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Net Olympic games begin

With just 78 days to go until the opening ceremonies of the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, Web sites about the games are sprouting up.

The Internet is warming up for the start of the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan.

With just 78 days to go until the opening ceremonies, the Web is responding to the international thirst for information about the games with sites devoted to the games and the athletes. The electronic medium is ideally suited to disseminate information about the Olympics because it can reach a global audience in all the languages spoken in the 83 participating countries.

The official site for the Nagano games was launched more than a year ago to "build excitement to introduce folks to a lot of the locales and venues" of the Nagano games, said Eric Wilson, senior vice president of Studio Archetype, the company that designed the site.

Studio Archetype partnered with IBM to create and design a site that will be able to withstand enormous amounts of traffic during the games. IBM is perhaps hoping to redeem itself after suffering much criticism for delays in its network during the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta.

Wilson said he is not overly concerned with previous problems Olympic technology has faced. "We haven't looked at it that way," he said. "We've looked at building the best site we can."

The site offers information about the events, the 3,000 athletes competing, Nagano, and tickets--although it is not possible to purchase tickets through the site. The official site also offers interesting trivia about the winter games at the bottom of each screen, including the history and logistics of the games.

CBS SportsLine was first out of the gate with a site dedicated to the Nagano games, launching its effort today.

The CBS Olympic coverage features information about each sport at the winter games, Olympic merchandise, a schedule of events, a guide to CBS television coverage of events, chat rooms, and an ongoing medal count.

CBS and competitors such as ESPN SportsZone, which hasn't launched its Winter Olympic effort yet, are hoping to match the 8.2 million pages that the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta drew during the course of the games.