BERLIN — European Broadcasting Union topper Fritz Pleitgen blasted Intl. Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge on Wednesday for a decision to rearrange schedules at the 2008 Beijing Olympics so that popular swimming and gymnastics events would be moved from the evening in Europe to the early morning.
Pleitgen, who’s also head of German pubcaster WDR, said he was appalled by the decision to shift the swimming and gymnastics finals. The move is good news for NBC, because it means those events will occur in primetime for the U.S., but a nightmare for the EBU, which reps 74 broadcasters in 54 European countries, as the centerpiece swimming and gymnastics finals would be held in the middle of the European night.
“Nothing has been said officially, but we have to assume that the millions from NBC are the reason for that,” Pleitgen said of the Oct. 26 decision, which also has angered broadcasters in Asia and Australia who face the prospect of televising major events at times when fewer viewers will be tuned in. “If that is the case, it’s good night — in the truest sense of the word. I fear it would damage the whole Olympic ideal.”
The EBU has agreed to pay E614 million ($750 million) for the 2010 Winter and 2012 Summer Games. NBC paid $3.55 billion for the 2000 and 2008 Games and a further $2.2 billion for 2010 and 2012.
And Pleitgen said European broadcasters plan to broadcast about 14,000 hours from the Olympics, compared with 794 in the U.S.
A number of national swimming and gymnastics associations also have assailed the decision, saying it would end a longstanding tradition of holding finals in the evening, local time, no matter where the Olympics were held.