Volume 91, Issue 74

Tuesday, February 10, 1998

grilled cheese


Going for golden ads

By Mark Brown
Gazette Staff

Like many sporting events, the Olympic Games sometimes keeps the attention of viewers simply with its unique commercials. What many sports fans don't realize, though, is how the athletes and viewers are affected by the intense amount of commercialism surrounding the games.

This is one of the subjects studied by Bob Barney, head of the Olympic Studies Centre located at Western. The centre is the only one in Canada and one of three in the world, with the others located in Barcelona and Australia. Barney, a former kinesiology professor at Western, studies the history and the commercialization of the Olympic Games.

Commercialism in the past, particularly during the 1988 and 1992 Olympics, affected the athletes as far as the scheduling of events, Barney said. During these past Olympics, television networks encouraged the International Olympic Committee to schedule athletes' events at odd hours of the day so they could air the programs live in prime-time in North America. "This meant odd times for the athletes but it was great for TV," he said.

In each of these games there was a time zone difference between North America and where the games were taking place, making it difficult to show important events during prime-time periods in North America, he explained.

During the Nagano Olympics, the IOC is not scheduling events according to the demands of the North American television networks, Barney said. These networks no longer have as much sway over the scheduling of events partly because of competition from other networks around the world which have grown considerably, explained Barney.

"The networks are inconvenienced but there are still opportunities [for advertisers] to capitalize on," said Stephen Wenn, a kinesiology professor at Wilfrid Laurier University who instructs a course of the history of the modern Olympic games.

Wenn added that the Columbia Broadcasting System has opted for a large amount of delayed programming during these games since their primary interest is to show events prime-time to accommodate their advertisers.

In contrast, north of the border, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has devoted a significant amount of its time to live coverage of events.

"Our viewers want the immediacy," said Laurie Jones, senior director of corporate communications and public affairs for CBC. Jones said the move by other networks for pre-taped material has been done to please advertisers.

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Copyright The Gazette 1998