So much for the Internet Olympics

Poor IBM. Atlanta has not been a happy time for Big Blue, with criticism of system failures tainting the company’s impressive (and expensive) Olympic IT effort. Still, as the games have progressed the media has lightened up a bit, giving IBM increasing credit for the wide range of services the company has been responsible for at the Centennial Olympics. IBM has also pointed out that things haven’t all been its fault, inadequate access to not-quite-complete Olympic venues stopping the company from having enough time to properly test all its systems before the games began, for example.

But my beef is with just one portion of this huge enterprise — the Internet coverage. These Olympics were hyped as the first truly online games. We were going to get up-to-the-minute information on the Internet that would rival conventional media coverage.

Yeah, right.

Take this morning, for example. When I went to bed last night, I knew that New Zealand Mistral sailor Barbara Kendall would be going for a silver medal. And team mate Aaron Mcintosh was in 4th place in the men’s Mistral competition, although unlikely to win a bronze unless serious disaster befell one of his competitors.

So after my morning round of email answering, I decided to check the Web sites to find out how things had panned out.

The official IBM Olympic site (www.atlanta.olympic.org) had no news on the day’s yachting results at 10:30am NZ time. The medal standings listed New Zealand’s count unchanged — three golds, one silver and one bronze. Moving to the official New Zealand Olympic site (www.olympic.org.nz) I found a different story. Here I was told that Barbara Kendall had, in fact, secured the silver medal. The medal standings here stood at six, including her silver.

Out of interest I jumped to CNN (www.cnn.com). What’s this? New Zealand with seven medals? An extra bronze medal appears in the overall listings. Had Aaron Mcintosh won a bronze after all? Alas, CNN has no further details — the results for the yachting page are not yet updated. USA Today (www.usatoday.com) is even worse. When I visit it I find this online version of the US daily hasn’t updated its yachting coverage since July 20.

I jump back to the Atlanta site but the results are the same. However, from here I leap to the IYRU (International Yacht Racing Union) Web site (www.sailing.org), which has the complete placings for the day’s races. Yet this seems to indicate that Mcintosh’s 9th place in the final race leaves him in 4th overall. So is CNN wrong? If not, who has won that bronze?

I decide to check CNN again. What’s this? CNN has updated its team standings chart to show New Zealand with just five medals. Gone is that mysterious bronze, but gone also is Barbara Kendall’s silver. A quick glance at the date stamp shows CNN is now displaying an older chart than it was half an hour earlier. Later, the chart has been updated again, and both medals are back. CNN is also now displaying the medal results for the day in detail. And there is that elusive bronze medal — to one Roy Heiner of New Zealand in the Finn class yachting.

Roy who? You can be excused for not knowing the man. He is, in fact, a member of the Netherlands’ team. But hey, isn’t there a Zealand in Holland? Hell, it must be the same place.

Meanwhile, the official Olympic site still hasn’t recorded Barbara Kendall’s win at 2:50pm New Zealand time, even though the local IBM-produced Olympic site has had the news since this morning. The score: IBM New Zealand 1. IBM US 0. It’s not until 3:00pm that Kendall’s medal shows up in the medal chart on the official site.

It’s a good thing that IBM New Zealand provided us with a local alternative to the main Atlanta site. Without that, I might just as well have brought a radio into work.

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