But then, much of the news online will be about events NBC won't cover. If the U.S. isn't a medal contender in the javelin toss, you won't see it unless a stray spear wanders off course and impales a U.S. athlete or at least someone sponsored by an American shoe company.

So why couldn't a Web site post clips of events NBC isn't planing to cover? Because that might infringe on broadcast rights sold to a network from some other country. This won't go over well with sports fans who have grown accustomed to instant access to events around the world.

Net can't be ignored

You can see why the IOC is concerned. They've been selling exclusive broadcast rights to countries that, thanks to the Net, suddenly overlap. Appropriately enough, a group that profits from pitting nations against each other is being stymied by a computer network that brings them together.

It seems the IOC has two choices: Either pretend the Net doesn't exist or anticipate its effects and plan accordingly. By the time the overnight TV ratings come in from this year's games, it will be clear the first approach didn't work.

So here's a novel idea: Give people what they want when they want it. Cut deals with multiple Web sites, selling them varying levels of access. Offer big sports portals short clips of everything and allow niche sites to provide complete coverage of less popular events that would never make a national broadcast.

NBC and other international networks will still pay millions for TV rights because millions of people will still want to watch, particularly when the broadcasts are live. But since the Net is always going to beat broadcast to the punch somewhere in the world, the IOC might as well try to make some money off it.

If this leaves the IOC a little short on cash, that's OK, too they can always ask for more bribes.

To contact syndicated columnist Joe Salkowski, you can e-mail him at joes@azstarnet.com or write to him c/o Tribune Media Services Inc., 435 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 1400, Chicago, IL, 60611.

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