Net gains in Olympic traffic

When we reported on the Web presence of the Atlanta Olympics, the figures we quoted for the numbers of visitors and the amount of traffic to the web site sounded large. But just four years later in Sydney, the growth in visits to the Olympic web site have astounded even IBM, who ran it.

The main Olympic site,, handled 11.3 billion hits during the games -- that's 1,700% growth even since the Winter Olympics at Nagano, two years ago. At its busiest, the site handled 1.2 million hits every minute.

But the International Olympic Committee are still disappointed. They'd expected 35 million people logging on to the site during the Games, and on the last day estimated that the total would be 15 million.

Part of the problem is that the IOC has classified the Internet as "a broadcasting medium" and is therefore keeping control over the use of moving pictures until after the Winter Olympics in 2006. They've also signed an exclusive deal until 2008 that makes US broadcaster NBC the only broadcaster for the Games in the US.

The IOC refused to let web sites provide video or audio clips of the Games online; while there were webcams providing a variety of frequently updated still pictures from around the Games, many feel that it's just not the same.

The firm that ran the NBC site have pointed out that the quality of Internet broadcast video is not high and certainly not comparable to TV quality.

It won't have helped their cause that NBC did not show any live events from the Games on TV because of the time difference between the US and Sydney, so many people had to turn to the Net to find timely information as well as details of sports that weren't covered in the recorded highlights. And many people in the UK will have missed being able to see the finals of sports online, where those finals were being contested during office hours.

Things are likely to change for the next Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City in 2002, and for the next Summer Olympics in Athens in 2004. The IOC is holding a conference in December to discuss the Internet rights for the Winter Olympics. Advances in technology are also likely to mean that many more people have access to connections which are fast enough to let them watch video coverage online.

Industry analysts are suggesting that the Internet-related revenues from the Athens games may be as much as $200 million... a figure that the IOC surely can't ignore.

Official Olympics website:

NBC Olympics site:

British Olympic Association:


Originally published: October 2000 -- This page last updated: 9th February 2001