Модуль 7. Прагматические вопросы масс-медиа



(USA, Point Park University, Pittsburgh)

The Soviet Union and the United States engaged in an often strained political relationship, following World War II and continuing through 1991 when the USSR dissolved. The uneasy association also affected the arena of sports, and it was especially evident during the quadrennial Olympic Games. The Soviet and American governments welcomed the victories that their athletes achieved at the Olympics, especially when they came at the expense of the other side. The differences between the two nations (and their political allies) also could be seen in the debate surrounding the development of the Olympic Movement, which was an effort by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to spread what it believed were the values of the Olympics to the world.
The role that television played in advancing the IOC’s agenda cannot be underestimated. (The inherent differences between what the networks hoped to achieve through their association with the Olympics and what the IOC hoped to achieve through its association with the networks cannot be ignored, but they are not addressed in depth in this research.)
First, this paper traces the increasingly powerful role that television money and exposure played throughout the Cold War in advancing the IOC’s agenda. That, perhaps overly-simplified, agenda was to see that more and more people around the world were introduced to and embraced the Olympic ideals of sportsmanship, fair play and the celebration of sport. But what about the Cold War adversaries, the United States and the Soviet Union; how did they see the consistent increase in television money as useful for the advancement of their agendas?
This paper also argues that the Soviet Union, because of its political and economic system, was never positioned to be a major player in adding television money to the IOC’s coffers. However, it was deeply interested in re-shaping the IOC into an organization that was less-oriented toward the West. Moreover, beginning before World War II it had used sports as a means of fostering positive relations with other nations. Thus, this paper attempts to show that Soviet Olympic officials believed they could increase their power within the IOC and standing around the world by advocating that the IOC use its increasing financial strength to adopt policies that were less aligned with the capitalist world.
Meanwhile, United States Olympic officials seemed content to remain aloof from the television debate up to the point when they saw that they could make money from the ever-expanding pool of television money that the IOC was dipping into. By coincidence, the increase in television rights fees came at a time when America’s fortunes at the Olympics were in decline.

TABLE 1: United States and Soviet Union Medal Counts, 1948 – 1988

Table 1 outlines the number of gold, silver and bronze medals won by American and Soviet athletes during the 1948 through 1988 Summer Olympics. Beginning in 1956, the second Games in which athletes from the USSR competed, Soviet Olympians won more gold medals than their American counterparts except in 1964 and 1968. They also won more total medals every year except in 1968. (The 1980 and 1984 Games, which the Americans and Soviets respectively boycotted, were not considered relevant for comparison.)

TABLE 2: Television Rights Fees Paid by U.S. Networks

(Source: Real, 1996, 4; other sources offer slightly different figures)

Meanwhile, more and more money was being spent by American television networks in order to secure exclusive broadcast rights to the quadrennial Summer Games. Table 2 notes how valuable the Olympic Games became beginning in 1960, the first year that broadcast rights were sold, and continuing through 1988. And beginning with the 1968 Mexico City Games, television networks chose to move the coverage of the Olympics to prime-time, where they could be seen by more people (Senn, 1999). Indeed, an increase in television ratings followed.

TABLE 3: U.S. Television Ratings, Summer Games, 1968-1988

(Source: Senn, 1999, 144, 171, 201, 231).

Table 3 demonstrates that as television’s commitment increased to delivering more of coverage of the Games into prime-time, increased viewership followed. (The 1980 Games were supposed to be televised by NBC; the network abandoned plans for extensive coverage because of the U.S.-led boycott.)
Thus, U.S. Olympic officials were aware that more and more Americans were tuning into the Olympics and watching Soviet athletes win more and more medals. They saw an opportunity to argue for a greater share of the American television rights fees in hopes of using those dollars to better train and prepare American athletes for subsequent Olympic Games. In short, they, too, had a political agenda when it came to the discussion about television money.
Because this research covers the Cold War period, which for purposes of this study was defined as 1948 (the first post-war Olympics) through 1988 (the final Games in which the Soviet Union participated), the most recent and sometimes controversial issues surrounding the relationship between the IOC and television are not discussed here. The author agrees that a more complete analysis of how television money has influenced the IOC and the Olympic Games should include the post-Cold War period. However, this paper is directed less at an understanding of how television money has affected the growth and presentation of the Olympic Games and more toward recognizing how the United States and the Soviet Union – during their protracted poor diplomatic relationship – thought television money could and should be used by the IOC. Thus, the 1948 through 1988 period is applicable to this research.
The IOC has held firm to the belief – before, during, and after the Cold War – that international politics has no place in the Olympic Games. However, its attempts at separating politics and sports often have proven unsuccessful. Espy (Espy, 1979) argued that the structure of the Games, which was, and continues to be, built around the nation-state, contributed to this failure. He added that the IOC’s mandate that athletes compete not as individuals but instead as members of a country also has led to frustrations for the IOC.
Television also has been identified as a cause for the rampant nationalism associated with the Olympics. Those who support television’s interaction with the Olympic Movement, including the IOC, are quick to note that the IOC has generated its financial windfall from television. Moreover, the medium has assisted in showcasing the grace, strength and determination of Olympians worldwide (IOC, 1994). However, critics, such as Barnett (Barnett, 1990), point out that the networks are exercising too much control over the Games due to the financial stake they have in them. Part of this influence can be seen in the scheduling of events. One need only to flash back to the 1988 Summer Games in Seoul, where the finals of selected events were moved to the morning in order that they could be shown live during the lucrative “prime time” slots in the United States, for an example of the media’s influence. A Seoul Olympic official justified the scheduling by arguing that many Olympic sports had enjoyed continuous growth in popularity around the world, and television had played an integral role in that growth. Therefore, in his opinion, certain events in the Games’ schedule had to be designed so as to maximize their economic potential (Larson and Park, 1993).
More disturbing to critics is the recognition that networks manipulate the Games’ coverage. Instead of working in concert with the IOC to promote the values of fair play, friendly competition, and the celebration of sport, television producers regularly create a program in which the Olympics are seen as a battle of good versus evil. For American television executives, the “good guys” are the men and women who make up the U.S team; the “bad guys” are whoever is identified as the enemy. During the Cold War, that enemy was the Soviet Union. This blatant appeal to patriotism makes critics, such as Nixon, uncomfortable. He has claimed that the invocation of the red, white, and blue is not genuine, but rather an effort aimed at ensuring that the networks’ financial investment in the Olympics ends up in the black (Nixon, in Seagrave and Chu, 1988).
