By ROB BRODIE -- Ottawa Sun
Some things, to be sure, are even bigger than the Olympics.
Witness the developments of last night, when the death of former prime minister Pierre Trudeau forced the CBC into quick program shuffling mode.
The public broadcaster cut away from Olympic programming just past 5:35 p.m. when Peter Mansbridge came on the air to break the news of Trudeau's passing.
Suddenly, the Olympics became an afterthought.
Considering the magnitude of Trudeau in many Canadians' lives -- he is one of the most influential leaders of our times in this country -- the decision to pull the plug on Sydney programming was a no-brainer.
CBC stayed on the Trudeau story until 8 p.m., then gave way to two hours of live coverage from Sydney. An extended two-hour edition of The National followed, before live Olympic action resumed at midnight.
Canadians didn't miss the first round of heats in the 4x100-metre relay, probably the most-discussed Olympic event of the evening. They also learned of the withdrawal, because of injury, of anchor runner Nicolas Macrozonaris before the switch back to news.
NO PLACE TO TURN
What had to be frustrating was this: CBC couldn't look toward cable partner TSN for any early evening help to keep the flow of live Olympic coverage going.
TSN was committed to a Blue Jays broadcast starting at 7 p.m. (a Jays game that, by the way, turned into a laugher very quickly). So there was no opportunity for CBC to do any program shifting.
But that's been part of the story for TSN throughout the Olympics. Its ability to provide Sydney coverage has been shorted at times because of previously scheduled baseball and football (CFL and NFL) games and the occasional weekend auto race.
Part of that is a product of the Olympics being held at the end of September. It's a situation that shouldn't crop up again in two years time, when the Winter Olympics are held in Salt Lake City.
The reason? The NHL is on hiatus for the Games, eliminating Canada's top winter sports property from the picture.
But then again, events like last night's don't exactly happen every day.
THE OVERNIGHT SHIFT:
CBC lost one of the great surprise stories of the Games when Canada fell to France in men's basketball. But as analyst Brian Heaney correctly pointed out, France was ranked at least four slots higher than Canada coming into the tournament. The French aren't Yugoslavia, but Canadians shouldn't have been overly surprised by the result. Disappointed, maybe, but not surprised ... Signs of the passion of the Games: Hearing the Greek television call of the stunning 200-metre victory by Konstantinos Kenteris (replayed on CBC), and the tears in the eyes of Debbie Ferguson of the Bahamas after she gave the tiny island a silver medal in the women's 200 ... Speaking of 200s, women's winner Marion Jones was polite in a post-race interview with Tom Harrington, but seemed in a hurry to finish her talking. No chance she was moving fast to avoid hearing another question about hubby C.J. Hunter and his drug woes, was there?
DOWN UNDUH TALK:
A straight-shooting questioner and an candid interview subject. Put them together and you wind up with a strong, lively discussion. Viewers got just that last night, when CBC's Brian Williams sat down for a chat with International Olympic Committee vice-president Dick Pound of Canada. One of the best moments: On whether the day might come when the IOC simply admits battling drug use is a hopeless cause, Pound said "if it ever became that way, the first one out of the Olympic movement would be yours truly." ... The story keeps getting worse for NBC on the ratings front. The peacock network's 12th night of Sydney coverage on Tuesday drew a 12.4 rating and 21 share, the lowest number for a Summer Games in at least 16 years. Cumulative ratings for the games are down 36% from 1996 in Atlanta, and off 19% from 1988 in Seoul -- the last time the Summer Olympics were held in September ... Andrew Jennings, the famed author of the book the IOC hated, Lord of the Rings, is interviewed Sunday at 11:20 a.m. on The Team 1200's Sports Journal.
"They're somewhat embarrassed by it ... (The Americans) understand now the world is looking at them a little differently." -- The IOC's Pound, on the furore surrounding Hunter, who flunked four drug tests earlier this year.