Your guide to Olympics web coverage

Despite a moderate backlash from companies wishing to provide streaming media coverage of the Games over the web, the internet is proving to be a popular choice for people looking to get the latest results, still-frame pictures and enough statistics to choke even the most ardent of commentators.

While the IOC restrictions are making it hard for most sites to differentiate themselves, the following is a guide to some of the best and worst of what's out there.

OLYMPICS.COM

The official Web site, and IBM's showcase of all things e-business, this site has a host of features that can keep the average punter amused for hours while they pretend to be hard at work.

With the plum domain name, this site has been reporting a lot of hits since last week's opening ceremony, and cruising through the site it's not hard to see why.

As expected it contains a fairly detailed description of events, athlete profiles and news sourced from news agency Reuters. As well as boasting the "every sport, every athlete, every country" motto, the site has a host of memorabilia and Olympic merchandise to sell - not to mention Olympic tickets and airfare links.

Based on experience gained from Atlanta and Nagano, IBM does a fairly comprehensive job catering to the tastes and interests of a worldwide audience, while providing some "what to do in Sydney" features for out-of-towners. Other elements include chat rooms, fan mail, and expert tips to a number of sports - presumably for the more energetic to try at home.

Fred McNeese, an IBM spokesman for the Games, claims the site's real-time scoreboards are one of the key features which sets Olympics.com apart from the rank-and-file Olympic sites.

One criticism of the site is that it may have too much content and a person can find themselves wasting time searching for the link to "that thing I saw yesterday, where was it again?

OLYMPICS.COM.AU

Home to the Australian Olympic Team and Australia's Olympic television broadcaster, Channel Seven's i7 site is another popular web destination - it would hope to be after a week of Channel Seven plugging it during the company's TV coverage.

The site is less packed with links than IBM's effort, which makes for an easier surf, and it appears to augment the network's Australia-centric TV broadcasts with programming and event schedule information.

While focused heavily on news stories, the site does have a couple of small features like a decent photo gallery by Kodak, an Olympic trivia game and Olympic-themed screen savers, to differentiate itself.

On the downside, the site has a Medal Tally that opens in a separate window every time you load the site, which can become annoying, and there's a question mark hanging over the site's load time, with lengthy delays reported for dial-up modem users.

SILLY2000

If you're tired of hearing about the Olympics and need a little light relief then Silly2000 is the site for you. Modelled on the official Olympics.com site, this irreverent piss-take offers stories such as "Cosmo editors commend Judo's tough line on overweight women" and "Ten things I hate about decathlon". The humour is mostly clean so you can forward stories to a colleague, and the pieces are generally well-written.

Some good features include a Fun & Games section, where a player bets on which athlete is using steroids, and a Real Sydney guide complete with US and non-US (that is, anti-US) sections.

The site has been responsible for a wealth of email jokes, some of which may have found their way into your inbox already, so some of the content looks a little tired. But for a satirical look at the Olympics this site is updated remarkably often, and definitely worth a look.

USA TODAY

US national newspaper USA Today has taken its Olympic coverage online and, based on some traffic monitoring services, the site is receiving its fair share of hits.

The site is a fairly static looking, but does offer a lot of in-depth coverage of the US team's performance as well as a number of features about Sydney and the host country.

Billed as a visit to the Olympics without really being there, the site offers event results, schedules and analysis in line with what most media outlets are producing.

It also has a strong audio and video feature that plays clips of interviews, news feeds and the reports of a roving reporter travelling around Australia. Most of these clips are US-related, and require RealPlayer and a decent PC to be fully appreciated.

MEDAL TALLY

If you can bear the page-load wait then Medal Tally is worth checking out. Based around the simple idea that not all nations are equal (in population and wealth), the site calculates which country has the highest medal tally in a standardised environment. It also presents some interesting facts and figures regarding tallies of previous Olympics.

The site also provides information on how the IOC selects sports as well as a useful reference to check what events are being offered in 2004 - rather than believing one of the many urban myths about the inclusion of golf or rugby.

The site is also offered in French, German, Italian, Chinese, Spanish and Dutch.

GAMESINFO

Gamesinfo.com is one of the more practical sites on the Olympics. It offers basically everything you could possibly want to know about getting to and from the events, the venues, the city of Sydney and even your health.

The site provides valuable timetable information for Sydney's public transport and schedules of the events. Surfers can subscribe to an alert email service to keep abreast of any last-minute changes to transport or events.

Gamesinfo also offers information in 12 different languages and could prove a genuine service to anyone considering actually going to the Games rather than watching it all unfold through a browser - a novel idea.

It's the kind of site you'll wish you checked before getting stuck in traffic 10 minutes before an event or lost a couple of your children in a sea of people outside Olympic Stadium.

Its neat, straightforward design, clean text and useful links to government agencies make it one of the best no-frills Olympics sites on the web.

One issue with the site is some of the failed links, but this appears to be a temperamental problem rather than standard fare.

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Richard Noone

PC World

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