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Ron Judd's Olympics Insider

Ron Judd, an Olympics junkie and Seattle Times columnist who has covered Olympic sports since 1997, will use this space to serve up news and opinion on the Summer and Winter Games -- also inviting you to chime in on Planet Earth's biggest get-together.

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August 15, 2008 4:38 PM

NBC: No way Phelps Saturday race will be live

Posted by Ron Judd

We neglected to post this yesterday, in all the excitement over beach volleyball star Kerri Walsh's birthday celebration on NBC:

A network spokesman, responding to hopeful rumors that the network would get a clue and at least broadcast one Michael Phelps race -- his likely historic, eighth-medal attempt Saturday evening -- live in the west-coast Disadvantaged Time Zone, has cleared that up:

No chance.

NBC, he reiterated, will continue to broadcast events "when the majority of people are available to watch."

Apparently, that would be about 1 a.m., which is when NBC's coverage of recent marquee events, such as gymnastics, have wrapped up on the East Coast of late. (The network could actually show the same events, live, on the West Coast, and actually have them seen in prime time, but refuses to do so.)

Doesn't matter that it's a major historical event. Doesn't matter that it happens on a Saturday, when a live television office across the country would likely be massive. Just doesn't matter.

It's amazing, and at some point, it starts to feel personal. Did Dick Ebersole perhaps have a bad experience as a child at the Space Needle? You've gotta wonder.

Meanwhile, word arrives that NBC's initial boffo ratings for Beijing have been flagging. For both Wednesday and Thursday nights, they trailed ratings for the comparable time periods in Athens, in spite of marquee events like Phelps' medal quest and women's gymnastics. Given those events, Thursday night should have been a highlight of NBC's entire Games coverage.

Maybe it took a couple days for people to tire of watching events they long ago heard results from dragging on to 1 a.m.

There's more bad news, and you might as well get used to it now: NBC's Olympic contract runs through 2012. Anyone willing to bet that the network won't be showing viewers in Seattle most Winter Games daytime events from Vancouver on a half-day delay, even though they'll be taking place live, right up the road? And you thought this was irritating...

Note also that if you're glibly watching on CBC this time around, you'd better check your channel grid before the Vancouver Games. CBC lost the Games contract to CTV, which will broadcast Vancouver 2010. Neither channel is carried on DirecTV, but most local cable operations offer both.

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Blogroll and links

www.olympic.org: The official International Olympic Committtee site, with news releases, a searchable Olympic medals database and other archival information.
www.nbcolympics.com: Olympic news site from one of the Games' primary sponsors.
NBC Olympics columnist Alan Abrahamson's column/blog
Chicago Tribune Olympic sports writer Philip Hersh's blog
www.usolympicteam.com: U.S. Olympic Committee's athlete web site.
www.aroundtherings.com: Ed and Sheila Hula's Olympic News Service (subscription).
www.wcsn.com: News service with audio, video and text coverage of Olympic sports, during and between Olympics. Free, but charges for live video feed subscriptions.
www.beijing2008.com: Beijing Organizing Committee Web site.
www.vancouver2010.com: Vancouver Organizing Committee's 2010 Winter Games site.
www.london2012.com: London 2012 Summer Games site.
www.sochi2014.com: Sochi, Russia's 2014 Winter Games site.
www.chicago2016.org: Candidate city Chicago's summer 2016 bid committee site.
Olympic swimmer Tara Kirk's highly entertaining WCSN blog
Bellevue Olympian Scott Macartney's WCSN alpine ski-racing blog
Other WCSN Olympic athlete blogs.