Do everything but actually compete in the Games

It's difficult to get a good read on the American public when trying to figure out how many people really care about the Olympics. But if any of these people want to explore the Internet looking for more information, they have plenty of options.

The official site of the 2000 Sydney Olympics has about as much stuff as you can imagine. It's filled with panoramic images, surveys, games, chatrooms, audio clips, footage of the first Olympic Games in 776 B.C., extra gold medals and sweaty uniforms from last-place finishers. Because there's so much stuff packed into the front page, it loads about as fast as Denmark swimmers.

The slickest thing this site has going is an area called FanM@il, which allows people to send e-mail to athletes. I'm not sure how appropriate it is to stalk, I mean e-mail an Olympic athlete during competition. Shouldn't they be practicing? Well, the folks at IBM have set up the Surf Shack, which is where the athletes go to write e-mail, surf the Internet or even build a Web page, none of which are medal events.

There's plenty to do at olympics.com, but if you are just wanting the latest news and results, check out Belo Interactive's site. If you can't figure out where to go here, you might as well be eaten by a shark. The colors make it particularly appealing, along with the use of small mugshots. Like every Olympic site, there's a continual leaderboard for the countries. Unfortunately, Luxembourg has yet to crack the top five.

The first Olympics site I came across was an Australian one. Realizing quickly this site would probably contain propaganda that the U.S. athletes were involved in drug smuggling or gambling or, even worse, carving their initials on the Opera House, I had my doubts about the site. But the first thing I saw was a picture of American swimmer Misty Hyman, who had just won the 200-meter butterfly, so I decided to investigate a little further.

This site is pretty comprehensive as well, but there was one thing in particular I found slightly strange. OK, two things, but I don't have time to discuss the absence of the Luxembourg rowing team from the Games. Anyway, there's a section entitled Seeing Stars. Two astrologers studied the charts to prognosticate what will happen during the Games. Here are some of the things they discovered (and I'm not making this up):

* A shining star -- probably female -- who stands out above the rest

* Drug scandals -- one involving a very high-profile athlete

* A controversy over medals and flags

Amazing! These things never happen in the Olympics, do they? I'm surprised there weren't others listed, namely the following:

* Some teams win medals, colored gold, silver and bronze

* Swimmers manage to get in the water, then after the race, THEY GET BACK OUT

* Luxembourg's chess team sits out the Olympics and heads to Atlantic City

The only thing missing on the Web is live coverage. The International Olympic Committee decided there would be no live Internet coverage. First off, the IOC is able to sell the broadcast rights for a ridiculous amount, consequently allowing NBC to sell advertising at an even more ludicrous rate. The worst thing about this whole mess is the time difference between Australia and New York (15 hours). All the events are taped -- which means no one in the U.S., not even the chess team hiding out in Atlantic City, will see live Olympic coverage.

Correction, I just received word from a friend who lives in Michigan who is able to watch the Olympics live! His cable service includes the Canadian Broadcasting Company, which has decided to air the Games when they actually happen. I hope Canada doesn't expect a few extra medals in return for letting Americans watch sychronized diving.

But in the meantime, you can keep up with all the events through the afforementioned sites. There's a chance the IOC will lift its ban for live Internet coverage for the 2002 Winter Games. There's also a chance Luxembourg will win a few gold medals. Don't hold your breath. Well, unless your in the middle of the 100-meter freestyle race.