London 2012 was ‘biggest ever US TV event’

NBC’s coverage of London 2012 was the “most-watched television event in US history”, the TV network has announced.

Citing Nielsen ratings figures, NBC said more than 219 million viewers watched the Games on its networks, compared to the 215 million who tuned in for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

The network broadcast some 5,535 hours of Olympic coverage on TV and online.

But it drew criticism for delaying the broadcast of popular events until primetime hours.

Viewers also complained of problems with online streaming and edited versions of the opening and closing ceremonies.

Sunday’s closing ceremony – which was cut down by almost an hour and omitted such acts as Muse and Ray Davies – drew an audience of 31 million people.

Yet NBC enraged some viewers by leaving the ceremony at 23:00 local time to air a new sitcom, Animal Practice, and then half an hour of local news.

At midnight, the network returned to the ceremony to screen the eight-minute finale by The Who.

NBC was previously criticised for cutting a tribute to victims of the 7 July London bombings out of its opening ceremony coverage.

NBC paid $1.18bn (£751.3m) for the exclusive US broadcast rights to the Games.

Meanwhile, the BBC said its coverage of the Olympics was watched by 90% of the UK’s population and that 51.9 million people had watched at least 15 minutes of coverage.

BBC One controller Danny Cohen said the Games had been seen by the “largest TV audiences since the pre-digital age”.


BOA fights to keep lifetime bans for drugs cheats

Dwain Chambers Chambers received a two-year ban for a drug offence in 2004

The British Olympic Association (BOA) will take its fight to keep a lifetime ban for drugs cheats to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (Cas).

The BOA is challenging the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) policy that the ban is “non-compliant” with its code.

“We take a different view – we believe it is about our selection policy,” said BOA chairman Lord Moynihan.

Sprinter Dwain Chambers, who has served a ban, could compete at the 2012 London Olympics if the BOA loses.

Both the BOA and Wada are looking for Cas to make a decision before the end of April 2012.

Moynihan told BBC Radio 5 live: “Selection policies differ from nation to nation. One of ours is that we will not select athletes who have knowingly taken drugs to cheat clean athletes for selection to Team GB and that has been in place for 19 years.”

The BOA imposes a lifetime Olympic ban on any British athlete banned for more than six months for a doping offence – the only national Olympic committee to do so.

However, the policy contradicts Wada’s global anti-doping code.

Lord Moynihan believes the majority of athletes support the BOA position.

He said: “We have asked the athletes, who are the most important people, and 90 to 95% after any Games – winter and summer – have supported that selection policy.

“We will continue to fight for our right to select clean athletes.”

Two QCs, Lord David Pannick and Adam Lewis, will represent the BOA joined by a third lawyer, Tom Cassels of Baker & McKenzie. The lawyers are so supportive of the lifetime ban that they have agreed to represent the BOA for a fraction of their usual fees.

In October, Cas ruled that the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) own doping rule – which barred offenders who had received bans of longer than six months from competing in the next Olympic Games – was unenforceable.

To me it was completely wrong of Wada to mix up sanctions with our selection policy which has been in place longer than Wada has been in existence

Lord Moynihan BOA chairman

That allowed Olympic 400m champion LaShawn Merritt to overturn a ban that prevented him from competing at the 2012 Games, enabling him to defend his title in London.

Moynihan added: “Wada’s current position on this is that if you have a really serious drug offence – you’ve been taking drugs for years – and you get caught you will only get a two year ban.

“If you get the timing right immediately after a Games you will never miss an Olympic Games in the future.

“That to all of us in sport seems just an unsustainable position.”

Moynihan is unhappy that the BOA has been forced to take the case to Cas.

He said: “The reality is it’s Wada that have come after us and said ‘we deem you to be non-compliant’ so we are the reactors in this case.

“It’s regretable we have got to take this step. To me it was completely wrong of Wada to mix up sanctions with our selection policy which has been in place longer than Wada has been in existence but that’s their choice and we are defending our position.”

2012 Michael Phelps last Olympics

American swimming legend Michael Phelps says the London Olympics in 2012 will be his final Games and that he will quit the sport when he turns 30.

The most prolific Olympic gold medallist of all time, with 14 to his name, will be 27 in 2012.

“I told myself I will not swim over the age of 30 and I will not,” he said.

Phelps has not specified how many races he will enter in London but hopes his refusal to wear the now banned high-tech suits will give him an edge.

He said: “Swimming is going to be swimming again, it’s not going to be who is wearing what suit.”

Phelps was a bitter opponent of the use of high-tech swimsuits at the World Championships in Rome in 2009, where he lost his world 200m freestyle record to Germany’s Paul Biedermann.

The sport’s world governing body Fina has since banned the suits and Phelps says it will be “interesting” to see how competitions will go.

He added: “You’re really going to be able to see who wants to work and who wants to make sure who stays on top.”

Phelps, who is in the middle of a flying visit to the Winter Olympics, won six gold medals at Athens in 2004 and a further eight in Beijing in 2008.

He ruled out entering eight races in London but plans to use this year’s Pan Pacific Championships in California and the 2011 World Championships in Shanghai to experiment with different combinations of events ahead of the Games.

“I don’t even know,” he said when asked how many races he would enter in London. “But I will say it’s not eight, I’ll give you that one.”