Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Web Sites Blanket the Olympics

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Web Sites Blanket the Olympics

Article excerpt

On July 19, an estimated 3.5 billion people from Boston to Bombay will watch on television as an American athlete lights the fabled flame in Atlanta's Olympic Stadium, signaling the start of the XXVI Summer Games.

Dozens of Web sites are covering the Games, which run through Aug. 4, from every angle imaginable, offering news, schedules, athlete profiles and diaries, history, trivia, rules and regulations, and once competition begins, real-time results and statistics.

Decided at the last minute to attend in person? No problem. You can still order tickets on-line at the Games' official Web site ( http://www.atlanta.olympic.org/), find a place to stay at one of several sites offering the low-down on hotels, B&Bs and rooms for rent, and check out tourist attractions and nightclubs at other Olympic-related sites.

Even working stiffs with limited time can track the latest results on PointCast (http://www.pointcast.com/), the Web-based screen-saver news network, which is launching an all-Olympics "channel" July 15.

There is a vast collection of wired resources. Yahoo's Web directory lists 105 sites for the 1996 Summer Games, and competitor Excite's directory lists 121. That's the upside.

There's a downside, and it could be a doozie. Hordes of Games fans could create massive traffic jams at popular Olympic sites, congestion that could spill over into other areas on the network, according to on-line experts.

But because the Internet's gotten too big to test, nobody knows exactly what will happen, said Charles Hofacker, an associate professor of marketing at Florida State University in Tallahassee who's studied the Internet's network infrastructure.

"Nothing like this has ever been tried before," Hofacker said.

Officials at MCI say there's nothing to fear. One of a handful of companies running the Internet's fiber-optic backbone, MCI recently installed its biggest digital pipelines yet - capable of hauling 622 m egabits of data a second - in the greater Atlanta area, though the upgrade wasn't specifically for the Olympics.

IBM, which built the official Olympics Web site for the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games (ACOG), figures the site will receive 10 million hits a day starting July 19, up from 300,000 hits a day presently. …

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