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SEPTEMBER 8 , 2000 VOL. 26 NO. 35 | SEARCH ASIAWEEK

IOC Gymnastics
With $1.3 Billion at Stake, Webcasts Get Banned
By BELINDA RABANO

PLUS:
The Day Has Come: East Timor's Olympic team - the four hopefuls

Where To Find the Olympics On the Net
Olympics.com
Sydney2000.com
Espn.go.com
Sportsillustrated.cnn.com
Olympics.sportsline.com
Foxsports.com
Straitstimes.asia1.com.sg
Special.scmp.com
Olympic.sohu.com
Olympics.lycosasia.com
To the International Olympic Committee, the real gold in the Games is the broadcasting rights. Media companies paid a total of $1.3 billion for exclusive agreements to televise the 2000 Games, and with so much at stake, the IOC was not about to let a little thing like the Internet spoil the show. That's why this Olympiad, initially predicted to be the first truly Internet-friendly one, won't live up to the avid surfer's expectations.

Not that there will be a Web blackout of Olympics events, but the IOC has banned streaming video transmissions over the Internet — and that's a pity. Live webcasts would have been perfect to bridge the time gaps between Sydney and the rest of the world. For example, with the National Broadcasting Corp. planning to delay most televised coverage by at least 12 hours so popular competitions will air during prime time, eager U.S. sports fans were expected to turn to the Net for up-to-the-minute viewing. But NBC paid $705 million for sole U.S. broadcasting rights. The IOC — which has so far failed to come to grips with the Internet — wants to protect its partners. Zealously. The committee has refused even to issue press passes to Internet-based news organizations. In June the IOC sued 1,800 websites for infringing on the Olympics trademarks, and it has promised to police the web during the two-week Games for any violating video.

The crackdown will boost page views for the official website, www.olympics.com. It's predicted to get one billion-plus page views and over 35 million individual users. That would be the biggest Net audience ever.

Even without video webcasts, the Net will allow more people around the world than ever to follow the Games from afar. Traditional media outlets will be offering text, photos and other information on their Olympics sites. Some of the majors include sites for ESPN, CNN/Sports Illustrated, CBS SportsLine and FOXSports. These offer a wide range of news and features, profiles of athletes, background on most events, as well as bits of Olympic history.

For in-depth news on Asian competitors, check out portal LycosAsia and online editions of Asia-based newspapers, such as Hong Kong's SCMP.com and Singapore's Asiaone.com, through its link to the Straits Times. China's SOHU.com plans to have extensive coverage of the Chinese delegation in Sydney, and is providing its news for messaging to China Mobile users. For those sports fans interested in checking out the 2002 Winter Olympics, the Salt Lake City organizing committee already has a site running at www.slc2002.com.

The IOC seems to have realized that Internet broadcasting rights are a valuable commodity rather than a threat. IBM, the official technology sponsor of the Games, claimed it already held Net-based rights through its sponsorship contract. But the committee disagreed, leading to the dissolution of the longtime partnership. With Net rights now up for grabs, the committee in December plans to inaugurate talks with the media on how to incorporate the Net in the coverage — and what exclusive rights might be worth. Perhaps by the time the next Olympiad starts in two years, the IOC will be getting a little more gold, and Web users won't be getting the shaft.

Write to Asiaweek at mail@web.asiaweek.com

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