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Wednesday, September 13, 2000
NBC chief defends Qantas shots in opening of Olympic telecast

 SYDNEY (AP) -- A big, white kangaroo on the tail of a Qantas jet will help NBC introduce Americans to the Olympics Down Under, even though a competing airline is sponsoring the games.

 Ansett Australia, in the midst of a domestic air battle with Qantas and two start-up airlines, is paying more than $23 million to be the official airline of the Sydney Olympics, a category that covers only Australia. It outbid Qantas for the spot.

 Dick Ebersol, president of NBC Sports, said the network was free to cut deals with any airline or other business regardless of sponsor agreements and was using the Qantas jet for historical accuracy and as payback for good service.

 Ansett said it was a bit dismayed by the NBC decision but acknowledged that the network was not obliged to use its planes or avoid its competitors. NBC is the single largest underwriter of the games, paying $705 million for U.S. TV rights.

 "There is a lot of effort among Olympic sponsors to do business with each other," said Michael Rolnick, Ansett's project manager for Olympic communications. "We wanted to exploit the business-to-business element of our sponsorship."

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