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Olympic deals discussed, finalized as Prague meeting nears



With just days to go until Whistler and Vancouver learn whether they have won the right to host the 2010 Winter Olympic Games it is hardly surprising to learn that backroom deals are underway.

The Globe and Mail reported last week that Canada supported China’s successful bid to host the 2010 Expo in Shanghai in return for support for Canada’s bid to host the Winter Games in 2010.

The deal had nothing to do with the Vancouver 2010 Bid Corporation but rather involved Canada’s Heritage Ministry and the Chinese government.

It does not break any Olympic rules.

"In the normal course of government business, these things happen everyday," IOC member Charmaine Crooks told the Globe and Mail.

And just because the governments are supporting each other doesn’t mean the two Chinese IOC members will vote that way.

The IOC vote is a secret ballot and Chinese members will vote as they see fit.

Meanwhile, the IOC’s decision to once again choose NBC as the U.S. broadcaster of the 2010 and 2012 Games is good news for whoever wins the 2010 Games.

NBC offered more than $2 billion US and its offer was accepted after only seven hours of deliberations.

Of that $820 million US is for the 2010 Games and $1.181 billion US is for the 2012 Games.

It’s a good deal because it will give whoever wins the 2010 Games significantly more than the $400 million the IOC instructed bids to use as a general benchmark for IOC broadcast rights revenues.

Vancouver and Whistler estimated their revenue at $385 million US once they discounted the $400 million US to 2002 dollars. Now it looks as if they will get least $400 million.

Another $100 million will go to the winning bid from TOP sponsors said the IOC.

It will give the winning bidder 49 per cent of the revenue for broadcast rights and 50 per cent of the revenues from TOP sponsors.

General Electric, NBC’s parent company, will also become a TOP sponsor paying between $160 million and $200 million for the privilege. Other TOP sponsors include VISA and Coca-Cola.

NBC has a lengthy relationship with the IOC and already holds the rights to the Games from 2000 to 2008.

"The figure the IOC told us to plan for appears to be on target," said 2010 bid spokesman Sam Corea.

"But there are still others to be negotiated as well.

"It does show that the Olympic property is certainly very much in favour."

Canadian networks have yet to negotiate with the IOC and it’s likely the discussions are several months away.

Until 2008 CBC and TSN are partnered to bring coverage of Olympic Games to Canada. Traditionally CBC has been the Olympic network in Canada but that may change if CTV decides to bid for the Games.

CTV is aligned with a number of sports services led by TSN and including the Outdoor Life Network, WTSN and ESPN Classic Canada.

CBC could replace TSN with Rogers Sportsnet.

However, it is early days yet and CTV has made no announcement about its plans.

The staggering amounts networks pay for the privilege of carrying the Olympic has grown exponentially since the Games were first covered by a U.S. network in Rome in 1960.

Back then CBS paid $394,000 to cover the summer Games. The same network paid only $60,000 to cover the Squaw Valley Winter Olympic Games. Only 15 hours of coverage was offered from those Games.

NBC paid $545 million to broadcast the Salt Lake 2002 Winter Games and offered 376 hours of viewing.

The recent NBC deal doesn’t just cover television, it also includes cable, Internet, video-on-demand, pay-per-view and other services.

The USA typically provides 60 per cent of the Olympic TV rights fees, which support most of the IOC’s revenues.

As the countdown continues until July 2 both Whistler and Vancouver are putting the finishing touches on celebrations plans.

Whistler will open the doors to its party in Village Square at 6:30 a.m. Coffee will be served to jolt anyone not high on excitement and a fundraising pancake breakfast will be on offer from the Whistler Mountain Ski Club.

There will be lots of live entertainment and the event is free.

It’s likely Whistler will learn whether or not its bid has been successful around 8:50 a.m.

In Vancouver a giant party, already sold out, is being hosted at GM Place.

Almost 17,000 free tickets have been spoken for by people around the province, across the country, and even the U.S.

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