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Internet Olympics: The Internet's Role at the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympic Games

Thomas C. AGOSTON <>
IBM Asia-Pacific


Since the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta, the Internet has been an integral medium for numerous Olympic and sports constituencies. The XVIII Olympic Winter Games were held in Nagano, Japan, February 7-22, 1998. Starting in 1997, the official games' Web site ( distributed timely results and a continuously updated flow of information about the competitors, events, and other related useful and interesting subjects. In accordance with the growing popularity of sports Web sites, this noncommercial site generated record traffic from a worldwide, multilingual audience. The Organizing Committee for the XVIII Olympic Winter Games, Nagano 1998 (NAOC) owns the site; IBM, the official Worldwide Information Technology Partner for the Nagano Olympic Winter Games, provided design services, content hosting, implementation, and management of the site's technology infrastructure. This paper is a case study of the official Web site as an alternative channel which provided the "Olympic experience" on the Internet and delivered multilingual (English, Japanese, and French) multimedia content to the online Olympic communities.



Since the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta, the Internet has been an integral medium for numerous Olympic and sports constituencies. The XVIII Olympic Winter Games were held in Nagano, Japan during February 7-22, 1998. Starting in 1997, the official Games' Web site ( distributed timely results and a continuously updated flow of information about the competitors, events, and other related useful and interesting subjects. In accordance with the growing popularity of sports Web sites, this noncommercial site generated record traffic from a worldwide, multilingual audience. The Organizing Committee for the XVIII Olympic Winter Games, Nagano 1998 ("NAOC") owns the site; IBM is the official Worldwide Information Technology Partner for the Nagano Olympic Winter Games and provided design services, content hosting, implementation, and management of the site's technology infrastructure.

The following is a case study of the official Web site, powered by IBM, as an alternative channel which provided the "Olympic experience" on the Internet and delivered multilingual (English, Japanese, and French) multimedia content to the online Olympic communities.

Site objectives

The site was intended to

  • Provide timely games results to the Olympic Family, Sponsors, and global audiences
  • Provide Olympic-related information (logistics, tickets, resources, etc.)
  • Support the role of children on the Internet and in the Olympics
  • Offer dynamic, fun, interactive, relevant, useful, and educational content
  • Provide the same Internet experience in two languages
  • Enhance the Spirit of the Olympics messages and themes
  • Balance between nonprofit and private sector sponsorship interests
  • Build on the success of the Summer Olympics Internet experience

Additional considerations were to

  • Showcase technology (Java, VRML, E-Commerce, Collaborative Groupware, etc.)
  • Design the site to be accessible, navigable, and memorable and to encourage repeat visitors
  • Create a flexible and scalable information structure
  • Highlight sports marketing (growing trend on the Web): brand image/promotion

Constituencies: users and customers

Olympic Communities: Athletes/Teams/Coaches/Families/Officials/Committees/Press/Sponsors/Fans

On-site Games attendees and remote viewers

Hunters (Pull) and Grazers (Push)

Domestic (host country) and international audiences -- worldwide, multilanguage

Schoolchildren (Olympic Theme)

Focus on content

To supplement the content created by official sources and information systems, the Content Architects teamed with multiple Olympic Sponsors, Providers, and specialized third parties to obtain additional, unique content. The comprehensive result enhanced Internet users' online experience and the Games' success.

Content Partners included Olympic Sponsors, Weather, Educational, Encyclopedia, Digital Map, Navigation, Imaging, Broadcasting, Telecommunications, Financial, Airport and Transport, Publishing, Manufacturing, Music, and cross-cultural companies and organizations, government authorities, nonprofit institutions -- and other specialists.

Challenge: How to provide information where and when desired

  • Large volume of data maintained in many different systems
  • Content changed at a rapid pace during Games time
  • Served over 33,000 different pages plus graphics, photos, etc.
  • Presented synchronized and cross-referenced content from multiple sources

Answer: Published dynamic content using Compound Pages (containing contents from both DB2 [Results databases] and Lotus Notes [Editorial sources]).

Content design elements

Winter Games prerelease Data (Sports, Schedules, Athletes, Venues, etc.)

Multimedia & News: (Editorial, Official and Media News, Sights & Sounds, etc.)

Travel-related: (Japan, Tourism, Travel Info & Schedules, Language, Weather, etc.)

Interactive: (Search, Kids' Games, Interviews, Trivia, Olympic History, etc.)

Utilities: (Sponsors, Guest book, Navigation, Highlights, etc.)

Hosted Services: (Fan Mail Link, Merchandise, Digital Postcards, etc.)

Site Services: (Remote Ticker, Screen Saver, etc.)

