Traffic to the official Olympic Website - which some expect to be the busiest site ever - has been building all week.
Nielsen//NetRatings says its data shows "global Web traffic surging" to key Olympic sites. It says the number of unique visitors in Australia heading to the official IBM-hosted site (www.olympics.com) has grown from 36,000 daily in May to almost 200,000 in August, and page views from 440,000 to more than 4.4 million.
Nielsen says similar spikes in web traffic are also occurring in other markets, particularly the US and UK. In the US, unique visitor numbers to the official Olympics site has hit 180,000 daily off a low base a few weeks ago.
ACNielsen eRatings.com president William Pulver says the Sydney 2000 Olympics will be the first 'Internet Olympics'.
"Because of the significant time difference between Australia and the major sporting nations of Europe and the Americas, we anticipate fans will generate an enormous level of web activity to obtain Olympic results and updates," he says.
"There is huge international interest in the role the web will play in the Sydney Games because despite all the communications advances of the last few decades these Olympics will be the first broadcast via delayed transmission since 1960. In many cases, people will log on to the Web rather than wait for the delayed broadcasts to be screened.
"As such, the Sydney 2000 Games represents a defining moment in the development of the Internet as a communication medium."
Nielsen's 'Web Olympics Index' will report daily on the Internet activity of more than 165,000 panelists in Australia, New Zealand, Denmark, Finland, France, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Norway, Sweden, Singapore, UK and the USA.
The Australian-based Internet monitoring service Hitwise is also paying close attention to the Olympics on the Web. It says the Olympic site (www.olympics.com) accounted for 8.03% of Australian Internet traffic to local sites on Wednesday, putting it second only to ninemsn, which received 13.98% of all traffic.
Executive director of Hitwise, Adrian Giles, says that the company has seen about 150,000 Australians visiting the official site over the past week and "it will be interesting to see whether Australians interest in the Olympics site eventually knocks ninemsn from the top spot."
The ninemsn site also offers its own Olympic coverage.
In terms of sport-related traffic measured by Hitwise, Olympic sites captured 20.02% of all Australian traffic to sporting sites (compared to 8.1% for July), and in the past week, have increased this share to 30.39%.
The second highest-ranking Olympic site is Games of the XXVII Olympiad (www.olympics.com.au), a joint venture between Olympics broadcaster Channel 7 and the Australian Olympic Committee, which received 7.27% of all traffic to Olympics sites in August, with the latest daily rankings showing an increase to 8.50% of all Olympic-related traffic.
The top 10 global Olympic sites as visited by Australian Internet audiences on Wednesday, 13 September are:
1 Sydney 2000 Olympics www.olympics.com
2 Games of the XXVII Olympiad www.olympics.com.au
3 nbcolympics.com www.nbcolympics.com
4 Sydney Olympics Games Info www.gamesinfo.com.au
5 Our Olympics www.ourolympics.com
6 Sydney Games www.olympics.smh.com.au
7 IOC Official Website www.olympic.org
8 Sydneylink www.sydneylink.com
9 The Olympic Club www.theolympicclub.com.au
10 Australian Olympic Committee www.aoc.com.au