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IOC Says Swimming Finals Decision Irreversible
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The International Olympic Committee rejected the European Broadcasting Union's protest over the schedule for the Beijing 2008 Games swimming and gymnastics finals on Wednesday, saying its decision was irreversible.

The IOC last week decided to hold the swimming finals and much of the gymnastics at the Beijing Games in the morning, to the delight of US broadcasters.

"The decision on the competition schedule for 2008 was taken by the IOC's executive Board after a thorough consultation process with all stakeholders - broadcasters, athletes, international federations - and is final," IOC Director of Communications Giselle Davies said.

The EBU, which represents public service broadcasters in Europe and neighbouring regions said the IOC's decision ended a tradition of staging finals in the host country's evening.

"Viewers in Europe as well as the vast majority of the global TV audience will be disadvantaged," it said in a statement.

Due to the time difference between Europe and China, the change means that Europeans will need to stay up very late to watch the popular swimming finals.

In China, the team and all-round individual events in the gymnastics are set for the morning, although the individual apparatus events will be contested in evening sessions.

All the track and field finals will take place in the evening with the customary exception of the marathon. The proposed morning shift for the swimming finals had caused uproar when the news was leaked earlier this year, with some swimmers accusing the IOC of putting the interests of US broadcaster NBC before the needs of the athletes.

Morning finals in Beijing mean prime-time audiences in the US for NBC, which paid US$3.55 billion for the exclusive North American media rights to the 2000 to 2008 Games. Swimming is a big draw for American audiences and the US team led by Michael Phelps, who won six gold medals in Athens in 2004, enjoy a great rivalry with the Australian team.

The Australians had also opposed the change.

(China Daily November 3, 2006)

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