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Objectivity scuttled by Olympic bids

It might be the most ruthless of all Olympic competitions: the race for the right to host the Games. At stake are hundreds of millions of dollars in potential profit, and an indelible mark on the global map. To opponents it's a colossal waste of tax dollars, a carnival of hype, spin and speculation. CBC Archives looks back at Canada's winning and losing Olympic bids.

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There's nothing like an Olympic bid to turn journalists into shameless boosters. That's the opinion of former Toronto mayor John Sewell, who lashes out at Canada's newspapers and broadcasters including the CBC. Sewell believes media outlets operate as if they have a personal stake in the bid -- and they often do. On the day before a host for the 1996 Summer Games is chosen, CBC Radio's Prime Time looks at media bias and the five-ring circus. 
• Media coverage of the 2010 Vancouver Olympic bid was also sharply criticized. Chris Shaw of the anti-Olympic group No Games 2010 said broadcasters -- including the CBC -- have a conflict of interest, and avoid criticism of an event that could make them a lot of money.
• As of June 2004 the official broadcaster of the 2010 Games had not been selected.

• Public activism on environmental issues has significantly changed the bid process since the 1994 Winter Games in Lillehammer, Norway. Initially, local activists hotly protested that bid, but the Lillehammer bid committee worked with them to turn the Games into the most environmentally-friendly in history. Energy efficiency and use of natural materials were emphasized, private transportation was severely restricted, and there was recycling for everything from photographers' film to biathlon bullets.

• John Sewell was mayor of Toronto from 1978 to 1980. He went on to lecture for York University and write for the Globe and Mail, Now Magazine, Eye Weekly and Post City.
Medium: Radio
Program: Prime Time
Broadcast Date: Sept. 17, 1990
Guest(s): John Sewell
Host: Geoff Pevere
Duration: 9:30

Last updated: May 25, 2012

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

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