The most important goal of America’s foreign policy during the Cold War was the containment of communism. Herman and Chomsky have suggested that too often media coverage of this effort – ironically – became equated to a sports contest “with gains and losses allocated to contesting sides.” The authors claimed that the media further contributed to this sports metaphor by “rooting for our side,” which, they asserted, during the Cold War became “an entirely legitimate news practice” (1988, 30-31). These comments have been supported by various research.
Kriesberg’s (Kriesberg, 1947) content analysis of New York Times’ coverage of the Soviet Union from 1917 through 1946 offered one example. He found that news unfavorable to the USSR received far more attention in the newspaper than did news that was favorable. Kriesberg added that Soviet leaders often were characterized negatively, and that most positive portrayals of them were linked to the fact that they were working with America’s leaders.
Moretti (Moretti, 2002) reviewed New York Times’ coverage of the entrance of the Soviet Union into the Olympic Games. The study, which examined the years 1948 through 1952, found that stories written by the newspaper’s reporters demonstrated a consistently negative tone toward the Soviet Union, its reasons for wanting to enter the Olympic Games, and its willingness to abide by IOC rules.
Schillinger and Jenswold reported a “national bias” existed in U.S. newspaper coverage of the Olympics. They found that the Washington Post, when compared to Pravda, the mouthpiece of the Communist Party in the Soviet Union, was more “nationalistic” and “more partisan” in its coverage of the 1976, 1980, and 1984 Summer Olympic Games (1987, 826-833).
That “partisan” attitude also existed during the 1992 Winter Games, which took place about five weeks after the collapse of the USSR. Riggs, Eastman and Golobic examined the comments made by announcers for CBS and TNT during the Games from Albertville, France. They reported that the Unified Team, the nations which comprised the Commonwealth of Independent States, was “portrayed nationalistically only 53 percent of the time, but almost uniformly hostilely.” They added that the commentary repeatedly suggested that the Unified Team was representing a “weak” country, a “quashed national enemy” (1993, 261-264).
The justification for examining the debate about the use of television money comes from the acknowledgment that advances in international communications have not only made the Olympic easier to cover but also an avenue through which television companies could use sports to attract large audiences and lucrative advertising incomes. Moreover, the justification for examining how American and Soviet Olympic officials reacted to the increase in television money recognized that both nations believed the Games were more than just sports events; each wanted to use the athletic competitions for domestic and international propaganda value. In addition, as the USSR became the nation that repeatedly won the most number of Olympic medals, it also was seeking to re-shape the Western-dominated IOC into an organization that would be more sympathetic to Soviet aims.
Various primary (and secondary) sources were used in the researching of this historical-based paper. The author made extensive use of the Avery Brundage papers, which are housed at the University of Illinois. Brundage was the president of the IOC from 1952 through 1972 and was hesitant to deeply involve the IOC with the television industry. He also had deep reservations about the Soviet Union’s commitment to uphold many IOC rules; nevertheless, he supported the Soviet’s decision to join the Olympic family of nations.
Documents, especially relating to the development of television rights and the issues relating to the medium’s involvement with the IOC, available at the Amateur Athletic Foundation of Los Angeles library also were used in this research.
The other primary sources were the stories and editorials that appeared in either the New York Times or the Los Angeles Times. The former was chosen because it is recognized as one of America’s elite newspapers. Merrill (Merrill, 1968: 13) has suggested that an elite newspaper should be “serious, concerned, intelligent and articulate,” and he applied that elite status to the New York Times.
The Los Angeles Times was chosen because it was the principal newspaper in the only United States city to host the Summer Games between 1948 and 1988 (Squaw Valley, California and Lake Placid, New York did host the Winter Games during this period). Los Angeles served as host in 1984; however, it had bid on the Summer Games multiple times before that, including in 1980, the Games that were awarded to Moscow. Thus, the newspaper should have devoted substantial coverage to issues relating to the Olympic Movement because of that city’s effort to once again host the Summer Olympics, which it had done in 1932.
The news items that were included in this research do not reflect everything that the two newspapers had to say about the interaction between television and the Olympics; rather, the accounts and editorials identified here are designed to contribute to this study’s narrative.
It was necessary to look at every calendar year between 1948 and 1988 because while the Olympics were held once every four years, the debate about the relationship between the IOC and the television industry did not stop once a particular Olympic Games ended. Furthermore, a complete review of these years made it possible to fully trace how the newspapers reported this issue over time.
The 1936 Winter and Summer Olympics, both of which were hosted by Germany, were televised experimentally in the Berlin area (Barney, et al, 2002); technological advances had not yet been made to allow for the sale of international broadcast rights. Moreover, and specifically related to the United States, there was nothing resembling a “network” of stations that is common place today. The London Times was less than impressed with the video images; it reported that the pictures “resembled a very faint, highly under-exposed photographic film, and were so much worse than ordinary transmissions from a studio that many turned away in disappointment’ (quoted in Barney, et al, 2002, 55).
The experimentation with television and the Olympics continued after World War II. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) paid 1,500 pounds for the domestic rights to the 1948 London Games but it still did not reach a wide audience; its signal stretched a radius of only fifty miles (Senn, 1999), and only nine cameras were used (Whannel, 1984). Nevertheless, BBC officials said before the Games that they were hoping that as many as 70,000 homes would be able to see the various athletic competitions (Gander, June 14, 1948). More importantly for the British, their coverage was well-regarded by international observers from Europe and throughout the British Commonwealth. A New York Times reporter concluded that advances in television were “waiting for a sufficiency of the right kind of program material and the Games supplied it in abundance” (Gander, Aug. 29, 1948).
Technological advances, such as the satellite, did not come in time for international television coverage of the 1952 Helsinki Games. However, one month prior to those Olympics, United States Olympic officials furthered demonstrated the potential powerful association between the Games and television when the U.S. team received monetary pledges totaling more than $1 million after entertainers Bob Hope and Bing Crosby staged a fourteen-and-one-half hour pledge drive. New York Times television critic Jack Gould was less than enthusiastic about the quality of the program, which he said “moved pretty slowly.” Nevertheless, Gould acknowledged that Hope and Crosby had “rescued the Olympic Committee from its financial plight” (June 23, 1952). His colleague, columnist Arthur Daley, could not resist taking a jab at the Soviets. He claimed that the telethon was “a tribute to the American public and the American way of life,” and its success would “raise eyebrows all over the world, perhaps even in the Kremlin” (Daley, June 24, 1952).