Reference: (Participating Country Info, Sport Rules and History, etc.)

Feeds and Speeds: (Sports Statistics, Records and Results, etc.)

Navigation template

Header: Tabs/Folders below top banner:

"Today" (Days 1-16): Search, Schedules, Medals, News, Images, Results, Live Events (Java), "Snowlet Eye" Closed-circuit Video, Rolling Headline Ticker.

Welcome: Games Overview, Nagano Club, Guest book, Welcome, Ticket Info, Ceremonies and Torch Relay, T-shirt Auction, Vision Statement, International Youth Camp, Mascots & Symbols, Nagano Peace Appeal, High-tech, Related Links, Snowlets (Mascot) Screen Saver.

News: Top Story, Features, Today's Highlights, Photo Galleries, Facts and Figures, Search, Archives (by Period, Country, Sport), Streaming Video: Rights holders Video clips: CBS (US), Channel 7 (Australia), CCTV (China), TVAsahi (Japan), RAI (Italy), ARD & ZDF (Germany) Olympic Weekly TV Recap, Radio, Weather, Nouvelles en Français.

Venues: For each of 6 locations and 19 venues (also sorted by 18 sport categories): Introduction, Venue Specifications, Venue Fly-through by Virtual Reality Markup Language (VRML), Seating Views (VRML), location information and maps.

Sports: Comprehensive coverage of 68 events in all sports: Sports Java Chooser (schedule), Java Event Tracker (status, who/what/where/when, Start Lists), Results with multiple report levels, Sports at a Glance, History (Medals Counts and Lists of Gold Medalists for Each Year, Commentaries, Posters) from 1924 to Present, Snowlet Eye (still images from ORTO video feed), Today, Schedule, Competition, About, Technical Details, Rules and Regulations, Sport Index, Recent News and Recent Photos (linked to Notes database) for each of 18 sport categories:

(Biathlon, Bobsled, Cross-country, Curling, Downhill, Figure Skating, Freestyle Skiing, Giant Slalom, Ice Hockey A & B, Luge, Nordic Combined (X-C & Jump), Short Track Speed Skating, Ski Jumping, Slalom, Snowboard, Snowboard GS, and Speed Skating),

Countries: Java Country Chooser (spinning globe), Overview, About, Facts and Figures, Culture, Economy, Government, History, People, Photo Album, Multimedia Maps, National Anthems (Streaming Audio) and Medalists for participating Countries and Regions (83 prepared; 72 final).

Athletes: Choose by Name (Today's News, Biographies), by Country, and by Sport (linked to Sports above). 3000

Nagano: Multimedia Aerial Tour of Nagano Prefecture (Shockwave), Satellite Images, Visit Olympic Areas, Environmental Efforts, Stories from foreign Volunteers, Olympic Culture, Nagano Travel (Access, Currency Converter, Travel Tips, Japan Photo Album), PanoramIX 360 degree View Robotic Camera.

Fun/Kids: Activities -- "Snowlet" (Mascot) Games: Ski, Hockey, Trivia; Origami, Scribble Pad, Digital Postcards, Kids Pics: Sports, Mailbox, Stories.

Common Navigation (Footer):

Home/Search/Help-FAQ/Schedule/Sponsors/Copyright/Feedback/About This Site


The goal was to provide multilingual, balanced sites; virtually all content was available in both Japanese and English, and news articles were in three languages (English, Japanese, and French). Editorial content was almost always provided in one language and subsequently translated before publishing.

What was new

Real-time Results: Up-to-the-minute results integrated with recent news and photos

Interactive Multimedia Features: Java (sports schedule) Shockwave (Aerial 3-D Fly-over) VRML (3-D visualization tours and seating views of Venue facilities) provided enhanced interfaces.

Comprehensive Content: Coverage of every athlete, every country, and every result

Network Technology: Web-oriented network tools allowed for enhanced site operations

Trends in sport events sites

  • Real-time Results
  • Customized Pages
  • Integration of Technology and Statistics Analysis
  • Scalability to handle millions of accesses per day
  • Access should be same anywhere in the world
  • Global support
  • Number of sports event sites on Internet growing 7x year to year

Content provider cooperation issues

Why should a third party share their content with a(nother) Web site?

How to address their concerns (i.e., perceiving a competitive threat from the Web)

How to protect their copyrights?

Negotiations with third parties often involved concerns such as those above. These were addressed by pointing out the following: the Web is a complementary medium; sharing content with proper attribution creates a win-win scenario; and technology can be used to protect their intellectual property.

