Volume 95, Issue 67

Thursday, January 31, 2002

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A media frenzy, a security nightmare

Snowboarding: there's more to it than toques and marijuana

The Olympians the media ignores

Jocks: are they bug-eyed druggies?

A media frenzy, a security nightmare

By Kasia Sarnecki
Gazette Staff

On Feb. 8, 2002, the world's best athletes will meet in Salt Lake City to participate in the 2002 Olympic Winter Games. For 16 days, these well-trained athletes will compete for the prestige of an Olympic gold medal and international fame.

The International Olympic Games, as we know them today, began in 1896 to promote friendship and unity among nations. The first Games were only open to men, but by 1900 women had started competing in a few events. Since that time, the Games have rapidly expanded.

Over the past 100 years the Games have grown to mammoth proportions, raising new issues of advertising, security and marketing.

Kevin Wamsley, director of the International Centre for Olympic Studies at Western, said there are high expectations for the 2002 games, which have a budget of $1.45 billion.

However, there may be a new event at this year's Olympics that will be watched more closely than any other security. "Security was pretty lax at the Olympic games until 1972 almost non-existent," he said. "After the Munich massacre [in which Israeli athletes were taken hostage and killed], everything changed," he said.

The security budget in 2002 is three times the budget for the Atlanta Summer Games in 1996, he said. "Salt Lake City is spending $350 million on security," Wamsley explained.

"They will probably pay special attention to the last part of the torch relay, the opening ceremonies and the closing ceremonies," he added, noting these events will attract the largest crowds.

Sally Rehorick, chef de mission of the Canadian Olympic Association, said post-Sept. 11 security issues in Salt Lake City have not led to increased apprehension among the members of the Canadian team. "Security is always an issue and planning it is just part of the process."

Another change in the structure and spirit of the Olympic Games is the increase in media sponsorship. "Canadian coverage of the Games began with the CBC in 1972 in Sapporo, Japan, with approximately 15 hours of tape. This year, we will cover 250 hours," said Christian Hassey, a sports publicist for CBC.

According to Hassey, CBC has signed 13 major sponsors to support their coverage, allowing the companies to promote products to an enormous viewing population.

This year CBC will be partnering with TSN to cover the Games.

"TSN [owns the] rights to cover the Olympics live until 2008," said Keith Marnoch, communications manager for TSN, adding the network will be airing events in their entirety.

"Hockey will be the number one watched event, especially with so many professional players this year," he added.

"Essentially, the Olympics deliver a captive audience to a group of local corporations the Games embody global capitalist relations," Wamsley said.

Every athlete still vies for the illustrious gold medal, according to Wamsley. "[Athletes] use their medals as a stepping stone to where the big money is professional careers and endorsements."

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Copyright The Gazette 2001