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  • Olympic Newsdesk -- NBC Changing Hands; WADA Turns 10


    U.S. Olympic Rights to Settle Before Comcast Deal

    While cable giant Comcast is poised to take over control of NBC Universal, the deal is not expected to become final before negotiations open in 2010 for the U.S. broadcast rights to the 2014 and 2016 Olympics.

    Comcast and General Electric, parent of NBC Universal, have signed an agreement to form a joint venture that will be 51 percent owned by Comcast, 49 percent owned by GE and managed by Comcast.

    NBC, which has broadcast the Summer Olympic Games in the United States since 1988 and the Winter Olympics since 2002, is expected to bid for the 2012/2014 Games when negotiations open after Vancouver.

    But it could take up to a year for regulators and shareholders to approve the deal, meaning that NBC will still be backed by GE when it comes time to make a formal bid to the IOC for the rights, which are could exceed $1 billion

    Whether the pending deal with Comcast affects how much NBC will bid remains to be seen. So far Comcast has not made any public comment on its interest in the retaining the Olympics at NBC.

    ESPN/ABC is expected to provide the stiffest competition for NBC, but all four major U.S. networks are believed to be interested in making bids for the Olympic rights.

    Some critics believe the Comcast/NBC conglomerate will have too much power in the entertainment world because of its ability to join distribution with content.

    Jeff Zucker, current president and CEO of NBCU, will be CEO of the new joint venture and will report to Comcast COO Steve Burke.

    Comcast serves a quarter of all U.S. households that pay for TV. The cable company had agreed to partner with the U.S. Olympic Committee on a U.S. Olympic Network, but the future of that entity is unknown. The new venture will include Universal Sports and Versus, which already carry Olympic content, and the USOC still needs to iron out some issues with the International Olympic Committee over the proposed network.

    Comcast said it would maintain free, over-the-air TV on NBC stations and will improve public interest programming. It also promised that NBC Universal shows that customers must pay for over its cable video-on-demand service will be free for three years after the deal closes.

    According to a statement, "GE will contribute to the joint venture NBCU's businesses valued at $30 billion, including its cable networks, filmed entertainment, televised entertainment, theme parks, and unconsolidated investments, subject to $9.1 billion in debt to third party lenders. Comcast will contribute its cable networks including E!, Versus and the Golf Channel, its ten regional sports networks, and certain digital media properties, collectively valued at $7.25 billion, and make a payment to GE of approximately $6.5 billion of cash subject to certain adjustments based on various events between signing and closing."

    WADA Approves New Weapon on 10th Anniversary

    The World Anti-Doping Agency celebrated ten years of operation by approving new guidelines to monitor athlete biological variables over time..

    The WADA Executive Committee met in Stockholm Tuesday and Wednesday, establishing rules that would provide a legal basis to convict an athlete of doping by comparing the level of biological variables over time. The new rules are known as the Athlete Biological Passport and go into effect immediately.

    The Athlete Biological Passport is based on monitoring biological variables that indirectly reveal the effects of doping,

    “The Athlete Biological Passport adds a powerful new tool to support the fight against doping,” said WADA’s
    Director General David Howman.

    “Coupled with existing and future strategies, we are confident that this model will make any prohibited preparation far harder to implement by those athletes who may still take the risk to cheat. We know that the effects of drugs remain detectable longer in the body than the substances themselves. The Athlete Biological Passport will allow the anti-doping community to exploit this reality through an increasingly biological and global approach, similar to that used in forensic science.”

    Last month the Court of Arbitration for Sport set a precedent for the passport when it upheld a two-year ban of German speed skater Claudia Pechstein, a five-time Olympic gold medalist. She is the first athlete to face punishment via indirect evidence of doping. The International Skating Union suspended Pechstein after finding abnormal blood levels despite her never failing a drug-test. The ban runs through 2011.

    Rogge Says Progress not on Cheats’ Side

    IOC President Jacques Rogge paid a visit to the WADA executive meeting, and thanked the agency for its work in giving the IOC the upper hand in the fight against doping.

    “Athletes who cheat and those who assist them are much more likely to get caught,” he said. “The momentum is clearly on our side and cheaters can no longer assume that their secret is safe.

    “WADA has helped change attitudes toward doping, [which] is now widely recognized for what it is: a corrosive evil that threatens the integrity of sport.”

    Rogge said genetic doping would be the “next battleground” for doping.

    WADA Approves Budget increase

    The WADA Foundation Board approved a budget of $25.9 million 2010 budget, representing a 4 percent increases from the 2009 budget. The agency receives its funding from governments and the sports organizations and the IOC.

    Rwandan Elections Set, Avoids Olympic Ban

    The IOC gave the go-ahead for elections of a new executive board of the Rwandan National Olympic Committee. Originally scheduled for Nov. 30, the elections will now take place Dec. 5, at the request of the IOC and Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa.

    Intervention from the IOC was deemed necessary when the government dissolved the previous EB of the RNOC, led by Ignace Beraho. At the time, no information was given explaining the government’s decision. An IOC/ANOCA delegation led by the IOC’s Jerome Poivey met with officials to come to a solution on the matter.

    According to local media, after an “exhaustive meeting”, the IOC and ANOCA “accepted the General Assembly's reasons of disbanding [the previous executive board].”

    Interim RNOC president Aimable Bayingana said he received assurances “there is nothing to worry about” with regards to Rwanda’s Olympic-future.

    Sports Minister Robert Bayigamba and Rwanda Tennis Federation chief Charles Rudakubana are the only announced candidates for RNOC president. Beraho declined to run for reelection prior to being ousted from the presidency.

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    Written by Karen Rosen, Sam Steinberg and Ed Hula III.

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