In 1956, the television networks and local Olympic organizing committees began a now familiar ritual: How much should the former pay the latter in order to be granted rights to a particular Olympics? The problem that Melbourne’s organizers faced that year was that the American networks refused to pay for something that they still considered to be a public property (Guttmann, 2002). The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times reported that the organizing committee had demanded $500,000 from the U.S. networks. In January, representatives from CBS, NBC, and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation argued that being asked to pay rights fees was tantamount to violating press freedom. IOC President Brundage admitted that television was “a new problem” for Olympic officials, which had to be discussed seriously (Los Angeles Times, Jan. 23, 1956). At the same time, the IOC also was dealing with another problem: It was losing money. Brundage had informed the membership in 1955 that it had taken in approximately 31,000 Swiss francs that year but had expenses of nearly 45,000 Swiss francs, and the IOC could not continue to sustain such losses (Hill, 1996). Meanwhile, various International Federations (IFs) also were beginning to realize that television money could erase their financial concerns. The IOC feared that some of them were considering organizing their own world championships during Olympic years and cutting individual television deals in the process. One IOC member noted in 1956 that the IOC would be doing itself a big favor if it could complete television deals that would financially benefit itself and the Ifs (Hill, 1996). Nevertheless, Brundage decided to not get involved in the discussions surrounding television rights to the 1956 Olympics. Barney and his colleagues noted that “[w]hile Brundage seemed willing to accept television revenue as a source of future income for the IOC, his decision to remain aloof from the protracted negotiations surrounding [the] Melbourne television rights reflected his lingering concern over the potential damage to the Olympic Movement’s image if the IOC became entangled in disputes involving commercial organizations” (IOC, 2002: 59-60).
In the end, only tape-delayed, thirty-minute highlight films of the 1956 Games were shown on a limited number of U.S. independent television stations. Gould characterized them as “amateurishly edited.” He suggested that it was time for the IOC, the local organizing committees, and the American networks to put aside selfish interests and formulate arrangements for the broadcasts of future Games. He also mentioned that while the “Western alliance argued over their respective rights and fees, Russia and the satellite countries, according to a network executive, shot all the film they wanted of the Olympic Games” (Gould, Dec. 9, 1956). Nevertheless, Brundage predicted that it would not “be easy to get money for the television rights to the Olympic Games” (in Guttmann, 1984, 218), and he remained torn between the potential positive and negative effects that television money could have on the Olympic movement. He knew that television dollars would help meet the IOC’s need for additional revenues, and they would give it the means to better promote itself; but he feared that conflict would continue among the various sports constituencies as they lobbied for their share of the financial pie (Barney et al, 2002). Brundage was wrong on the first point; getting television dollars was not a problem. However, he was right on the second point; it became almost impossible to agree on how to divide them.
The Soviet Union, which to this point had stayed mum on the subject of television and the Olympics, sought to capitalize on the developing rift between the IOC and the other sports organizations. It did not offer a plan to bring the sides together; in fact, what it offered had nothing to do with television. It suggested that the time had come to completely reorganize the IOC. The Soviets wanted to enlarge the organization to include the presidents of the various National Olympic Committees (NOCs) and the IFs and planned to give those groups the power to appoint their own members; thus, in the words of Espy, “taking the choice of membership out of the hands of the IOC and putting it into the hands of the government of the country of the respective sports organization” (1979, 73). Under the Soviet plan, the IOC’s finances would be drawn from annual fees paid by the NOCs and the IFs. The NOCs also would pay their members’ individual fees, and they and the IFs would share the costs of paying for IOC members’ travel. In short, quoting again from Espy, the Soviets were calling for “a United Nations of sport . . . . [T]he Soviet plan meant making the IOC a government organization” (Espy, 74). The IOC rejected the idea.
The Soviets’ plan should not have surprised anyone within the IOC, as it was consistent with their efforts at diluting the Western-based thinking that had dominated the IOC since its founding in the late 1800s. It also was in line with the Soviets’ goal of adding more members to the organization in hopes of those members being more sympathetic to the Soviet Union. The minutes that were reviewed by this author found no direct or indirect comments made on this matter by the American delegation to the IOC.
In 1958, the IOC established its first policy regarding television rights fees. It allowed all television and cinema news agencies access to nine daily minutes of royalty-free highlights; any network that sought exclusive and lengthier coverage would have to pay for it (Barney et al, 2002). More specifically, the policy stated “the [television] rights shall be sold by the [local] Organizing Committee, with the approval of the International Olympic Committee,” and the revenues would “be distributed in accordance with [IOC] instructions” (De Moragas Spa et al, 1995: 20). The unforeseen dilemma soon to be faced by the IOC was that it had given too much authority to the local organizing committees in arranging these deals, even though it had stipulated that it would bear responsibility for disbursing the money to the various IFs, NOCs, local Organizing Committees for the Olympic Games (OCOGs), and itself. Barney and colleagues suggested that the IOC’s willingness to let the OCOG’s handle the primary negotiations stemmed from Brundage’s insistence that the IOC not be perceived as having involved itself too deeply with commercial interests (Barney et al, 2002). It took almost a decade before it assumed more control of the rights’ process.
CBS paid $50,000 for the television rights to the 1960 Squaw Valley Winter Olympics (de Moragas Spa et al, 1995). None of its coverage, which totaled fifteen hours (Senn, 1999), including the opening ceremonies, was live. Gould criticized the network for falling into television’s “familiar manifestation . . . in reporting the news,” which, he claimed, led CBS to neglect telling its audience something about the athletes, sports officials, and Squaw Valley (Gould, Feb. 19, 1960). The network also paid approximately $394,000 for the rights to the Rome Summer Games (de Moragas Spa et al, 1995) where it broadcast twenty hours (Senn, 1999) of tape-delayed coverage. When the Games ended, New York Times’ reporter John Shanley commended CBS for its efforts. He also wrote something that would be prophetic: “[T]he Olympic telecasts have been a fascinating departure from the drab pattern of summertime television programming” (Shanley, Sept. 4, 1960). In other words, the Olympics were providing television with original and dramatic summertime programming, while the networks were providing the IOC with money and exposure. The money was not coming from just the American networks: The Italian organizing committee made more than $1 million from the twenty-one television contracts it signed (IOC, 2002); the IOC later accepted 5 percent of the profits, much to the chagrin of Brundage (Guttmann, 2002), who thought it deserved more. He reminded the Italian organizers that the IOC had assumed control of distributing television money in 1958. They responded that because they had been awarded hosting privileges in 1955 that they and the IOC should abide by the rules that were in effect that year. Furthermore, they claimed that the rules instituted in 1958 dealt primarily with the sale of “live” television rights, which no American or Canadian broadcaster could provide because of the lack of appropriate technology. Brundage relented, but seemed determined to ensure that similar disputes did not happen in the future (Barney et al, 2002).
