Los Angeles 1984: La-la land Olympics
From Melbourne to Montreal, Munich to Mexico City, the CBC has roamed the planet to beam Olympic history into Canadian living rooms. We take a look back and, through the eyes of CBC correspondents, experience decades of Olympic triumph and heartbreak. At first, it's via crackling shortwave. Later, live TV coverage flows around-the-clock from the other side of the globe.
• After opting not to cover the 1980 Moscow Games, the CBC gave the 1984 Olympics the same kind of blanket treatment lavished on the 1976 Montreal Games. CBC Television aired 193.5 hours of programming. That included four hours of late-morning to early-afternoon coverage as well as live broadcasts at night in prime time. CBC Radio carried four hours of daily coverage, co-hosted by Vicki Gabereau and Mark Lee, interspersed with entertainment news from Hollywood.
• CBC paid $3 million US for Canadian broadcast rights. One third of that went to the International Olympic Committee while the rest was paid to the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee.
• ABC, the host broadcaster, paid $100 million US for American TV rights and pledged another $125 million US to cover production and support costs. The American network used 144 studio cameras, 64 hand-held cameras, five helicopters and two custom-built 20-metre boats.
• The International Olympic Commission complained about ABC's heavy focus on American athletes. The letter from IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch to Peter Ueberroth, president of the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee, said ABC was slighting foreign athletes. Ueberroth relayed the complaint to ABC but later said it was the result of a misunderstanding. Some IOC officials mistakenly thought ABC's U.S.-focused domestic coverage was being beamed around the world, he said.
• ABC's coverage was particularly euphoric because American athletes won so many medals. Helping out was a Soviet-led boycott of the Games by 14 countries, ostensibly because they feared for their athletes' safety in America. The boycotting countries had won 56 per cent of the medals at the 1976 Games. "It seems like every time we turn around, an American was winning something," said ABC Sports president Roone Arledge at the time.
• The Soviet boycott also brought Canada its best showing ever with 44 medals, including 10 gold. The pool in particular shimmered gold, with first places for swimmers Alex Baumann, Victor Davis and Anne Ottenbrite, as well as diver Sylvie Bernier.
• There had been dire predictions that the 1984 Games — which no other nation sought to host — would be remembered for smog, heat, traffic jams and a deficit. None proved true. A dramatic increase in corporate sponsorship over past Olympics helped earn the organizing committee a profit of $223 million US. From then on, competition to get the Games, and the price of broadcasting rights, skyrocketed.
Fees paid (by the CBC, except where noted) for the Canadian broadcast rights for summer Olympiads since 1980:
• 1980 Moscow — $1.2 million Cdn.
• 1984 Los Angeles — $3 million US
• 1988 Seoul — $4.3 million Cdn.
• 1992 Barcelona — $16.5 million US (CTV)
• 1996 Atlanta — $20.7 million US
• 2000 to 2006 — $160 million US for three summer and two winter Games (CBC and TSN)
Program: The Journal
Broadcast Date: Aug. 7, 1984
Guest(s): Jeanette Baker, David Wallechinsky
Reporter: Tom Alderman
Last updated: February 7, 2012
Page consulted on June 11, 2013
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