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Olympics shaft the Internet

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If you want to keep up to date with what's happening in the Summer Olympics, don't bother with the Internet and British TV won't help you too much either. How come? Money of course.

The International Olympic Committee has already made it clear it is trying to clean up its image by stamping on drugs and taking a hard line with the rules. But then there's a fine line between controlling the event and acting like fascist dictators.

When it comes to Internet coverage it has gone for the latter approach. You may wish to catch some of the events online but you're not allowed. Having paid a ridiculous amount of money to the Committee, US TV company NBC has decided to restrict Internet coverage (it has also decided to charge huge, separate fees to cover certain events).

Hence you can expect no live coverage. Only NBC's own Olympic site will contain video - but only 15 hours after the event! And only NBC's site can contain recent photographs. Online journalists are not allowed media passes, so many have had to get them through offline parent companies. Web-only companies are shut out altogether. In short, NBC is living in a blinkered, control-obsessed world.

What it manifestly fails to realise is that the Internet is a huge marketing tool. By allowing Web sites to run information, pictures, highlights, it can spark huge interest in the Olympics. It could also insist on having its logo plastered on any information. But no, corporate control is what it thinks is the best way forward. We don't believe we have seen a more ignorant decision made towards the Internet since the early days.

But on top of this, NBC has also cocked up TV reporting. This morning on ITV, we were informed by the presenter that coverage was limited because they only had access to two channels. Hence the day's coverage consisted of judo, swimming and hockey and that's it. What the hell kind of way is this to run an international Olympics?

Fortunately, however, it looks as though Net coverage will not be ridiculously curtailed from here on in. Online coverage for Salt Lake City Winter Olympics in 2002 is expected to be opened up and by 2004 (Athens) we might even have ADSL, making online broadcasts possible.

But it's not just NBC to blame. If the Olympic Committee hadn't allowed it, it wouldn't have happened. The Committee has also made some enormous errors already. While we approve of its tough stance on drugs, it's approach to the rules has already backfired twice. A weightlifting team (we can't remember from where) was reinstated after being banned once it had paid a fine to the weightlifting overseeing body.

On the other hand, a number of the British judo team were disqualified when they were found to be a tiny amount over the allowed weight. The scales were subsequently found to be inaccurate. But this didn't stop the Committee threatening the entire British team with expulsion if it continued to argue for reinstatement.

We are rapidly entering the scary world of advanced capitalism that fiction writers have been warning us of for decades. ®

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