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Wednesday, August 23, 2000
CBC goes for blanket coverage of Sydney Olympic Games

By DONNA SPENCER -- Canadian Press

 Set your alarm clocks and take your remote control to bed.

 The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation will be airing the 2000 Sydney Olympics live starting in the early evening and going all night until the wee hours of the morning.

 Sydney is 15 hours ahead of Eastern Daylight Time. Many medal events happen between midnight and 8 a.m. EDT.

 "Get it on and get it live. That's always been our philosophy," said CBC Olympic executive producer Joel Darling.

 The CBC, which paid $160 million for the rights to five Olympic Games starting with Sydney, will also offer a three-hour morning highlights wrap in addition to live coverage which brings its total hours to 291.

 The CBC is taking a partnership forged with TSN at the 1999 Pan Am Games in Winnipeg one step further in Sydney to bring total coverage hours up to 500.

 In Winnipeg, CBC broadcast competition in prime time while TSN handled afternoon events.

 "This time around we're both on at the same time and we're working very closely to figure out which is best for the viewer, using the idea TSN is a complementary service," explained Darling. "Where we haven't been able to put an entire field hockey game on before, this time around TSN might take that field hockey game. We at CBC might jump in and out of it."

 In addition to live events and taped highlights, CBC will broadcast athlete profiles as well as features on Australia.

 "We always get criticized for not covering all the sports," said Darling. "There's 37 sports and there's over 5,000 hours of athletic competition. Throw in commercials and features and things like that, we're never going to make everybody happy.

 "We're still going to have problems of trying to get some sports on that don't get as many viewers or doesn't have that strong fan base, but there are people out there who love to watch show jumping, dressage or table tennis. Now we'll be able to put some of those sports on TSN."

 Canadians demonstrated during the 1998 Winter Olympic in Nagano they were willing to get up in the middle of the night to watch competition, with hockey the biggest draw.

 CBC is banking on events such as the men's 100 metres and 4x100 relay, swimming, diving and beach volleyball to do the same. Stories may develop to draw more viewers in like the Canadian baseball team did at the Pan Am Games.

 CBC is projecting 96 per cent of Canadians will tune into the network's coverage at some point during the Games.

 "I think this country has been known for a long time to have world championships where people are used to getting up in the middle of the night to watch them," said Darling. "Will they get up in the middle the night to watch some of those events here? I think the strong corps of people will.

 "It will depend on how the Canadians do. If Donovan Bailey or Bruny Surin end up in the final, that will be huge news that I think a lot of people will get up for."

 The men's 100-metre final is on Sept. 22 at 5:20 a.m. EDT. Some medal events will be held in prime time. The women's and men's triathlons start at 7 p.m. EDT.

 The American rights-holder, NBC, isn't broadcasting one minute of the Games live.

 "That kind of surprises us in this age of information and Internet," said Darling. "I think people are past time changes. If they want to see something, they want to see it.

 "We've seen it through mail we've gotten from the States. The American border cities that pick us up love that fact they can tune us in, they can see most of the events and the important events live."

 Added TSN executive producer Rick Chisolm:

 "We hope to be as live as often as we possibly can. It's the Canadian way. I don't agree with the NBC way. Sports is live."

 The entire CBC crew, including TSN, is 183 people with on-air crew including CBC's Brian Williams, Ron MacLean, Scott Oak and Terry Leibel and TSN's Paul Romanuk, Vic Rauter and Jim Van Horne.

 Former Olympians-turned-commentators include Curt Harnett (cycling), Kay Worthington (rowing), Lori Sippel (softball) and Michael Smith (athletics).


Olympic Television Quickfacts

 By The Canadian Press

 A quick look at CBC's coverage of the Olympic Games in Sydney.

 Dates -- Sept. 15 to Oct. 1

 Time difference -- Sydney is 15 hours ahead of Eastern Daylight Time.

 Total coverage hours -- 500 between CBC and cable partner TSN.

 Total television crew size -- 183 people.

 Typical day -- CBC will run a highlights package in the morning of the previous day's events. Prime time live coverage begins early afternoon or late evening and runs until about 8 a.m. the following morning. While CBC may jump in and out of events, TSN will broadcast entire games.

 Percentage of Canadians CBC expects to tune in at some point of the Games -- 96.

 Big draw sports -- Swimming, diving, men's 100 metres and 100-metre relay, beach volleyball.

 Commentators -- Brian Williams, Ron MacLean, Terry Leibel, Paul Romanuk, Vic Rauter.

 Olympians-turned-commentators -- Michael Smith, athletics; Curt Harnett, cycling; Kay Worthington, rowing; Lori Sippel, softball; Chris Wilson, weightlifting; Mary Caroll, diving.

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