POSTED: December 23rd 2013

JOHN GOODBODY: IOC considers its own TV channel

THE JOHN GOODBODY COLUMN / An authoritative and exclusive series from Sports Features Communications

(SFC) Whenever there is a change of government, a new administration wants to impose its own ideas in order to demonstrate that the change has been worthwhile. So it is with the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

When Juan Antonio Samaranch stood down as President in 2001, the IOC had just endured the worst crisis in its history, the ‘votes-for-favours’ scandal of Salt Lake City. What was needed then was a ‘safe pair of hands’, someone with an impeccable background morally and ethically and a person who could steady the organization. Dr. Jacques Rogge ideally fulfilled that role. He concentrated on ensuring that the Summer and Winter Games were held efficiently and with few problems.

He inherited the worry over Athens but those 2004 Games eventually turned out to be immensely successful. His main innovation has been the worthwhile project of the Youth Olympics. With Dr. Rogge stepping down last September, and with the IOC financially on a much sounder basis, now is the time for his successor, Dr. Thomas Bach, to be more radical in his approach.

Earlier this month, the IOC Executive Board had a ‘brain-storming’ session on Montreux in Switzerland, where they discussed what is being described as Agenda 2020, the proposals for the next six years for  the IOC. This will be discussed by IOC Commissions and the plans approved at the Extraordinary Session of the IOC on December 6 and 7, 2014 in Monaco.

Perhaps the most intriguing suggestion is one that was put forward by Dr. Bach, when he was campaigning to be the IOC President ---the setting up of a full-time Olympic TV Channel. Its feasibility will be examined by the Olympic Broadcasting Service (OBS), the in-house production company which acts for television companies across the world at the Olympic Games.

However, what Dr. Bach has suggested is a channel which will be available in the years between the Games. He says:”Many Olympic sports do not appear enough across the world on television. If you do not see enough sports on TV and the internet, then these sports will lose more and more the kids and young athletes.”

Dr. Bach has emphasised that “This is nothing that you can manage in one, two, three or even four or five years. But.......... I think it is time to undertake this first step.” He has suggested that the Channel would screen not only the Games and also films of previous Games from its wonderful archive but also to show world, continental and even some national championships, as well as magazine programmes.

He has accepted that discussions must now take place with the IOC’s television partners as well as the international federations. Organisations such as NBC in the United States, who have a $4.38 billion contract to screen the Games until 2020 and the BBC in Britain, another long-standing  partner of the IOC, will obviously be consulted. After all, the IOC relies very heavily on the television companies for its income.

Bach is not interested in making money for the IOC through its own television service but rather using it as a means to publicize Olympic sports.

He said earlier this year:”How it could work in the end, technically this would be for the experts. It would be pretentious to say I have already the contracts here on the desk and everything is set and ready. I want to start a real debate on this. I would like to undertake the first steps to realize one day such a wish.”

** JOHN GOODBODY covered the 2012 Olympics for The Sunday Times, his 12th successive Summer Games and is the author of the audio book A History of the Olympics, read by Barry Davies, the BBC commentator. He was Sports News Correspondent of The Times 1986-2007, for whom he received journalistic awards in all three decades on the paper, including Sports Reporter of The Year in 2001.           

Keywords · John Goodbody · IOC · Thomas Bach

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