CBC Digital Archives

Sydney 2000: The overnight 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.

media clip
Good Morning America is in Windsor talking to Canadians doing something Americans can't - watch live coverage of the Sydney Games. ABC is using the Canadian crowd to trash arch-rival NBC, which is showing almost no live coverage of Australia's Olympics, we see in this CBC Television clip. CBC viewers getting marathon live coverage are better off than their "poor unprivileged counterparts down south," watching only taped highlights, says Good Morning America reporter Don Dahler. 
• CBC Television coverage of the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia, went almost around the clock. Most of the almost 300 hours were live but the prime-time segment used tape to review major stories of the day. TSN, a CBC Olympics production partner, aired 207 hours, concentrating on whole matches rather than going from event to event. CBC Newsworld also carried extensive coverage. Sydney time was 15 hours ahead of central Canada.

• CBC Television prime-time ratings for the Sydney Games were 12 per cent lower than those for the Atlanta Games in 1996. Potential reasons cited included the time difference and the poorer-than-expected showings of some Canadian athletes. Prime-time Olympic coverage was also interrupted to cover the Sept. 28, 2000, death of former prime minister Pierre Trudeau. NBC ratings were down as much as 35 per cent from Atlanta.

• Amid reports of Trudeau's ill health, Peter Mansbridge, host of The National, stayed in Canada and cancelled plans to co-host the Sydney Games opening ceremonies on Sept. 15, 2000.

• NBC aired 162.5 hours of taped Olympic coverage. It relied on tape so that it could charge advertisers top dollar by restricting the Olympics to prime time. Roughly 60 per cent of NBC's coverage of the previous Games had been on tape. The Associated Press, America's biggest wire service, reported during the Games that many American "Olympics junkies" in northern border cities were tuning into CBC coverage to catch events live.

• CBC Television took a broadcast crew of 183 to Sydney, including 37 commentators and analysts. The main hosts were Brian Williams, Terry Leibel and Ron MacLean. CBC Radio had a smaller crew, with nine commentators and analysts. They brought listeners five-minute summaries every hour of the day. The crew also produced feature stories and interviews on The Inside Track show, as well as updates on other local and regional programs.

• Alan Clark, then head of CBC Sports, was scouting studio locations on a boat tour of Sydney Harbour when he spied the perfect spot. It had a beautiful lawn and a spectacular view of the famous harbour. He told the National Post in September 2000 that his Australian counterparts ruined his plans by informing him: "Sorry, mate. That's the prime minister's house." The studio was eventually built on top of a Jesuit college.

• The Games were hailed as an organizational triumph. On the athletic front, Canadians won 14 medals, including three gold, down from 22 medals in Atlanta. A highlight was the gold medal in freestyle wrestling won by Daniel Igali. He had been a wrestling champion in his native Nigeria. Igali decided that, to become the best in the world, he would have to leave his strife-stricken homeland. Igali came to Canada as a refugee and achieved his dream.

• For the first time, CBC offered Olympics results through cellular telephones. The instant updates were available to Bell Mobility customers with web-enabled digital PCS phones.
Medium: Television
Program: CBC News
Broadcast Date: Sept. 19, 2000
Guest: Don Dahler
Reporter: Anna Asimakopulos
Duration: 0:39

Last updated: February 7, 2014

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

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