Sports science and high-tech Internet revolutionized the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, changing the way people viewed the Olympics and the way the Games were run. For the 2 million spectators and an estimated 3 billion viewers around the world, 'The Christian Science Monitor' reported, "The Internet served as their virtual ticket and data base with up-to-the-minute results as well as background, context, and color."

'Popular Mechanics' reported, "Perhaps most groundbreaking for those Atlanta Games, which marked the 100th anniversary of the Olympics' modern inception, was the advent of the Internet." In April 1995, www.atlanta.olympic.org went online, built by IBM which was one of the sponsors of the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games. Available to some 150,000 on-site users, the website, "the most accessible and efficient Olympic Games in history" provided live start lists during the Games, as well as results medal standings, still images from the field of play at competition venues, access to Info '96 databases for information on competition rules, athlete profiles, photos, team information, news, and history.

'Popular Mechanics' continued, "Before the Games, the website would be used primarily for ticket sales." Scott Anderson of the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games informed buyers in 1995, "Tickets are plentiful (11 million to be issued), affordable and easy to buy. Customers can browse through the (48-page) brochure and (542) session schedule in the comfort of their own home. There are no lines to wait in and no impossible deadlines to meet. Just send us (the mail-order forms) your selections in the first 60 days (from May 1, 1995) to have the best chance of getting the tickets you want most."

'The Los Angeles Times' learnt, "Buyers will be limited to 16 tickets for 'preferred' sessions - those events spectators most want to see - and are encouraged to list two alternate sessions for every preferred session. There is a limit of four tickets an order for high-demand events, and a limit of two tickets an order for opening and closing ceremonies. Payment is required at the time of ordering, by check or Visa card. Opening and closing ceremonies cost $200, $400, and $600. Prices to athletic events range from $6 to $250. All ticket prices in the brochure include sales tax. There is a $1 fee for each preferred ticket requested, and a $15 processing fee for the total order."

'Popular Mechanics' continued, "IBM, which produced the official website, used a touchscreen-based, no-mouse, no-keyboard system, altered to look like an onscreen notebook, to put up-to-the-minute stats in the hands of television announcers and Web engineers. More expansive than that Commentator Information System, though, was Info '96, an exhaustive information network accessible only by athletes, coaches, staff and VIPs. Not only did it post results for all Olympic events, but it also included bios and addresses for all the athletes, an email system and a searchable directory."

'The New York Times' reported in 1996, "IBM had invested $80 million to be a worldwide Olympic sponsor and the lead 'technology integrator' of this year's Games. IBM also has agreements with the International Olympic Committee to be the lead technology sponsor for the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano, Japan, and the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney, Australia."

The most talked-about "Info 96" was the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games' internal information system. Of the initial false start, Jeff Cross of IBM reminded at the time, "This is the largest sporting event in the world - equivalent to a NASA space shot or two Super Bowls a day for 17 days. There are some legitimate start-up problems that people are working 24 hours a day to address."

From the outset, the chairman of IBM, Louis V. Gerstner Jr., had told shareholders in April 1996, "Half the world's population will be watching. We both have a lot on the line. It's a chance for your city (Atlanta) and our company (IBM) to show their very best on a world stage. I don't need to tell you there's an element of risk in stepping onto that stage."

Roger McNamee of Integral Capital Partners added, "It's an amazingly ambitious goal to provide all of this information in real time to the whole world. That said, dropping your shorts in front of the entire world is significantly more embarassing than doing it privately." IBM, as understood, spent some $20 million to $30 million in advertising to promote "Lotus Notes as a solution for system integration and integration with the World Wide Web" or "Lotus Notes' abilities to interface with the outside world." 'The Christian Science Monitor' understood at the time http://www.atlanta.olympic.org was expecting around 250,000 virtual visitors per day once the 1996 Centennial Games commenced.

"Sport plays one of the most significant roles in everyday life of people around the world," 'The Sport Journal' noted in 2005. "Today, sport has not only become great entertainment, occupation and lifestyle, but solid business as well. Nowadays, Olympic Games have become one of the most large-scale and profitable global media events. NBC paid the sum of $3.5 billion to receive the right to transmit 5 Olympic Games for the period of 2000-2008.

"The Olympic Games is the global arena for the best athletes in the world and a venue for unity and cooperation of people around the globe. Today's Olympics is one of the most popular and most watched events in the world. At 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, Coca Cola was the second leading advertiser having spent $29,875,000 on promotion of its drinks. At 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Coca Cola spent $73,645,900 on promotion, becoming the leading advertiser of the Games and making Olympics its biggest and most important event in promotional company."

Dr Jacques Rogge of the International Olympic Committee pointed out, "Without the support of the business community, without its technology, expertise, people, services, products, telecommunications, its financing – the Olympic Games could not and cannot happen. Without this support, the athletes cannot compete and achieve their very best in the world's best sporting event."

"We like to think of people in front of their TVs with a laptop on their lap," Maria Battaglia of IBM told the press in 1996. The media presence at the 1996 event totaled 15,108 (5,695 written press, 9,413 broadcasters). There were 10,318 athletes (3,512 women, 6,806 men) from 197 countries competing in 271 events (comprised 37 sports disciplines being hosted at 31 venues). Volunteers totaled 47,466. 

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