Sample agreement

With each Content partner, an agreement was negotiated in order to define the content, responsibilities, and processes. Issues considered include those below in the excerpted sample Web Agreement between Kodak (Worldwide Imaging Sponsor) and IBM. (For the final Content presentation, please see ; select "Images of the Day.")

Official XVIII Olympic Winter Games Web Site, Nagano 1998

Agreement for "Images of the Day" Cooperation with Kodak

Introductory Elements

Agreement Definition: Content Cooperation

Relationships: Roles and Responsibilities


Kodak, as Official Worldwide Imaging Sponsor of the Nagano Olympic Games, and IBM Corporation, as developer of the official Nagano Olympic Web site and Official Internet Information Systems Provider, plan to cooperate in the area of digital photography. The common goal is to enhance the Internet user's experience of the Official Web Site, and hence, the success of the Games, by adding valuable content.

Content defined: Olympic Digital Images

This concerns the creation of a digital Still Photography area entitled Kodak's "Images of the Day" (IOD) containing multiple sports action and related Olympic images provided on a daily basis and exclusively by Kodak. The photographs will be selected by, provided by, and attributed to Kodak.

WHAT: Olympic "Images of the Day"

Daily selection of multiple still photographs posted on NAOC Web site

Quantity: 10-30 per day

Presentation: a cumulative, growing image gallery

Content/Subjects: Sports Action and related Olympic Images

(ambiance, venues, human interest, etc.)

WHO: Professional Photojournalists covering the Games

WHEN: Daily Coverage from Feb. 3-Feb. 22

WHERE: Photographers in and around Nagano, at Games Venues and Olympic areas.

HOW: (Processes)

Recruitment: Kodak will recruit the participants through its associations with accredited Professional Photographers.

Submissions: Negatives and prints submitted directly to Kodak

Selection: Kodak will select images.

Copyright: Kodak will ensure that there are no copyright issues in displaying photographs.

Printing: Unauthorized copying/printing will be impeded using digital watermarks or similar technology.

Infrastructure: Image processing by Kodak & online delivery to IBM for posting on the Web site.

Presentation: Images will be posted in 2 formats:

Thumbnail: max. 124x93 pixels

Full-size: max. 420x300 pixels

Attribution: Captions and Photographer attribution will be encoded and sent with image soft copy files, to be posted with each image. Kodak and IBM will have attribution notices and links.

Encoded info: File format, sport, event, Athlete, location, date, and country information also will be encoded and sent, when available.

Rights: The images can be displayed for the life of the Web site.

Kodak and IBM will not retain the residual rights to the Images unless so negotiated with the Photographer and athletes after the fact.


Kodak will input images with file, format, and caption data into a dedicated Web site.

Content Specifications

Kodak-provided image content should ideally conform to the following requirements:

File naming convention: /mm/pics/kodak/yyyymmdd/xxxxx.jpg

Content identification per image, indicating:

- Title or Caption (multilingual)



French, if available

Including Search keywords (Sport, specific athletes,...)

- Date

- Source

Photographer, if attribution required

Credit/Organization, if attribution required

Copyright information

- Film Type or Digital Camera Model

Large file name (including path)

Large x dimensions (Width)

Large y dimensions (Height)

Large orientation (H/V)

Thumb file name (including path)

Thumb x dimensions

Thumb y dimensions

Thumb orientation (H/V)

SportsEvent ID (XXXXXX)

Location Code (Venue) (XXXX)

Country Code (XXX)

Athlete Code(s) (XXX)

Image Presentation

The images will be posted on the Web site with caption texts and logo on the same HTML page.

Content Ownership and Copyright Considerations

Kodak, the individual photographers, and/or agencies will continue to own the copyright of such material.

Attribution (Benefits)

The following proposed recognition and promotion opportunities will allow Kodak to capitalize on the benefits of the content cooperation:

1) Mentions of Kodak's content contribution on NAOC's Server Pages

1.1 One-paragraph description in "About This Server" page

1.2 Copyright notice in Copyright Section

1.3 The following line will be included in the top of the page where the IOD photograph gallery index is located: "These images captured, processed, printed and digitized using Kodak products." (Italicized text is a hyperlink to, as determined by Kodak.)

1.4 Each display of full-blown photographs will be preceded by the statement "Images captured using Kodak product." (Hyperlink to

1.5 Additional detail in Kodak's sponsorship write-up

2) Kodak's logo will be included in sections 1.3 and 1.4 above.

3) Photographer's attribution will be indicated with each image.

Closing Elements




Note: Readers desiring to execute a legal contract should consult their legal advisor to consider additional issues such as

Technical Specifications

Duties and Rights: Conditions of Use



Performance Requirements

Representations, Warranties, and Indemnification

International project management

Event Hosting: Reflecting the multinational nature of the Games, this project was executed with the international and cross-cultural factors affecting each of the following issues:

  • Global project management,
  • Effective communication channels,
  • Presentation,
  • Attribution,
  • Delivery,
  • Coordination,
  • Negotiations, and
  • Implementation and production processes.