Further technological advances made it possible for television coverage to be delivered via satellite from Tokyo, the site of the 1964 Summer Games. NBC, which paid $1.5 million for the rights (de Moragas Spa et al, 1995), was able to provide both live and tape-delayed coverage. However, it hesitated to avail itself of live programming because the network’s executives believed that the best way to recoup their investment was to provide nightly tape-delayed shows (Barney et al, 2002). In fact, the only live coverage was of the opening ceremonies (and that was delivered to East coast viewers; the West coast audience saw them on tape-delay). Gould, who gushed about the “superlative quality” of the live, satellite transmission (Gould, Oct. 10, 1964), reported that the U.S. State Department and the Japanese government were unhappy with NBC’s decision because both had envisioned the live transmission of the opening ceremonies as a showcase of the cooperation between the two nations (Gould, Oct. 11, 1964). As he did in 1956, Gould challenged the U.S. television networks to look beyond their own short-term interests as they considered what to do with Olympic broadcasts. “All the wonderful satellites that science can put aloft will be just vacuous spheres if men on the ground in all countries do not have the eagerness and willingness to put them to work,” he wrote. “The exchange of information, cultures and customs through electronics can be choked off before it starts if the real key to communications – time on the air – is not contributed by each country” (Gould, Oct. 18, 1964).
Nineteen sixty-four was the last Olympic year in which the IOC allowed the OCOGs to retain control over the money generated from television dollars. The IFs remained adamant that they deserved one-third of the television pie; their argument for more money appeared legitimate considering that they had received about 1 percent of the rights fees from that year’s Winter Games and slightly more than 4 percent from the Summer Games (Barney et al, 2002). Brundage returned to a familiar argument in a letter he sent to IOC member Ivar Vind. “One should be suspicious of any amateur organization that has money,” he wrote. “[T]he minute this occurs its complexion changes and not for the better” (quoted in ibid, 91).
In 1966, the IOC’s executive board came up with a three-tiered system for dividing the money derived from television rights for the 1972 Munich Olympics. The IFs, the NOCs, and the IOC would equally share the first million dollars. The OCOG would receive one-third of the second million dollars; and the IFs, NOCs, and IOC would divide the remaining two-thirds. Beginning with the third million, the OCOG would receive two-thirds, with the IFs, NOCs, and IOC sharing the remaining one-third (Guttmann, 2002). The leaders of the swimming and wrestling IFs reacted negatively; they again demanded that the IFs receive one-third of the total television pie (Minutes from the 64th IOC Session).
It was at this point that Wenn said Brundage became “perplexed by the struggle” among the various groups to come up with an acceptable method for dividing television dollars (Wenn, 1995: 1). The IOC president refused to listen to the demands of the IFs for two reasons. First, he feared that they would use the extra money in ways inconsistent with the Olympic movement. Second, he wanted to make sure that the various OCOGs had enough money to fully prepare for and execute an Olympic Games (ibid.).
During this period, Brundage had an ally, Konstantin Andrianov, a Soviet member of the IOC. Wenn reported that Andrianov “believed television money was the logical source of funds which would permit an expansion of the IOC office, as well as a chief source for facilitating the execution of the IOC’s mandate as a force for peace and social improvement” (ibid., 5). Wenn did not analyze what Andrianov specifically had in mind; however, based on when Andrianov made his comments (1967) one can reasonably conclude that he had hoped to use the infusion of television money from the West to spotlight what the Soviets thought was the unjust treatment of blacks within the United States and apartheid within South Africa. The late 1960s was a period in which the IOC and the USSR held divergent views about what policy the former should adopt regarding the inclusion of South Africa in the Olympics because of its apartheid practices. For the Soviets, linking the civil unrest within the United States to apartheid had strong propaganda value in America and Africa. And if the IOC had additional financial resources, the Soviets might have been thinking, it might be able to more thoroughly scrutinize the issue of the treatment of blacks in the U.S. and South Africa. In other words, the Soviets hoped that they could weaken the IOC’s orientation toward the West, while enhancing their own standing within the IOC and among groups and nations it sought to influence at the same time.
There was no doubt that the IOC needed more money as the 1960s were coming to an end. Real (1996) pointed out that the IOC was facing a severe financial crisis during this time. One report (cited in Wenn, 1995) suggested that between 1968 and late 1969, the IOC had exceeded its budget by more than $300,000. One reason for the monetary mess was that IOC staff members had begun making massive changes to their headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, and had expected a large payout of money from the Munich television negotiations to cover them (ibid). Therefore, the desire to take over the responsibility for negotiating television rights also was self-serving: It allowed for the IOC’s bottom line to be strengthened and its power in relation to the various IFs, NOCs, and OCOGs to be enhanced. Put more bluntly, the IOC wanted more money and influence.
While the IOC was deciding that it wanted more control over television negotiations, American networks were making an important decision that would affect the presentation of future Olympic Games. Senn wrote that in 1968 the U.S. television networks, and more specifically ABC, which had the rights to both the Winter and Summer Games that year, decided that Olympic coverage should be treated more as entertainment than news. In part, that meant that the Games were going to appear regularly in the lucrative prime time programming hours, when, especially during the summer, and according to Gould, “the screen is so bereft of novelty” (Gould, Oct. 15, 1968). ABC offered ten of its forty-four hours of coverage from Mexico City in prime time and drew a fourteen rating and twenty-five share. Those numbers were lower than expected, but Senn noted that “ABC executives looked forward to greater achievements in the future” (1999, 143-144). Those achievements were realized, as the network secured the rights to several upcoming Olympic Games and the audiences that went with it. Nixon added that the move toward emphasizing entertainment ensured that the coverage of future Olympics would be different than it had been in the past because it meant stimulating the patriotic feelings of viewers and degrading the integrity of the Olympics and the athleticism of the Games (Segrave and Chu, 1988).
Rader suggested that ABC’s success with the Olympics (and other sports, including Monday Night Football) developed from a plan hatched in the 1960s. In his words, it “gambled that increased sports programming would give the [third-place] network greater visibility, bring in new local television stations as affiliates, and improve overall audience ratings” (Rader, 1984: 101). Roone Arledge, ABC Sports president, had an approach to presenting the Games (and other sports) that some media critics did not like. Klatell noted that he emphasized the “individual dramas and human interest” of the people involved (Klatell, 1988: 143). Whannel added that Arledge’s approach “ensured that the show was more important than the event” (Whannel, 1992: 169). In other words, entertainment superseded everything else. However, Arledge also had his admirers. In 1968, New York Times reporter Leonard Shecter wrote,
In eight years at ABC . . . he brought the network from the cellar to the dome of the television sports business, turning a competitive pussycat into the kind of beast that the other denizens of the network jungle – the Columbia Broadcasting System and the National Broadcasting Company – treat with wary respect.
