Olympic Committee grants Internet media accreditation

Friday, March 2nd 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LONDON (AP) _ The International Olympic Committee has agreed to issue accreditation to purely online news media to cover the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City, two of the recipients said Friday.

``The fact that the IOC has accredited a number of Web sites is the right move, because it signals that they recognize the growing role of the Internet,'' said Stephen Nuttall, managing director in Britain for Sportal.com, which received five accreditations. ``By being able to be at the event you will be able to cover it better.''

Olympic officials had been criticized for not issuing accreditations to purely Internet companies for the Summer Games in Sydney last September, and this week's decision marked a minor victory for Web-based sports media.

Olympic officials in Lausanne, Switzerland, did not immediately comment on the accreditations, or provide a full list of Internet companies that were receiving them, but they were thought to include media from around the world.

The accreditations do not include the right to use video of events, or to interview athletes at the venues, said Internet executives.

But accreditation ``allows us to source original coverage on the ground. It's much more creditable, much more authoritative coverage,'' said Gavin Chittick, chief financial offer for Sports.com, which also received five accreditations.

``We will be trying to get live interviews, have chats from the Olympics, audio coverage,'' Chittick said. ``We will not be able to stream video. We won't be able to interview people in the Olympic Village or on the site. But interviewing athletes off the sites is fine, whereas if you are not accredited, that is a no-go.''

Officials at Internet sports media said they had not received permission to carry video from the Games, a contentious issue.

Olympic officials called a meeting of online players in Lausanne last December, and told them that the lion's share of accreditations would go to traditional media until the Internet companies were able to pay for rights.

Olympic officials are loath to jeopardize their income from TV rights, which accounted for 51 percent of all revenues from the Sydney Games, dlrs 1.33 billion of the overall dlrs 2.6 billion.

Through 2008, the IOC has bundled Internet and broadcast rights, for which the U.S. television network NBC has paid dlrs 3.5 billion for American rights.

The committee will review pricing after 2004, Olympic officials said, seeking revenue-sharing arrangements as new media technology matures and the possibilities are more clearly defined.

The IOC will have to decide whether to sell TV and Internet rights jointly or not by 2003 for the next block of Olympics starting from 2010.

Committee member Dick Pound also has said officials would consider allowing Internet companies to carry limited amounts of video for those sports that do not receive extensive coverage from traditional broadcasters.

Internet companies ``have not had any clarification'' on limited video rights, said Chittick.