Olympic Network Plans Put on Hold

USOC backs down after objections from international officials.

The U.S. Olympic Committee postponed plans for its own television network after objections from international Olympic officials.


USOC chairman Larry Probst said Sunday he has decided to delay development of the TV project until all issues have been resolved with the International Olympic Committee.


The announcement came a day after Probst met in Berlin with IOC president Jacques Rogge to discuss the dispute over the U.S. Olympic Network.


”I think we’re moving in a positive direction,” Probst told reporters. ”We want to try to get to the point where we’ve addressed all their issues and concerns as quickly as possible.”


The IOC criticized the USOC last month for ”unilaterally” announcing the launch of the TV network on July 8, saying it raised complex legal questions and could jeopardize relations with Olympic broadcaster NBC.


Probst was surprised by the backlash.


”There is no question that we underestimated the intensity of the reaction that we got from multiple constituents,” Probst said. ”I won’t talk about what was going on behind the scenes, who said what or who did what, but obviously there was a more intense reaction than we anticipated.


”We anticipated a reaction that would’ve been neutral to positive and that didn’t happen. It was a miscalculation on our part. The execution on this could’ve been better.”


The IOC welcomed the decision.


”It was a good, positive and productive meeting,” IOC spokesman Mark Adams said. ”We look forward to having more detailed information on their proposal.”

Probst said he and Rogge agreed to meet soon.


The decision is a major boost for Chicago’s bid for the 2016 Olympics. Had the USOC pushed ahead with the TV plans, it could have hurt Chicago’s chances in the IOC vote on Oct. 2 vote in Copenhagen. The other bid cities are Rio de Janeiro, Madrid and Tokyo.


”The USOC wants to do everything it can to help support the Chicago bid,” Probst said. ”We want to see Chicago win the bid. Anything we can do to help to support them, we’re going to do that.”


Patrick Ryan, the chairman and CEO of Chicago 2016, said he appreciated the USOC’s decision.


”We applaud Larry Probst and the USOC for making a strong statement of partnership by stating that the USOC would secure the full support and cooperation of the IOC before moving forward with the Olympic Network,” Ryan said in a statement. ”It is important not only for the USOC and IOC relationship, but also for the USOC’s role within the Olympic movement.”


The IOC and USOC have had tense relations in recent years, particularly over the contentious issue of the USOC’s share of Olympic revenues.

The IOC accused the USOC of acting hastily by announcing plans for the network, which was scheduled to go on air next year after the Vancouver Winter Olympics with Comcast as broadcast partner.


NBC holds the U.S. broadcast rights through the 2012 London Olympics. The network acquired the rights to the Vancouver and London Games in 2003 in a deal worth $2.2 billion. NBC has said it plans to be among the U.S. networks bidding for rights to the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi and 2016 Summer Olympics.


The USOC has said the network was a way to keep Olympic sports in front of viewers beyond the games. The project was intended benefit smaller sports that struggle to find air time outside of the Olympics.


Probst still feels it’s a viable concept.


”I think it can be good for athletes. I think it can be good for the federations. I think it could be good for sponsors. I think it can be good for the Olympic movement overall,” Probst said. ”But I think it’s got to be properly orchestrated and properly timed. Part of that orchestration is making sure that the IOC and other constituencies are fully bought in and supportive.”