Spending with a lavish and imaginative hand, Arledge not only succeeded in generating a profit of nearly $5-million a year from his sports organization, he ended up making sports programming so expensive that executives at CBS and NBC shudder whenever his name is mentioned (March 4, 1968).
Dating to the late 1960s, many IOC members realized they needed to bring in media experts in order to better understand the process of negotiating television deals. “We are complete amateurs in this field,” one IOC member said (quoted in Wenn, 1995: 7). This sentiment gained credence considering that the IOC had failed to grasp the importance of satellite technology and the impact it would have on television. The networks did. As mentioned above, NBC paid $1.5 million for the rights to the Tokyo Games. Four years later, ABC paid $4.5 million for the Mexico City Olympics (de Moragas Spa et al, 1995). The staging of the Olympics in North America (which significantly reduced the time difference between the site of the Games and the United States) contributed to that 200 percent increase, but so did the ability to bring live transmission into living rooms across the United States (not to mention the world). ABC made an estimated $20 million from advertisers that year, and, as Wenn wrote, that figure “had a noticeable effect upon the IOC’s approach to television negotiations” (Wenn, 1995: 8).
A separate event happened toward the end of the 1960s that further demonstrated to the IOC that it had to assume more responsibility in the negotiations for television rights fees. The organizers of the 1972 Winter and Summer Games wanted to institute a so-called technical services fees into the rights packages they were negotiating with NBC (Winter) and ABC (Summer). In theory, these fees were to go toward the construction of the necessary television facilities, and to offset the additional broadcast expenses for the respective Games. In reality, these dollars were going into the pockets of the OCOGs but not into those of the IFs, NOCs, and the IOC. The technical services payments reflected the OCOGs intentions to reduce the size of the financial pie that they had to share. NBC agreed to pay about $6.5 million to the Sapporo OCOG. Approximately $5 million was designated for the rights, and the remaining $1.5 million was earmarked for technical services (Wenn, 1995). ABC agreed to pay $13.5 million to the Munich OCOG with $7.5 million serving as the rights fee, and $6 million going toward technical services (ibid). The IOC’s finance commission considered any technical services fee inappropriate; it believed that constructing broadcast facilities had to be considered in the same category as erecting stadia (Barney et al, 2002). The reasoning went that if the OCOG received no financial assistance in meeting the latter, it should not expect it in meeting the former. After lengthy debates, the Japanese organizers relented and allowed the IOC to take over distribution of all television money. The German organizers did not; they eventually worked out a deal with the IOC that allowed them to go ahead with the contract in exchange for canceling a loan they had made to the IOC (ibid). This also was the Olympic year that the movement crossed the television Rubicon; television revenues finally had surpassed ticket sales as the principal source of income (Real, 1996).
In 1971, the IOC decided that all revenues from television rights belonged to it, and it also would work out an arrangement for sharing them with the appropriate local, national, and international sports associations (de Moragas Spa et al, 1995). Nevertheless, a technical services fee remained part of the television contracts for subsequent Summer Games. ABC spent $25 million to secure the rights for the 1976 Montreal Olympics. De Moragas Spa and his colleagues (ibid) indicated that $12.5 million was a technical services fee, while Larson and Park (Larson, Park, 1993) suggested $17 million went toward meeting technical services. NBC paid more than $72 million for the 1980 Moscow Olympics with $50 million identified as a technical services payment (de Moragas Spa et al, 1995). Finally, in 1984, ABC paid $225 million for the Los Angeles Games with Larson and Park (Larson, Park, 1993) reporting that almost $130 million was considered a technical services payment. However, the Los Angeles organizers provided different figures for the television agreement. They claimed that ABC paid $225 million for the rights plus an additional $75 million for technical services; thus, their report suggested that the television deal was worth $300 million (Ueberroth, 1985).
Brundage, who retired in 1972, remained an idealist, but not a realist, when it came to television money. Entering the 1970s, the IOC’s attitude toward television money was changing; in the minds of almost everyone, it enhanced the ability to promote amateur sports and the values of the Olympic movement. Brundage remained cautious, willing to fight only when it appeared that Olympic ideals were in jeopardy. Furthermore, he believed that the IFs, NOCs, and the IOC had advanced the values of amateur sport well in its past, and television money played no role in that. Wenn (Wenn, 1995: 15) noted that in the end, Brundage “found the current of change too strong and was swept under.”
The last Olympics over which Brundage presided were the 1972 Summer Games. The tragic events at Munich, where eleven Israeli hostages and some of their Palestinian kidnappers died, instantly turned the Olympics into a major news event. This also ensured a “grisly profit” for advertisers, who “had paid low rates in anticipation of the usual low Olympic ratings and were the unintended beneficiaries of the skyrocketing audiences as the crisis wore on” (Hill, 1996: 77). Barnett (Barnett, 1990: 38) added that the crisis “announced the arrival of the Olympic Games as a priceless television commodity.”
In the early hours of the hostage situation, the limitations to satellite technology crystallized; the three major U.S. networks battled each other to purchase restricted satellite time and space. ABC already had arranged the necessary time to provide coverage of the Games, but CBS quickly bought much of the available hours around that. NBC was left out and charged that its competitors were not cooperating with it or each other. It was not until late in the day that the media outlets agreed to pool their coverage, which allowed all three to offer special reporting throughout the evening. New York Times reporter John O’Connor criticized the networks for exhibiting a selfish attitude in the initial hours of the crisis, which he said prevented the networks from demonstrating their “uniqueness as a live medium.” However, he commended them for their “spirit of cooperation” as the situation unfolded (O’Connor, Sept. 6, 1972).
