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Olympic beret site slow as escargot

The rage over a blue polyester beret bearing the U.S. flag has Olympics fans standing in the cold for hours to buy one--and demand is spilling over to the Internet.

Each Olympics sees its share of crass commercialism, and the Salt Lake City Games appears to be following tradition.

The rage over a blue polyester beret bearing the U.S. flag has Olympics fans standing in the cold for hours to buy one. Demand has now spilled over to the Internet.

The Web site for Roots, the official clothing supplier for the U.S. and Canadian Olympic teams, suffered periodic stalls Tuesday as a result of high traffic, according to a message posted on the site's home page.

"You are viewing this page because our site is experiencing very high traffic," the message on Roots.com said. "Please be patient, and you will be shortly redirected to our home page."

Roots.com representatives could not be immediately reached for comment Tuesday.

The berets, which sell for $19.95, have been fetching bids as high as $50 on auction site eBay. That price may prove reasonable for people who want their heads in the hats as soon as possible. Anyone shopping for a beret at Roots may have to wait more than a month for delivery, the company has said.

At previous Olympic Games, there have been products that have caught the fancy of the fans. Furry toy owls were the hot seller at the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano, Japan.

Hawking coveted keepsakes has touched off rounds of price gouging and scalping, followed by a wave of protests from those claiming they were swindled.

During the 1984 Games in Los Angeles, one of the most sought-after lapel pins featured the logo of TV network ABC and sold for nearly $50. Sales slowed when scam artists began producing counterfeit pins.