GamesMagnet Hopes to Attract Olympic Fever is hoping the excitement surrounding the 2000 Olympic Games will spill over to the Web.

The site, which is a subsidiary of interactive entertainment software developer Bits Studios Limited, has scheduled its Virtual Athlete online game to coincide with the Olympics.

Beginning Sept. 15, users can come to the site to compete in virtual versions of Olympic events such as the 100-meter dash and 400-meter relay. The winners will receive one of the $100,000 prizes the site is offering.

“It's a large-scale, massive, multiplayer competition where they can win money,” said Michael Rothman, marketing director at Bits Studios, London.

The Olympics are a golden opportunity for gaming sites looking to draw players, he said. “When you look at the Olympics, this is a time frame when people come together from all over the world,” Rothman said. “The platform to start a parallel event comes up only once every four years.”

GamesMagnet is looking for corporations to sponsor each of the athletes as well as to buy advertising within the game.,, AOL UK and Kellogg’s UK are among the first companies to jump aboard.

A sponsorship costs $75,000 per athlete. Players can click on the athlete, various banners and objects on the courses to link to the advertisers' sites.

Players can choose from more than 40 virtual athletes of both sexes and various ethnic makeups. Participants are encouraged to train these athletes at online training facilities that have been live since the first of this month. Using very simple commands, players decide how often the characters run, what kind of food they consume, and whether they watch TV during their leisure time. There also are special equipment and exercises to make sure their virtual athletes are at peak condition come race day.

More than 1,000 people have signed up to play.

GamesMagnet has taken the best part of athletic competitions and put them online, according to Rothman. “We thought we'd create an event in a robust, 3-D environment where we could still have any user, down to the lowest common denominator of Internet or computer, get involved in a game experience instead of having them go out and buy a game.”

Bits Studios has created games for major game publishers including Nintendo, Fox Interactive and Midway Home Entertainment.

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