ABC again outbid its rivals to secure the broadcast rights to the 1976 Winter and Summer Games, which were the first to be televised in more than 100 countries (IOC, 2002). In doing so it employed a familiar strategy: It made a much higher offer than it ever had before ($25 million for the Montreal Olympics) but gave local organizers only twenty-four hours to accept or decline (Hill, 1996). The IOC and especially NBC were not happy because the Montreal OCOG had given multiple assurances that it would conduct an open bidding process before concluding any rights agreement (Barney et al, 2002). Critics (see ibid) noted that Montreal’s organizers were shortsighted in quickly reaching a deal with ABC; opening the bidding likely would have increased the value of the rights contract. ABC’s strategy, not surprisingly, was deliberate. Rader noted that Arledge had started visiting the local organizing committee long before the bidding process was scheduled to begin. In Rader’s words, Arledge was not only “fostering goodwill,” but he was preparing “an elaborate case for the network’s capacity to put on a much better show than its rivals” (1984, 105). The strong television numbers from Montreal, where the Games earned nearly a twenty-five rating and a forty-eight share, had ABC’s executives excited; not only was the network destroying the competition in the summer viewing season (Brown, July 27, 1976), but it also was exposing that sizable audience to its upcoming fall entertainment programming. The exposure carried over into the fall; ABC’s overall numbers went up (Senn, 1999). Barnett (Barnett, 1990: 76) noted that by this point, ABC “regarded the Olympics as personal property,” which meant using them to promote its programming and often covering events that were marginally related to the on-going athletic competitions. Meanwhile, O’Connor (July 20, 1976) noted that “CBS and NBC have finally realized that ABC has developed a programming monster.”
The squabbles between the IOC and the Munich and Montreal organizing committees reflected an important change in the discussion about television rights in the 1970s. In the previous decade, the IOC could not reach agreement with the IFs and NOCs regarding the most equitable way to distribute television money. But in the 1970s, the debate was being waged primarily by the IOC and the OCOGs, and the IOC’s inexperience with handling television matters was the principal cause of the confusion. One example of this inexperience was its decision to not review proposed television deals between the OCOGs and the U.S. networks until after they had been signed. Barney and his colleagues (Barney, 2002: 125-126) argued that the IOC, despite claiming it held jurisdiction over television rights, remained caught up in “angst” about being roundly criticized in the media if it gave the appearance of being too interested in securing large sums of money for itself. It was not until the negotiations for both the 1980 Winter and Summer Games had been completed that the IOC and its president, Lord Killanin, determined it had to assume more of a hands-on role in this process (Wenn, 1998).
The political conflict that caused a U.S.-led boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics overshadowed those Games. However, in the months preceding the invasion, there was nothing to indicate that the U.S. team would not attend the Games. And the battle among the American networks to secure the broadcast rights was intense.
Rader (Rader, 1984: 117) noted that NBC “hung back” when the initial negotiations began, while CBS seemed intent on securing the rights. CBS and ABC began courting Soviet organizers as early as 1975, and both used non-sports programming as a means to that end. CBS sent Mary Tyler Moore to Moscow to host a special on the Bolshoi Ballet, while ABC sent its “AM America” crew to the Soviet capital for a week-long series of reports about life in the USSR (ibid). The New York Times quoted the show’s anchor describing the reports as the “most ambitious” effort of any TV network to report about the Soviet Union and its people. However, the newspaper suggested that the network offered an unrealistic snapshot of the country and more egregiously had allowed Soviet officials to preview the programs before they had aired. The Times’ story concluded that ABC’s willingness to accommodate the Soviets was based solely on its hopes to become the broadcast home to the 1980 Summer Games (Whiteside, Nov. 23, 1975).
In the meantime, a West German, Lothar Bock, trusted by the Soviets because he had booked Russian entertainment acts in the West, started to assist CBS, which sent its chairman, William Paley, to Moscow to meet with the Olympic organizers. A series of encouraging conversations ensued, and CBS executives were convinced that they had the inside track to the television contract (Rader, 1984). However, when the Moscow OCOG decided to hold open bidding, which met with the IOC’s approval, CBS balked and refused to hold any further discussions with the Soviets or Bock. He then turned his attention to NBC, which welcomed his contacts with the Soviets. Rader (Rader, 1984: 118-119) concluded that “for $1 million plus a promise to buy fifteen programs produced by Bock, he delivered the Olympics to NBC.”
Rader’s statement, though accurate, omits the chronic confusion that continued until the end of the negotiations. NBC’s executives traveled to Moscow in late January 1977 and soon announced that they had reached a deal with the Soviets (Prial, 1977). However, knowing that representatives from ABC were heading to the Soviet Union to hold their own meetings with the Moscow OCOG, the Soviets said no such deal was in place (New York Times, Feb. 1, 1977). One day later, the Soviets abruptly changed course, and acknowledged that they had reached agreement with NBC (Wren, 1977). An IOC official was dispatched to Moscow, where she quickly reviewed and approved the deal. Wenn (Wenn, 1998: 104) noted, “Killanin, forced to follow developments of the past month and a half via press reports, was relieved about the negotiations with NBC.” Considering that he was determined to improve the financial health of the IOC, Killanin perhaps saw the poor communications between Lausanne and Moscow as the final straw; it was time for him and the IOC to take a seat at the negotiating table instead of relying on the media to inform him about the discussions and deals that were providing the IOC its principal source of income.
Meanwhile, a New York Times editorial (Feb. 3, 1977) suggested that all three U.S. networks had played a kind of cat-and-mouse game with the Soviets and lost. “[The] Soviets know how to stimulate a Pavlovian reaction in capitalist dogs; mere access to their Olympian auction was good for any number of hours of benign transmission about Russia on American screens. They also know a hungry network when they see one.”
The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979 drew an immediate and angry response from President Jimmy Carter, who became the leading player in the orchestration of a multi-nation boycott of the Moscow Olympics. Carter also enacted economic sanctions against the USSR, including preventing NBC from making its last scheduled payment to the Moscow OCOG (Farnsworth, 1980). That payment totaled more than $22 million (Barney et al, 2002). NBC announced in May that it would not televise the Summer Olympics. The New York Times reported that the decision cost NBC “at least $22 million and perhaps more than $40 million in lost advertising revenues and expenses already incurred” (Schwartz, 1980). An NBC official estimated the losses would be less but nevertheless substantial: $15 million (Rothenberg, 1980). The Los Angeles Times added that in the absence of most Western nations many journalists had decided to stay away from Moscow. Soviet officials said that more than 3,000 reporters were covering the Games; however, the newspaper noted that almost 8,000 had been expected before the boycott (Fisher, 1980). The Los Angeles Times also quoted a Soviet television commentator, who during the opening ceremonies made a direct reference to the missing countries. “We are very sorry that the athletes of the boycotting countries have been deprived of the opportunity to participate,” he purportedly said. “It is too bad for the athletes that politics have interfered” (Shirley, 1980).
