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High Wired Act
John Walters
September 11, 2000
The Games will be a five-ring circus on-line, which is where fans must go if they want to keep up with the action as it happens
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September 11, 2000

High Wired Act

The Games will be a five-ring circus on-line, which is where fans must go if they want to keep up with the action as it happens

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'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 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,, 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.

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