Phil Burfurd, senior vice president, communications for parent company ACNielsen Asia Pacific, said it was "difficult to tell" whether new records in internet traffic would be made as a result of the Games, which in technology circles have been dubbed the "Internet Olympics".
"Until we actually start tracking it, it is an unknown," Burfurd said.
Nielsen/Net Ratings will begin monitoring web traffic to around 200 Olympic sites worldwide from the Opening Ceremony tonight until after the close of the Games. "We are expected quite a lot of traffic . . . not just in Australia, but in Europe and the US," Burfurd said. "We expect people will want to get sports results fairly immediately."
IBM, the official technology sponsor and host of the official Olympics website, is expecting over 6 billion hits in total.
Even before the Games begin, traffic to Olympic-related websites, especially www.Olympics.com, has been increasing, Burfurd said. According to Nielsen/Net Ratings, the number of unique Australian visitors to Olympics.com has grown from 36,000 in May to almost 200,000 in August. Page views have also increased from 440,000 to over 4.4 million.
Similar growth has also been seen in the US, with unique visitor numbers to the official site growing to 180,000 in only the last few weeks. "(This) figure is expected to grow significantly once the Games begin," Nielsen/Net Ratings predicted.
Burfurd added that pre-Games information sites such as the Olympic Roads and Transport Authority had also been generating increased web traffic.
Nielsen/Net Ratings' daily Web Olympic Index will be the first multinational project undertaken by the organisation. Around 200 key Olympic sites across 14 countries in the Asia-Pacific, North America and Europe will be monitored by 165,000 panellists worldwide. Categories include the Olympics, government sites, sporting sites, media sites, portals, and unofficial sites.
Burfurd said that Nielsen/Net Ratings is hoping to demonstrate the benefits of internet measuring through the project. "Internet measuring is still fairly new . . . we want to show the value of what we can deliver from doing this and the global nature of the internet," he said.
In related news, rival internet monitoring service Hitwise reported yesterday that the official site for the Sydney Olympics rose this week to become the second most popular Australian website. According to Hitwise, www.Olympics.com is second only to ninemsn.
Hitwise will also be tracking Olympic and sports-related web traffic daily for the duration of the Games. According to officials, they will provide comparative information on the most popular athletes, countries and sites.