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Inside the Games

Television strikes gold at the Games

The Games in Rome marked the beginning of the importance of television revenue in the Olympic Games, and above all, within the finances of the IOC, even if its arrival as an important part of the programme was little noticed by the majority of people.

Undoubtedly, the impact the Games would have was due in large part to the volume of television transmission, thanks to Eurovision, of the competitions for a total of 93 hours and 40 minutes.

The television contracts gave the organisation committee a revenue of 1,178,257 dollars.

For the first time, the United States was able to transmit the Games through the TV channel ABC, which paid 394,000 dollars for the privilege. However, despite recent technological improvements, it was still necessary to transport the reels of film by air from Rome to New York.

Appearance limited to Berlin

At the 1936 Games in Berlin, thanks to a closed-circuit transmission system, 160,000 Berliners were able to watch live events, with screens even being placed at different sites around the German capital.

In 1948 the BBC paid 3,000 dollars to the organisers to obtain the retransmission rights.

Within an 80km radius of London, 50,000 people were able to tune in to the programmes - although residents as far away as the Channel Islands were reported to have received the images.

Four years later the organisers of the 1952 Games in Helsinki called upon their American ABC contacts who proposed to retransmit the competitions. But on one condition - they did not have to pay the costs. The organisers refused ABC's proposal.

For its part, the BBC paid an undisclosed sum to the organisers in return for filming the Helsinki Games.

The IOC's slice of the pie

In 1956, IOC president American Avery Brundage, affirmed: "The IOC has managed fine for the past 60 years without television, and believe me, it will manage yet for the next 60 years".

A serious error of judgement, even if Brundage himself announced that Squaw Valley (Winter Games) as well as Rome, had been informed that they would have to pay the rights to the IOC.

However, the IOC did not receive one cent of the $50,000 dollars paid as part of the retransmission rights by CBS. In fact, the organisation committee for the Games in Squaw Valley took a unilateral decision to turn the tables by charging all costs to the State of California in compensation for the agreed costs.

Rome also came up with a proposal to give the IOC 5% of the rights, with a guaranteed minimum of 50,000 dollars. After a few hesitations, the IOC decided to accept their offer.


Copyright 2012 Agence France-Presse.