'Twas the late-night Olympics, when all through the house,
Every creature seen stirring was pushing a mouse.
No events broadcast live, that dream torn asunder
By dint of the Games being staged from Down Under.
No highlight could air, 'twould be sports show sedition,
Before NBC completed its prime-time edition.
And Ma with her laptop and I with my Mac
Relied on the Internet to pick up the slack.
Christmas morning arrives early and often this year. Beginning on
Sept. 15 and continuing through Oct. 1, Olympic aficionados will
leap from their beds and head to their computers in much the same
manner that six-year-olds, roused from visions of dancing
sugarplums, make a beeline for the yuletide tree. "America will
be sleeping when most of the events are taking place," says Kevin
Monaghan, NBC's vice president of sports business development,
referring to the 15-hour time difference between Sydney and the
East Coast of the U.S. (18 hours on the West Coast), "and they
won't be televised live. So when people wake up in the morning,
they're going to find out who won by going on-line."
The 2000 Olympics may be remembered as the inaugural Computer
Games. NBC, which has American television rights, will play the
role of the Grinch by not airing each day's goings-on until prime
time, a dozen or more hours after the events have been completed.
Moreover, no one will be allowed to air Olympic highlights until
after NBC's evening show is over. While the Peacock's tape-delay
dictum is understandable from a fiscal standpoint, it's an open
invitation for frustrated fans, to paraphrase Timothy Leary, to
stay up, log on and tune out.
Example: The men's 200-meter-dash final will take place on Sept.
28 at 5:20 a.m. EST. NBC will show the race no earlier than 8
p.m. that evening. Highlight programs such as CNN/SI's
SportsTonight, ESPN's SportsCenter and Fox's National Sports
Report will have to wait until NBC's prime-time Olympic coverage
goes off the air at midnight before they can show it.
Meanwhile, by 5:25 a.m., plenty of sites will have posted the
result of the 200. Within half an hour nearly every major sports
and news site will have a story on the race. As nbcolympics.com
coordinating producer Tom Feuer puts it, "You can almost follow
the event in real time."
Internet coverage of the Games has grown astonishingly since the
1996 Olympics. NBC's Web site, which in Atlanta was manned by a
staff of 15 and produced 3,000 pages of material, now has a crew
of 350 and will have created more than 40,000 pages by the end of
the competition in Sydney. The official site of the Sydney Games,
www.olympics.com, expects to register 700 million page views,
20-fold the number of visitors Atlanta's official site had.
Most of the surfing related to the 2000 Olympics will take place
far from Bondi Beach. Here's our guide to the best sites.
Last year NBC teamed with Quokka, the premier name in adventure
sports on the Web, to produce the Games' most comprehensive and
compelling site, which offers the following links for each of the
35 Summer Olympic sports: Athlete Bios, Features, Results,
Schedule of Events and About This Sport, which includes a
glossary sublink. In rowing, for example, a visitor will learn
that U.S. oarsman Bryan Volpenhein's grandfather invented the
fat-substitute Olestra and that a "lightweight" is a rower who
must be under a specified weight--and who may have Volpenhein's
granddad to thank for a successful diet.
As weighty as NBC's site is--it's the Britannica of Olympic Web
sites--there's little fat here. "I just spoke at a conference
today," said Feuer, 38, in July, "at which some middle-aged
sports journalist complained that there was too much on our site.
I told him that he didn't have to look at everything. It's
compartmentalized for a reason."
If you're the up-close-and-personal type, you may while away
hours reading some of the more than 1,000 Athlete Bios, which
typically run 200 words. If you're someone who has dog-eared
copies of Track & Field News lying around the house, you may want
to compare sprinters' starting-block reaction times. Or you may
want to hear one of 50-odd participants discussing his or her
favorite topic--himself or herself--on Athlete's Voice. Or perhaps
you feel like going on a walkabout; in that case you should click
on the Australia link, which includes 50 Things You Might Not
Know about Australia (e.g., Koala bears are not bears).
