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Nancy Lee stepped down as executive director of CBC Sports on Tuesday to take a new position with the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. ((CBC))

Nancy Lee, the executive director of CBC Sports, has stepped down to become the chief operating officer of the host broadcast team for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

Lee informed the department of her decision Tuesday morning. She will leave CBC next week and start her new position in November, ending her 20-year career at the corporation.

Lee will head up Olympic Broadcast Services Vancouver, a Swiss company that is owned by the International Olympic Committee.OBS is responsible for delivery of broadcast feeds from the Games.

"It was inevitable that the world's premier sports franchise would eventually come calling for Nancy, whose professionalism, hard work on behalf of amateur athletes and leadership role in promoting women in sport are unmatched," Richard Stursberg, executive vice-president of CBC Television, said in a staff memo.

Lee began her career with CBC in 1987, when she became the first full-time national female sports reporter at CBC Radio. She went on to produce the radio program The Inside Track and was head of Radio Sports from 1994 to 1996.

In 1996, Lee became deputy head of TV Network Sports and in January 2000, she was named executive director of CBC Sports.

She also served as CBC/Radio-Canada's chef de mission for the Olympic Games and other major international sporting events — becoming the first woman in Canada, and internationally, to hold such a key broadcasting position.

In 2002, Lee was the first woman to lead the negotiating team for the acquisition of a top sports property for a major North American broadcast network. At the time, the Hockey Night in Canada deal between CBC and the National Hockey League was the largest sports-rights contract in Canadian history.

The CBC's current NHL deal expires after the 2007-08 season.

Chose to stay

This isn't the first time Lee has been offered a high-profile job outside CBC.In 2001, the Canadian Olympic Committee tried to entice Lee to become its next chief operating officer, but she chose to stay with CBC.

Lee is leaving the network at a pivotal time.Negotiations for new NHL and CFL rights contracts will begin in the coming months.

Since taking the helm, Lee has led the network to record-breaking Olympic and Hockey Night in Canada telecasts, negotiated broadcasting rights to multiple sports properties and increased the profile of women's and amateur sport.

In recent months, CBC has won multi-year broadcast agreements with FIFA, alpine skiing, Spruce Meadows equestrian events and the World Curling Tour.

But her time as executive director hasn't been all roses.

Disappointment over Olympic losses

Seven months after she took over from predecessor Alan Clark, John Shannon, considered the most powerful hockey producer in the country at the time, was let go as executive producer of Hockey Night in Canada after his contract was not renewed.

There was disappointment when the network lost the the 2010 and 2012 Olympics to a consortium from Bell Globemedia and Rogers Media as well as the Canadian Curling Association rights to cable sports station, TSN.

There also washigh-profile dismissal of award-winning commentator Chris Cuthbert and the resignation of Olympic anchor Brian Williams, both of whom joined TSN.

A search for Lee's replacement will begin immediately.In the interim,David Masse, senior director of CBC Sports,willtake over asacting executive director.The 22-year CBC veteranplayed a key role in securing the corporation's eight-year agreement with FIFA.