Some highlights of the official 1998 Nagano Olympic Winter Games Web site during Games time follow:

Day 14 (February 20) the Web site recorded 103,000 hits per minute (during the Women's Figure Skating final and the men's Hockey semifinal competition).

Day 11 (February 17) the Web site recorded 98,000 hits per minute.

Day 7 (February 13) nearly 57 million hits (the highest day).

650 million total hits across all 16 days.

By Day 6, the Web site surpassed the 187 million hits received over the entire 17 days of the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Summer Games.

To offset traffic jams, IBM ran the site on 40 Web servers and four separate hosting centers, one in Japan and three in North America. These 4 hosting sites operated with 13 scalable RS/6000 SP parallel processing frames (each had 11 nodes -- or processors -- for a total of 143 nodes) and 4.5 Terabytes DASD storage. The IBM RS/6000 SP high-volume computers were the same technology that powered the world chess champion machine Deep Blue in mid-1997.

As an added precaution, IBM used statistical tools to predict which Web pages were likely to be the most popular and preloaded them into special cache memory which enabled faster download on Internet users' Web browsers. Additional system elements included AIX (operating system), Tivoli TME 10 (network management), DB2 (database), Lotus Notes, and Domino (discussed below):

Lotus Notes and Domino

All of the content was created with Lotus Notes and served by a combination of Lotus Domino server, DB2 database, and IBM Internet technologies.

Lotus Notes is an integrated client for groupware, e-mail, and the Internet, integrating the Web, intranet applications, mail, calendaring, and personal document management. Lotus Notes databases were used to edit, categorize, and publish all the news articles, in addition to processing all Feedback and Guest Book entries.

Lotus Domino is a family of groupware applications and messaging servers that enables a broad range of secure, interactive business solutions for the Internet and intranet. For example, the Lotus Domino Mail Server was used to generate Digital Postcards within Notes (sent by viewers of the Fun/Kids section). Because the project was truly Olympic-scale, Lotus Domino was employed to provide a System Solution rather than a manually-created content during the event. This also allowed for pre-event development and testing of the systems.

Tailored information: Domino managed all the information coming from the venue locations, from venue reporters and IBM's Results System, and distributed it to the Olympic "Info '98" intranet and to the Olympic Winter Games Web site.

Streamlined content processes: Lotus Notes automated the processes of language translation and content approval for the Web site and intranet. The Lotus Domino server automated the publishing of content without manual intervention.

Coordination and control: Lotus Notes provided a streamlined, automated work flow for creating, categorizing, modifying, reviewing, approving, and translating electronic information. Streamlined, uncomplicated processes saved time and costs, enabled more timely content, and helped international groups work together.

Streamlining content processes was essential due to multiple preparation steps, particularly with content sourced from third parties: selection, encoding, translation for English/Japanese, review, edit, approvals online by content owner, organizer approvals, and revisions.

In and around Nagano, accredited members of the Olympic communities -- athletes, coaches, judges, organizers, press, and volunteers -- accessed comprehensive Games information and e-mail from more than 1200 workstations on the Olympic Games intranet, called Info '98. The content in Info '98 was created with Lotus Notes, delivered with the Lotus Domino server, and stored with DB2 for AIX. With Domino, content flowed from the internal Info '98 intranet to the official Games Web site. Domino collected and managed content covering the 68 events, 14 sports, with over 3,000 athletes participating from 72 countries.

Organizers created event summaries using simple forms. These summaries were reviewed and approved for content using Lotus Notes. On the server side, Domino managed the translation processes, bringing content to the world in three languages (English, French, and Japanese). As a final step, Domino published the content.

Domino provided the scalability and reliability to manage some 40,000 pages generated to serve the content for the Olympic Games. Domino, combined with IBM's Internet infrastructure, provided the scalability to handle a record number of hits daily (650 million in 16 days) by routing each request between a series of clustered RS/6000 servers. Replication enabled each server in a cluster to maintain and deliver consistent information. It also offered users dynamic access to the server that could best handle the demand, improving system response time. Security was ensured with authorization, digital signatures, and flexible access control.

For more information about the technical solution, see IBM Technology Overview [] on the IBM at Nagano site (


The Official Olympic Winter Games site successfully served several online constituencies, set several Internet records, blended diverse content and new Web technology, and raised the bar for the definition of success in the increasing trend of sports event Web sites. New challenges await in the next Summer Olympic Games:

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