"You couldn't possibly have predicted how much this site has
grown in four years," says NBC track analyst Dwight Stones. In
1996, when the Web site was the network's unloved stepchild,
Stones was clandestinely hosting chats on AOL for audiences that
numbered in the dozens. "Now I'm writing on our site nearly every
day," he says, "and we're expecting roughly 10 million unique
visitors from now until the end of the Olympics."
The official site of the 2000 Games lives up to its billing. Each
link has an attractively designed home page. Particularly
worthwhile links are About the Games, History and Sydney. A nice
touch is the boomerang that serves as the Return to Top of Page
About the Games: The Torch Tracker provides exhaustive
information about the world-flameous 16,777-mile torch relay, the
longest in Olympic history, which wound through 13 countries.
History: The lineage of every sport is told in-depth. Trampoline,
for example, which will make its debut in Sydney, originated with
Alaskan Inuit, who centuries ago used walrus skins to propel one
another into the sky. (Either that or the IOC got the idea from
watching an old episode of F Troop.)
Sydney: The best link on the site, whether you're attending the
Games in spirit or are at the Games attending to spirits. The Pub
Grub link has a list of all the best places to quaff a shandy (a
beer with a pinch of lemonade) or bond with a bonzer (a great
The self-proclaimed Definitive Unofficial Guide to the Sydney
Summer Games offers slick graphics and mouth-watering content.
The site's Virtual Tour is a nifty feature that allows visitors a
360-degree perspective with rotating still shots in and around
Sydney. Take in the view from the front row of the Equestrian
Centre or enjoy a close-up of the red rocks of the Uluru Outback.
Pack some Dramamine for possible dizziness.
The Olympic History link is a veritable pocket Wallechinsky: Did
you know that the 1912 Stockholm Olympics had artistic
competitions in painting and literature?
Another point-and-click, Explore Sydney, breaks out useful
information, with pop-up maps and tours, by neighborhoods.
This site, known as Olympics Through Time, is a Hellenic
historian's Ph.Delight, spanning from the Mesopotamian epic poem
Gilgamesh, in which wrestling is described, to the Olympic
revival in 1896.
Click on to the Victors link in the Antiquity section, and you
will discover an Olympic-champions database that would impress
even Herodotus. While not every winner is listed, it is certainly
cool to learn that in 384 B.C., Dikon, a native of Syracuse, won
the Diaulos (Race in Armor). Nearly 24 centuries later, thanks to
this site, Dikon is receiving the mad props he so deserves.
Entitled Summer Olympics Through the Years, this site focuses on
the Games that French baron Pierre de Coubertin revived 104 years
ago. Stat freaks will gravitate toward links such as All-Time
Medal Standings, 1896-1996. Those who'd like to brush up on
Olympics that predate their birth will find a link to a history
of each Games written with brevity and clarity.
THREE COOL ATHLETE WEB SITES
The British-record holder in the 400 meters (44.36 seconds)
promises that he'll "be keeping you bang up to date" as he tries
to pry a gold medal away from world-record holder Michael
Johnson, whom Thomas lists as the person he most admires. An
intro that quickens your pulse leads to this entertaining and
self-deprecating site (Most Embarrassing Moment: when his chums
entered him in a break-dancing competition) maintained by a bloke
who seems equally appealing to women and men. Bloody good!
As original as she is Aboriginal, Freeman, an Australian who was
the women's 400-meter silver medalist in Atlanta, is as fearless
on-line as she is on the track. While many athletes have a list
of favorite things, Freeman dares to post her least favorites in
food (steak), drink (rum) and band (Green Day).
Yes, she is only the second American woman to run a
sub-four-minute 1,500 meters, but chances are you'll log on to
view the swimsuit photos of track's reigning nymph. That said,
Suzy's no floozy, as she proves by displaying her artwork and
providing training tips. That, and she's a threat to get a medal
I downloaded her photos,
Then let out a loud hoot.
My computer had crashed--
It was time to reboot.
But I heard someone say,
As my hard drive expired,
"No worries, mate,
Soon TV'll be wired."
TWO COLOR ILLUSTRATIONS: ILLUSTRATIONS BY GARY LOCKE
On Freeman's Web site, fans can learn the Aussie runner's
least-favorite food, drink and band.