The Americans and approximately sixty other nations stayed away from Moscow. However, the British did not. They sent 222 athletes to the 1980 Games and won five gold and twenty-one total medals. Whannel examined television coverage from Britain and the Soviet Union during the Summer Games and found striking differences. He noted the “USSR wanted to present the Games as normal, unaffected by the boycott, better organized and more spectacular than ever. British television seemed at pains to mark the Games as abnormal, [and] to draw [its viewers’] attention to the absence of many nations” (Whannel, 1992: 36).
The 1984 Los Angeles Summer Games marked another turning point in the relationship between television and the Olympics. Wenn (Wenn, 1998) noted that this was the first year in which the IOC had joined with an OCOG to negotiate a television contract. However, it was not dealing with a traditionally structured organizing committee. Because of the refusal to fund the Olympics with government money, the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee (LAOOC) was not doing its job on behalf of the city; instead, it was acting as a private corporation. Over time, one of the effects of this unusual structuring was that it often acted without consulting the IOC. The process by which it finalized its television contracts provided one example of this independence and demonstrated why the IOC felt continually frustrated by the Los Angeles organizers.
In April 1979, five months before they completed negotiations, LAOOC officials required potential bidders to pay a refundable $500,000 fee. This provided guaranteed (and needed) money. The IOC’s ire was raised for three reasons: No previous OCOG had pursued such a strategy; no one in Lausanne had been told about it in advance; and, perhaps most galling, the LAOOC had no intention of sharing the money with the IOC. In September, a tentative deal was struck, and no IOC official played a significant role in the negotiations. In fact, in a near complete re-run from the 1980 Games, an IOC official was dispatched to southern California to review (and to approve) the deal. The OCOG structured a contract that it knew would appeal to the IOC because it required a $25 million payment to be sent to Lausanne before the end of the year (Barney et al, 2002).
ABC agreed to pay LAOOC almost $225 million for the television rights (Real, 1996). That figure was staggering for two reasons. First, never before had a network come close to paying that much for a single Olympic Games. Second, it meant that more than 43 percent of the LAOOC’s estimated $513 million budget would be generated through television. Never before had an OCOG put as many of its financial eggs in one basket. The New York Times suggested that the return of the Summer Games to ABC “was something of a personal victory” for Arledge, who now was the president of ABC’s news and sports divisions (Lindsey, 1979).
The network spared no expense to make sure that its investment would be profitable. It scheduled 180 hours of coverage, the most ever for an Olympics, employed 3,500 people and 250 cameras, laid almost 660 miles of television cable, and planned to shoot more than 1,300 hours of athletic events (Mifflin, 1984). It was not enough, claimed Los Angeles Times television critic Howard Rosenberg. He wondered if ABC, or any television network, could have captured the excitement and awe felt by the people sitting inside the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, the site of the opening and closing ceremonies, as well as the track and field competitions. “TV shows us an event in sections, only what the director wants us to see. It mutes the impact” (Rosenberg, 1984). ABC also made sure that American athletes were highlighted, both for their athletic achievements and personal stories. New York Times columnist Ira Berkow chastised the network for taking so-called homerism to ridiculous heights (or depths, depending upon one’s opinion). “Of course, the televising of the Olympics . . . is entertainment,” Berkow wrote. “But bringing the inherent delights and beauty and drama and surprises of an athletic competition like the Olympics to the public can be accomplished with straight and sensitive reporting” (Berkow, 1984). A Swedish citizen who attended the Games claimed that both the print and broadcast media were guilty of overplaying the nationalism card. “To use a word that I hate,” Goran Gustafson wrote, “this is a form of athletic imperialism, made all the worse since it heightens that American tendency of being oblivious to the feelings and attitudes of allies” (Gustafson, 1984).
IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch sent a letter to Ueberroth, the president of the LAOOC, in which he noted that most of the nine-member IOC executive board was not happy with the network coverage because it threatened to diminish the “international flavor” of the Games (Morrison and Reich, 1984). “Many complaints have been transmitted to me regarding coverage by ABC of Olympic events,” Samaranch wrote. “The coverage should be of an international nature, particularly for the medal ceremonies. I therefore insist that you take the necessary action to have this situation rectified, as the Games belong to the whole world” (Reich and Sharbutt, 1984). ABC officials met with Samaranch and others from the IOC but refused to commit to making changes.
A London sportswriter believed he had an explanation for ABC’s coverage. “American television is terrible” (Allen, 1984). Nixon wrote that 1984 was merely the latest in a number of examples of a television network “playing to the chauvinistic feelings of viewers” and therefore adding “to the deeply entrenched tradition of nationalism” that had been part of the modern Games from their inception (Nixon, 1988: 246).
A network spokesperson’s statement perhaps encapsulated the differences between the values of television and the IOC. “Our responsibility is to put on a show for the American audience,” Tom Osenton argued. “That’s ABC’s prerogative, to shape a show” (Reich and Sharbutt, 1984). American viewers, whether oblivious or in response to the overt domestic boosterism, could not stop watching. ABC’s coverage earned almost a twenty-five rating and forty-four share; its competitors were dwarfed by comparison (Kaplan, 1984).
When the Games ended, the LAOOC reported that it had total revenues of more than $768 million; more than $286 million (37 percent) of that had come from international television agreements (de Moragas Spa et al, 1995). No OCOG had ever derived such a percentage of its money from television contracts. Moreover, it had hoped to generate $105 million from this source; it wound up with almost three times that amount.
Four years later, Seoul’s OCOG hoped to generate between $500 million and $600 million from its television deal with a U.S. broadcaster. However, the American networks balked, fearing a possible second Eastern bloc boycott, and the potential for terrorism, and recognizing the fourteen-hour time difference between South Korea and the United States (Larson and Park, 1993). The IOC addressed these concerns to the South Koreans, who, nevertheless, were surprised when, in 1985, the highest initial bid for the 1988 Summer Games came in at $325 million. IOC officials strongly suggested that the Koreans take the offer; they refused, knowing that it would not be considered acceptable in Seoul. The IOC’s pleadings should have been heeded; none of the networks engaged in a bidding war. NBC’s offer of $300 million matched CBS’ bid but was accepted because it offered $50 million up front and agreed to share any profits made through advertising (Barney, Wenn and Martyn, 2000).
