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Experience the Olympics via the computer

Learn more about the history of the Games with these websites and CD-ROMs

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As if the Summer Olympics weren’t pervasive enough — you could paper the Olympic Village with all the articles published between now and the closing ceremonies, never mind the gazillion hours of TV coverage — it’s also possible to follow the Games via multimedia: browsing the action through the World Wide Web, learning about the Games’ Greek origins on CD-ROM, and running the 100-meter dash via a computer game.

First stop on the Web should be the official Olympics site, which offers highlights and merchandise. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution‘s Olympic website features a tour of Olympic Stadium, a sampling of local attractions, even a chance to E-mail foreign pen pals. Coca-Cola — Atlanta’s premier corporate citizen — has opened a branch of its official site that offers links to other Olympics-related sites. Also check out NBC’s page, which has updates, TV times, and a link to the U.S. Olympic Committee’s online catalog.

The network has also published NBC Interactive Viewer’s Guide to the 1996 Olympic Games, which adds an up-close-and-personal slant to athletes and events (the disc comes with the 850-page Olympic Factbook). Also competing in the CD-ROM arena are Olympic Gold: A 100-Year History of the Summer Olympic Games, which includes profiles of nations, a list of medal winners, and an apologia for the necessity of sponsorship, accompanied by — you guessed it — a Coca-Cola logo; and Paralympic Spirit, a stirring tribute to disabled athletes such as wheelchair racer Rick Hansen, who covered an astonishing 40,000 kilometers over 34 countries in just over two years.

Once you’ve had your fill of reference material, you may feel buff enough to dive into simulations that allow you to take part in the action. Dominating the field is U.S. Gold, offering Olympic Soccer, replete with cheering crowds and a bored British announcer; Olympic Summer Games, a more scattershot sim featuring such events as fencing and shooting; and the self-explanatory Dream Team Basketball. If your fantasies lean to track and field, you may want to run with Bruce Jenner’s World Class Decathalon, in which the gold medalist reveals what it takes to outjump, outthrow, and out-pole-vault the competition. For my money, though, the champion simulation of the ’96 Olympics is International Track & Field: Through 3-D texturing, it turns even prosaic events like the shot put into graceful lessons in physics.