November 15, 2005 03:00 ET

National Competition for Visa Championships-Torino 2006 Online Game Begins Today for Consumers Worldwide

SAN FRANCISCO--(CCNMatthews - Nov 15, 2005) -

Visa International:

-- Winners from 23 Countries to Attend the Olympic Winter Games in Torino, Italy, and Compete in Global Championship

-- Chances to Win ThinkPad Notebook PCs from Lenovo and DVD Home Theater Systems from Panasonic

The national competition begins today for Visa International's Visa Championships-Torino 2006 online game and international competition. Players from 23 countries compete in three virtual Olympic Winter Sports to win a trip for two to the Torino 2006 Olympic Winter Games and a chance to be crowned global champion.

"Visa Championships-Torino 2006 represents a new and dynamic approach to Visa's Olympic marketing program. It's the only online game that culminates in an international competition during the Olympic Winter Games. Right now gamers in 23 countries are experiencing the excitement and thrills of the Olympic Games online thanks to this innovative competition," said Tom Shepard, executive vice president, Global Marketing Partnerships and Sponsorship, Visa International. "Soon the winners will be able to experience the Olympic Winter Games personally as guests of Visa in Torino and vie for the grand prize."

The national competition runs from 15 November 2005 through 15 December 2005, in all 23 countries. Only players who are legal residents of the participating countries, have registered, posted times in all three sports to the national leader board, and are at least 18 years of age by midnight GMT on 15 December 2005 are eligible to win prizes.

As a forward-looking organization, Visa recognizes electronic gaming as an innovative way to raise awareness of Visa's Olympic sponsorship and increase brand interaction and relevance with consumers. Since the launch of the game, players in all participating countries have been practicing and getting ready for these national championships. To date, more than 21,000 gamers have launched Visa Championships-Torino 2006, spending an average of more than 20 minutes of game time per visit.

Players from Australia, Austria, Canada, China, Croatia, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Romania, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, Uruguay, the United Kingdom, and the United States are competing to represent their country at the global finals. The Visa Championships-Torino 2006 game and competition rules are available at

Visa Championships-Torino 2006 challenges players to master three Olympic Winter Sports online: Bobsleigh, Giant Slalom (Alpine Skiing), and Snowboard Cross (Snowboarding). Similar to an athlete's build-up to the Olympic Winter Games, players must progress through multiple preliminary rounds and then compete in the national competition. In each country, the player with the lowest combined time across all three sports in the national competition will travel to Torino, Italy, as a guest of Visa to attend the Olympic Winter Games and compete head-to-head against the other country winners on 15 February 2006.

Notes to editors:

About Visa Championships-Torino 2006: The Visa Championships-Torino 2006 online game is a first from Visa as part of its Olympic marketing program. It is a challenging, free international competition in which players from 23 countries compete in three virtual Olympic Winter Sports to win a trip to the Torino 2006 Olympic Winter Games where they will take part in the global finals of the game. Key dates include:

-- National competition -- 15 November-15 December 2005

-- Global Finals competition -- 15 February 2006

National winners and their guests will arrive in Torino on 13 February 2006 and depart on 16 February 2006. In addition to competing in the Global Finals, each winner and a guest will be hosted by Visa at the Torino 2006 Olympic Winter Games, and will receive airfare and lodging for two, scheduled meals and tickets to two Olympic events for themselves and their guest.

Only users who are legal residents of the participating countries, have registered, posted times in all three sports to the leader board, and are at least 18 years of age by midnight GMT on 15 December 2005 are eligible to win prizes. In addition, users must select the same country in which they reside to be eligible for prizes. Details and rules of the game are available at

About Visa: Visa connects cardholders, merchants and financial institutions through the world's largest electronic payments network. Visa products allow buyers and sellers to conduct commerce with ease and confidence in both the physical and virtual worlds. As an association owned by 21,000 member financial institutions, Visa is committed to the sustained growth of electronic payment systems to support the needs of all stakeholders and to drive economic growth. For more information, visit

Contacts: Sabine Middlemass, Visa International, Tel: +1 650 432 8307/+1 650 533 4106 (mobile) at or Jenna Skidmore, Burson-Marsteller, Tel: +1 415 591 4002 at

About Lenovo: Lenovo creates the most innovative products and services in the personal computing industry. Lenovo engineers, programmers and scientists from five laboratories in China, Japan and the United States focus on research and development that solves customer problems and improves productivity. Lenovo is Technology Equipment Sponsor of the 2006 Olympic Winter Games in Torino and the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, providing notebook and desktop PCs, servers, storage and other computing equipment. For more information, please visit

About Panasonic: Best known by its Panasonic brand name, Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd. is a worldwide leader in the development and manufacture of electronic products for a wide range of consumer, business and industrial needs. Based in Osaka, Japan, the company recorded consolidated net sales of US$81.44 billion for the year ended March 31, 2005. The company's shares are listed on the Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, New York (NYSE:MC), Euronext Amsterdam and Frankfurt stock exchanges. For more information, visit the company's website at

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