The American newspapers also appeared disinterested in the deal. The New York Times provided just one story about the agreement, and it focused heavily on aforementioned potential drawbacks of the Olympics in Seoul (Smith, 1985). During the Games, two themes dominated newspaper reporting of NBC’s coverage: The types of stories the network spotlighted and the low television ratings. The New York Times (Chira, 1988) and the Los Angeles Times (Harvey, 1988) noted that the host country was upset that NBC provided significant coverage of a boxing judge being attacked by several South Korean coaches, trainers, and others after one of their boxers lost a match, but it did not review the questionable judging associated with the bout. The same Los Angeles Times’ article indicated that the South Koreans also were bothered by NBC’s decision to almost completely ignore the theft of an $860 mask from a Seoul hotel by three American athletes. The New York Times chastised the network for offering “a tough portrait” of North Korea. “When you’re opening the Summer Olympics,” Gerald Eskenazi asked, “why bring the viewer up short with a piece on that country that isn’t participating [in the Olympics]” (Eskenazi, 1988).
Eskenazi wrote the first story concerning the low television ratings associated with the Seoul Olympics and the need for NBC to offer “make-goods” (free commercials) to their advertisers as a result of them. He compared the first week ratings of the 1988 Games to those from the 1984 Games and hinted that one reason for the lower numbers might be that American athletes were not dominating the competition as they had done in Los Angeles “because of the Soviet Union’s absence” (Eskenazi, 1988). Effective counter-programming by the other networks and the time difference between South Korea and the United States were other reasons that helped to explain why NBC’s ratings were 4.5 percentage points below what advertisers had been promised. Later, Eskenazi (Eskenazi, 1988) reminded his readers that NBC was still generating the highest television numbers during the Olympics of any network; it simply was getting fewer viewers than expected.
As mentioned, while the coverage of the business of the IOC has increased over time, there has been no shortage of scholarly discussion about the positive and negative effects of the relationship between television and the Olympic Games. Whannel argued that as U.S. television networks have paid for the Olympics (through escalating rights fees) they have used their financial clout to influence how the Games are run, including determining “the nature of ceremonies, the choice of events and the timing of events” (Whannel, 1992: 71-72). It was in Seoul that the question of when events should be held became an international issue. Three IFs, athletics, swimming, and gymnastics, especially were opposed to any plans to move finals events to the morning (so that they could be seen in prime-time in the United States). However, a leading Seoul Olympic official noted that these (and other) sports had enjoyed continuous growth in popularity around the world, and television had played an important role in that growth. Therefore, it was his opinion that the Games’ schedule had to be designed so as to maximize their economic potential (Larson and Park, 1993). Put more bluntly, the events that people around the world wanted to watch had to be scheduled during those times that they could be seen.


Beginning with the Seoul negotiations, the IOC finally achieved what it had sought for more than a decade: A powerful role in the talks surrounding television contracts. No longer would it stand by and let an OCOG take money out of its pocket. It also had been during the late 1970s and into the 1980s that the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) had taken the same position: No longer was it going to stand by and let the IOC and the OCOGs dip deeply into the rich U.S. financial pie. In the words of Barney and his colleagues, “It would not be until the era of sensational escalation of television rights fees in the 1970s and 1980s that USOC officials were aroused to seek their own independent share of the American revenue pot.” These authors noted that in prior years the USOC had been “mute” when it came to discussions about and involvement in the divvying up of money from television and commercial sponsorships (Barney, 2000: 50). This position led to a clash between the USOC and the IOC that would not be settled until the early 1990s.
The basis for the USOC’s argument that it deserved a greater share of the revenue generated from U.S. television contracts stemmed from the 1978 Amateur Sports Act, under which Congress, in part, gave it exclusive use of all Olympic emblems within the United States. IOC lawyers knew the USOC had a legitimate argument but believed that it also was being selfish because it had refused to share the profits from the Los Angeles Games with any other NOC. Nevertheless, a deal was reached in which the USOC received a $15 million payment for the 1988 Olympic year and 10 percent of the U.S. television deals in the future (ibid).
These pages have shown that neither the Soviet Union nor the United States involved themselves in the discussions about television money unless self-interest was at stake. The research of this author and others suggests that the Soviets paid little attention to and publicly said almost nothing about the increasing television revenues and the dilemmas associated with them, except when those discussions involved the 1980 Moscow Games. Perhaps the Soviets stayed quiet because they believed that their agenda to make the IOC a more political body could not be realized regardless of what route it took with television money. Put another way, the issue of television rights was not part of the Soviets’ political program, which included, among other items, the admission of an East German Olympic team and the expulsions of South Africa and Taiwan. The argument is weakened because of the aforementioned suggestions by Andrianov that the IOC should use some of its new wealth to revamp its office and become a greater force for social peace. In other words, the Soviet delegation actually might have seen television money as a means of furthering their political ends. Perhaps they remained mum because they agreed with Brundage that television’s values were inconsistent with those of the Olympic movement. On the surface, this appears to be an area that the Soviets could have exploited; they could have argued they (and their satellite states) were creating an athletic system in line with Coubertin’s vision for what sports should do for a populace, and the Western powers were seeking to undermine that vision through the commercialization of athletics. However, the mutual distrust between the Soviets and Brundage might have made it impossible for the former to say or do anything that would have enhanced the stature of the latter. Perhaps they remained silent because any talk about commercialism was incompatible with socialism. In other words, there was no way that Soviet Olympic officials could speak about something that was politically unpopular within the USSR.
Several explanations might account for why U.S. officials had little involvement in the developing issue of television rights fees and the Olympic movement. Perhaps the Amateur Sports Act finally gave them what they previously had lacked: The legal basis for a claim to a greater share of U.S. television money. Perhaps they said little because until the late 1970s there was not much of a television pot. The combination of these two factors also cannot be overlooked: The USOC gained its legal footing at almost the exact time that television rights fees exploded; the combined power of both issues opened the door for the call to keep more U.S. money at home. Another potential cause for the silence cannot be dismissed: It was during the 1970s that the dominance of American athletes at the Olympic Games began to wane, and Soviet and East German athletes began to be recognized as the world’s best. Perhaps American officials saw television dollars as a means to devote more money to their domestic Olympic effort, which might lead to the development of more Olympic champions.
Pablo Rodas, who presided over Paraguay’s National Olympic Committee in the 1990s, summed up the uneasy relationship between television networks and the IOC perhaps better than anyone else: “The marketing of television rights for the Games brought considerable financial benefits to Organizing Committees for Olympic Games, but it should not be forgotten that, however profitable, the granting of exclusive rights to a single television company left the Games vulnerable to the whims of the company concerned” (IOC, 1994, 360). Whannel (Whannel, 1992) added that as the influence of television upon the Olympic movement has increased, the ability of the IOC to define the nature of the Games has decreased.


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