The Web caught Olympic fever

The Sydney Olympics was a first time buy for many netizens, according to a new report released by Red Sheriff. Americans lead among experienced online purchasers and Aussies were making time to catch the games from work.

A bit of this September's Olympic fever was spilled over to the Internet, apparently, as Internet users logged on to make travel arrangements online for the first time, according to a report released by Red Sheriff.

The report, Olympic 2000 Online Sharp Shooter research report, went as far as calling the games a "catalyst for first-timer online purchase."

In brief, the report found one out of four visitors to the Olympic event to have purchased tickets online. It's the first online buy for one out of every six of them. And one in six visitors who had used the Internet to travel to the games said this was the fist time they used the Internet for this purpose.

"For many people, the games provided the catalyst to move from using the Internet as purely a research tool, to making their first online purchase for travel or event tickets," said James Burge, Research Director for Red Sheriff Australasia.

Doesn't mean the Web is no longer where people go for research, however. The report finds eight out of ten Olympic visitors to have visited an Australian website in the six months preceding their trip.

As well, old hands at online purchasing were among the visitors, and most of them were Americans. One out of five people said they used the Internet for travel information or booking almost every time they traveled and the majority of these visitors were from the US.

Makes perfect sense, it seems, for event organizers and travel agencies to put their services online.

"The Internet is now an integral part of marketing to the international tourist market," said Burge, "Australia must therefore provide effective on-line travel information and services to attract its share of overseas visitors."

As for the home fans, the mates may have been taking a bit of the Olympic break from work.

"In Australia, the Internet was used to make travel arrangements to events and to monitor games results - significantly during weekdays," said Burge.

"During the two-week period of the Olympic 2000 Games, the number of individuals using the sites increased threefold and traffic across the selected sites more than quadrupled compared to the preceding two weeks. Traffic levels dropped significantly at the end of each working day and on weekends, indicating that many workers followed the Olympics from their work PC, for example, traffic peaked at 3:00pm during the week, an eightfold increase from non Olympic period," explained Burge.

Australia has one of the highest penetration rates for on-line purchasing in Asia. According to Nielsen//Netrating, a fully 23% of the population has browsed online for products.

With 86% of European visitors to the Olympics having visited an Australian website prior to their trip, followed by the Americans at 80% and the Asians and Africans at 78%, perhaps it's not so unexpected that the Internet should play such a big role in this year's games.

According to Burge, as a medium, Internet at the Sydney Olympics was second only to television in importance and impact.

"In the space of four years the Internet has become integral to one of the biggest and most culturally significant global sporting events, and has done so at a myriad of levels," Burge noted. "By Athens 2004 the 2000 Games will be seen as merely a stepping stone as convergence and the Internet continue to re-shape the role and use traditional media."

Perhaps it's a case of the Web fever infecting the Olympics after all.