In the spirit of the Athens Games, it's time to hand out some medals to the top Olympic Web sites. And, as in gymnastics, all results are final.
NBC's site (www.nbcolympics.com) has been a thorough companion to the network's comprehensive television coverage. Strong points include the easy-to-use (and, more importantly, accurate) television schedule on the home page; the O-Zone, which despite its silly name provides the latest info about local athletes (type in any Washington area zip code, for instance, and get stories about Woodbridge's Sheena Johnson, Upper Marlboro's Tiombe Hurd and Washington native and GW graduate Aquil Abdullah); and exclusive audio commentary from NBC's announcers. Points were deducted for limiting video highlights to only those with a Visa card (it's free, but you have to enter your card number, which many people would refuse to do in the age of spyware), for occasional slowness and for aggravating popup ads.
The main Olympic site (www.olympics.com) takes a more utilitarian, throw-it-all-out-there approach. Everything is covered, from results to weather to visitor information, which doesn't do much for those of us stuck here in the United States. And some of the IOC propaganda is simply laughable. "With such a high selling rate, the tickets of the Athens 2004 Olympic Games are already hard to find," reads a box on the home page.
Um, what? From what I've seen on TV, good seats are still available.
Two sites earn the bronze, judo-style. Espn.com's Olympic section gets the honors for giving each sport its own page, though it doesn't have much talent devoted to the Games besides Jim Caple, who's written approximately 2,000 stories so far. And Sports Illustrated's much-improved site (sportsillustrated.cnn.com) earns its share for overall simplicity and for giving subscribers to the magazine free access to online-only content.
-- Matt Bonesteel