Thomas Bach

How the IOC-NBCUniversal Olympics deal came about

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Thomas Bach first floated the idea of the International Olympic Committee and NBCUniversal extending their partnership in November, two months after he was elected IOC president.

NBCU was awarded U.S. broadcast rights for six more Olympics through 2032 on Wednesday. Its previous deal, from 2011, had NBCU as the rights holder through 2020.

In 2011, the rights were awarded to NBCU after a bidding process with other networks. This time, the negotiations with NBCU since November were not discussed until Wednesday.

“Sorry that we proceeded in keeping it secret, but it’s also an expression of the excellent partnership that we’ve enjoyed [with NBCU] and that we can rely on each other,” Bach said.

Bach said he and two other IOC officials had dinner with NBCU partners in New York in November, where Bach said he “was floating the idea for the first time.” The other IOC officials were director general Christophe de Kepper and marketing director Timo Lumme.

The idea wasn’t shared with anybody else from the IOC from then on, Bach said. They met again in Sochi with Comcast Corporation Chairman and CEO Brian Roberts. Bach said Comcast looked favorably on the idea at the time, and they negotiated more in the same small circle. The deal was signed by both sides in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Wednesday.

“This is a happy day for the whole Olympic movement,” Bach said. “The Olympic values are in good hands with a partner whom we trust, whom we have full confidence in. We can say this because of the longtime experience that we have with NBC, who have a more than excellent track record when it comes to braodcasting the Games. We are sure that this track record will even be improved in the future.”

Roberts said the Olympics’ importance to Comcast and NBCU was solidified by the last two Games, citing London 2012 as the most watched sporting event in U.S. history with 217 million viewers. He also said Sochi was the most consumed Winter Games in history.

U.S. Olympic Committee Chairman Larry Probst, who is also an IOC member, said the deal will not influence whether the USOC bids for the 2024 Olympics. The U.S. hasn’t hosted an Olympics since the 2002 Winter Games and is currently narrowing a field of potential 2024 candidates with an eye on deciding if it will bid by the end of the year. The 2024 Olympics will be awarded in 2017.

Bach said the $7.75 billion deal was not only about money. More importantly, it was about preserving Olympic ideals.

“We are thinking long term in the IOC,” he said. “We are here for 120 years [so far], and we want to be there much longer. We want to leave a good legacy.”

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Cyclist in induced coma after Tour of Poland crash

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Dutch cyclist Fabio Jakobsen was put into an induced coma Wednesday after suffering injuries in a crash on the final stretch of the Tour of Poland, organizers said.

A massive crash at the finish of the first stage resulted in Dylan Groenewegen‘s disqualification from the race.

Leading a bunch sprint, Groenewegen veered toward the right barrier, pinching countryman Jakobsen, who barreled into the barrier meters from the finish line.

Jakobsen went head over heels, his bike went airborne and the barriers exploded onto the road, causing more cyclists to crash.

Jakobsen was airlifted to a hospital in serious condition and was put into an induced coma, the Tour de Pologne press office said.

Groenewegen crossed the finish line first but was disqualified, giving Jakobsen the stage win, according to the stage race website.

Groenewegen, a 27-year-old Jumbo-Visma rider, owns four Tour de France stage wins among the last three years.

The International Cycling Union (UCI) “strongly condemned” Groenewegen’s “dangerous” and “unacceptable” behavior. It referred Groenewegen’s actions to a disciplinary commission for possible sanctions.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Figure skating Grand Prix Series will be held as ‘domestic’ competitions

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Figure skating’s Grand Prix Series will go ahead as scheduled this fall, with modifications due to the coronavirus pandemic, the International Skating Union decided Monday.

Each of the series’ six tops around the globe will be “a domestic run event,” limited to skaters of the event’s host country, who regularly train in the host country and from a respective geographical area. The number of disciplines and skaters at each event are to be worked out.

The Grand Prix Series, held annually since 1995, is a six-event fall season, qualifying the top six skaters and teams per discipline to December’s Grand Prix Final. The annual stops are in the U.S., Canada, China, France, Russia and Japan, leading up to the Final, which is held at a different site each year.

The Final is the second-biggest annual competition after the world championships, which are typically in late March. The Final is still scheduled for Beijing, though whether or when it can be held will be discussed.

The series begins in late October with Skate America, which debuted in 1979 and has been held every year since 1988 as the biggest annual international competition in the U.S. Skate America’s site is Las Vegas, just as it was in 2019.

Skaters typically compete twice on the Grand Prix Series (three times if they qualify for the Final). ISU vice president Alexander Lakernik said skaters will be limited to one start in the six-event series before the Final, according to a Russian media quote confirmed by Phil Hersh.

The ISU has not confirmed or denied Lakernik’s assertion.

Most, if not all, top-level U.S. skaters train in the U.S. or Canada. That makes the first two Grand Prix stops — Skate America and Skate Canada — likely destinations. Grand Prix assignments have not been published.

“I appreciate the ISU is open to adapting competitive formats and is working to give athletes opportunities to compete,” Evan Bates, a U.S. ice dance champion with Madison Chock who trains in Montreal, wrote in a text message to Hersh. “This announcement gives reassurance that the ISU is doing their best to ensure a season will still take place. Of course, it’s hard to predict what will happen, and we’re not sure about what country we would compete in. It would probably depend on what the quarantine rules are at that time.”

The January 2021 U.S. Championships are scheduled for San Jose, Calif. The March 2021 World Championships are set for Stockholm.

In July, the ISU canceled the Junior Grand Prix Series for skaters mostly ages 13 to 18, including two-time U.S. champion Alysa Liu, who cannot enter the senior Grand Prix until 2021.

Other early season senior international competitions scheduled for September were also canceled or postponed.

U.S. Figure Skating said in a statement that it will have more details on the Grand Prix Series in the coming weeks after collaborating with an ISU-appointed group.

“This is a great example of the figure skating community coming together to ensure that the world’s premier figure skating series will continue during these challenging times,” the statement read. “Figure skaters want to compete and figure skating fans from all around the world want to see their favorite athletes skate, and this format will ensure just that.”

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