NBC as close as a fan's computer

Web site is complement to seven outlets' coverage

Notebook

Olympics

August 01, 2004|By Candus Thomson | Candus Thomson,SUN STAFF

Too much information?

When it comes to the Olympics, NBC hopes not.

On top of its seven television outlets, the network that paid $793 million - give or take a bushel of cash - for broadcast rights also has upgraded its Web site to provide nearly instantaneous results, video and interviews.

"We started putting it together in October, which was a little later than ideal, and launched it on May 26," said Evan Silverman, executive producer of NBC.com. "The traffic is beginning to build, and we'll go from zero to 60 in August."

Silverman expects to have 20 million unique visitors this month to accompany the network's 1,210 hours of programming.

The top story will no doubt be Michael Phelps' quest for seven gold medals, he predicts, followed closely by the U.S. gymnastics team and then the 100-meter sprints, which are the coronations of the world's fastest man and woman.

Other hot stories for the Web site will be several of the U.S. team sports: the women's soccer team, led by Mia Hamm, who will retire after the Olympics; the softball team's pursuit of a third consecutive gold medal, and the men's and women's basketball teams.

Web users will get to see video highlights - a first for NBC.com - with producers choosing and editing from 10 digital feeds from the major venues.

Silverman sees the overlap with the seven television outlets "as a blessing, not a burden. We'll be able to provide 24-hour coverage and tell more stories."

In addition to its broadcast network, NBC will be airing coverage on cable outlets MSNBC, CNBC, Bravo, USA, Telemundo and NBC HDTV.

Cash flow problems

With less than two weeks to go before the opening ceremony, families of Olympic athletes are scrambling to find the money to get to Greece.

In the past, the U.S. Olympic Committee helped pay for parents to attend the Games. Not anymore.

Because some of the major teams such as women's gymnastics, track and field and swimming chose teams late, the availability of inexpensive travel and lodging options has nearly disappeared.

Maryland USA Gymnastics is helping to raise money to send Mark and Patti Kupets, the parents of gymnast Courtney Kupets, and her three siblings to the Games.

Innovex Inc., Mark Kupets' employer, has donated $7,000 - about half the bill.

"We'll get there somehow," said Kupets. "Courtney really, really wants her sister, Ashley, there, and we'll make it happen."

Hill's Gymnastics, where Kupets trains, is holding a fund-raiser. Details are at www.hillsgymnastics.com.

Stevensville's Liz Filter, one-third of the Yngling sailing team, is getting a hand from Bank of America, which is providing event tickets and a base camp in downtown Athens for her husband, Henry, a cousin and two friends to supply a local cheering section.

"I think it's wonderful that somebody is looking out for my family and friends because I'm going to be a little bit busy and distracted," said Filter.

Filter, the only mother on the USA Sailing team, has missed the past three birthdays of her two children because of training and racing commitments.

Laura Gamble, president of Bank of America Maryland, said her company is glad to help, even in a small way.

"Putting your company name on a billboard is great, but we are part of the community and being able to touch the people we know has so much more impact," said Gamble.

"Sailing is a very Maryland event. It's great to be able to do something tangible and meaningful for her ... because otherwise, it's just advertising."

Trinket crackdown

Athens has tourist police, traffic police, Hellenic police and now ...

Tchotchkes police.

Apparently no crime is too small as the city tightens up and cracks down in a $1.5 billion security effort involving 70,000 police officers and soldiers.

Olympic organizers say that over the past two months law enforcement agents have checked more than 100 shops for illegal Olympic tchotchkes - pins, hats, T-shirts and other souvenirs - and confiscated more than 100,000 trinkets seen as "offending the image of the Games - ethically, culturally and financially."

Customs authorities also have sealed the borders and seized more than 20,000 imported items. Athens organizing committee lawyers have filed 200 injunctions to stop anyone from selling any cut-rate, faux-Olympics gee-gaws.

With as many as 2 million tourists expected in the city this month, officials apparently have adopted their own version of the warning issued in 19 B.C. by Virgil in the Aeneid: "Beware of Greeks bearing [unofficial] gifts."

Games at a glance

When: Aug. 13-29

Where: Athens, Greece

Sports: 28

Countries: 202

Athletes: 10,500

Events: 296

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