Thursday, February 4, 2010


Sometime it's helpful for one's perspective to view an important Canadian issue from the American side of the border. The Winter Olympic Games which are about to get underway in Vancouver will dominate and colour our national outlook for the next several weeks.

Not so here in the USA; (I might add) where despite NBC's staggering $820-million bid for the Olympic TV rights; this weekend's Miami football Super Bowl, and the February 14th NASCAR, Daytona 500, are the dominant concerns of sports enthusiasts...I digress!

These Vancouver Games, and all the Olympic Games through the end of the 20th Century and into the current millennium; are all about money. A far cry from the intent and the spirit (and surely a massive disappointment) of the "father of the modern games", Baron Pierre de Coubertin.

And, not just about NBC's $820-million bid for the American TV rights. In a partnership venture CTV and Rogers Communications (Mortal enemies though they be in the cable fee for broadcast dispute at the CRTC) reportedly outbid the CBC by as much as $50-million for the Olympic rights in Canada, and now can't find enough sponsors to pay their monstrous reportedly $150-million bill.

Meantime the foreclosed owners of Intrawest ULC which controls the Whistler-Blackcomb Ski Resort, a main Olympic venue, are threatening to sue the Government of Canada for $90-million for "loss of business" during the games. Just where did we lose our way and abandon the "spirit" of friendly international competition?

There is another rivalry that will not be televised starting next week. It is not by accident that Chicago finished "dead last" to Rio de Janeiro in October for the 2016 Summer Games despite President Obama's personal lobbying efforts for the hometown. Money is at the root of that evil also. The issue is one that has implications for most national Olympic Committees, including the COC (Candian Olympic Committee) based in Toronto.

The Olympic brand in each country is owned by the individual national committees. But, it's the IOC (International Olympic Committee) that brokers the auctions for each country's television rights and doles out just a percentage of the gains. For instance the USOC is getting just $105-million of the $820-million paid by NBC for the US rights to the Vancouver games. When that American national Olympic Committee (USOC) announced last July that it was establishing its own "Olympic Cable TV Channel", the International Committee saw the announcement as a declaration of war and punished the Americans with the Chicago defeat.

Greed it seems mocks the spirit of the games, and tarnishes the very lustre of the Olympic Medals and the movement they represent. When will we learn!


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