IBM and IOC disagree over the Internet and the Olympic Games

IBM is claiming a gold medal for itself at the Sydney Olympics, but the IOC has expressed 'disappointment' over the Internet.

IBM is claiming a gold medal for itself at the Sydney Olympics, but the IOC has expressed "disappointment" over the Internet. The computer giant built and managed the technology for the event, including the official Web site, plus that of others such as nbc.com of the US. The official games site handled 11.3 billion hits, a 1700% increase over the Nagano Games official site in 1998, and well above double the number of hits IBM had expected. The company says more than 13 million lines of software code were written and tested before the Games began. Almost 6000 people provided technology support for 300 medal events in 37 sports competitions held at 39 venues. However, the International Olympics Committee says it overestimated the number of Net users and television still rules. It had forecast 35 million unique users, but reported only half that at the close of the games. In turn, IBM staffers are pouring scorn on the IOC analysis, with the company seeing the games as a showpiece for its technology. "I don't know where the IOC got its figures from," says IBM technology head Vickie Regan. IOC vice-president Dick Pound says it paid too much attention to "Internet hype", adding few people have sufficient bandwidth to receive broadcast quality pictures. IOC marketing director Michael Payne says TV remains king for 99.5% of the audience. America's NBC, which has exclusive US viewing rights to the games untill 2008, forbade live webcam or streaming pictures on the Net and even employed French firm Datops to police this. It also delayed its coverage of the games by 18 hours, forcing some US viewers to switch to Canadian and Mexican stations for live pictures. However, despite the public support for terrestrial television, researchers say the NBC TV ban highlights the importance of the Web and helped fuel its use for people wanting the latest results. The IOC plans to look at the role of the Net at a meeting in December. Any possible changes are likely in time for the Salt Lake City Olympics in 2002. By then, analysts say, more people will have good quality broadband access, making the Internet market so much bigger. And by 2004, when Athens stages the Games, Forrester expects Internet revenues from the event will top $500m, making the medium too large to ignore.

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