemire said.

Computers were used to size the competitors, but real animals were filmed in action. Technicians then combined those segments into the competitions. No animation was used, she said.

Sportscasters James Brown and Cris Collinsworth provide the commentary. In the interest of full disclosure, Discovery says, Brown is a former Hawk and Collinsworth is a former Bengal -- and both currently work for a Fox -- but their animal affiliations will have no bearing on their analysis. Brown -- a District native and former sports anchor here -- hosts "Fox NFL Sunday" and Collinsworth is an analyst.

"We had a lot of fun with the 'Animal Games' script," said Brown. "Cris has a quick wit and essentially I was playing point guard and setting up Cris for those wonderful quips."

One event that especially impressed Brown and Lemire is the shooting contest, which involves animals such as the skunk.

"It's amazing what animals use for ammunition," Lemire said.

And, an important aspect of the "Animal Games" is the no-predation rule, Brown said.

"With the animals and insects in competition, normally some of these are adversaries -- and consider the others meals," Brown said. "For the purpose of competition, they have shaken hands, paws and gills to suspend their natural inclinations. But we notice that when the games are over, they get out of Dodge very quickly!"

The animals compete in a stadium with room for 110,000 creatures -- with seats that can be adjusted for tail and leg length, Discovery says.

While the show's premise is outside the box, Lemire said, "it's a complete celebration of animals." Real information -- often presented in a humorous way -- will enable people to appreciate animal skills, she said.

"For the Olympics competition, the world's best get together and compete every four years," Brown said. "But this program makes you realize what animals do that is Olympic in nature -- and they do it on a daily basis."

A Game Guide

Each animal, scaled to six feet tall to keep things fair, promises not to prey upon other competitors.

TEAMS: Competing from the five animal nations are mammals, birds, fish, insects and herpitiles (reptiles and amphibians).



* Collared lizard

* Australian tiger beetle

* American cockroach

* Roadrunner

* Cheetah

* Walking catfish


* Sailfish

* Gentoo penguin

* Bottlenose dolphin

* Mako shark

* Sailfin dragon

* Whirleygig beetle


* Maggot (fruit fly larvae)

* Bushbaby

* Salmon

* Lesser florican

* Mole flea


* Rocket frog

* Zebra grasshopper

* Eastern gray kangaroo

* Mudskipper

* Emperor penguin


* Rhinoceros beetle

* Golden eagle

* Nile crocodile

* Great white shark

* African elephant


* Archer fish

* Spiny tailed gecko

* Skunk

* Fulmar

* Skipper butterfly larvae