KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS: The controversial, long-awaited, long-promised Olympic Channel will finally burst into screen life on Sunday, August 21, one day after the Closing Ceremony of the Rio Games.

The platform will be available worldwide via a mobile app for Android and iOS devices and at

Bringing the channel to life was one of the priorities for Thomas Bach since he became president of the International Olympic Committee in 2013. It was a central plank of his high-profile ‘Agenda 2020’ discussion and revision project.

An IOC statement described the channel’s goal as “providing a new way to engage young people, fans and new audiences in the Olympic movement.”

A foundation of historical material and specially-generated feature programme will be complemented by coverage of some live sports events. Medium-profile sports are the ones likely to benefit the most from live exposure given the jealous complexity of the global TV sports rights market.

On June 6 the IOC announced that 27 international federations had agreed to collaborate on content but notable the world athletics and football federations (IAAF and FIFA) were absent from the list.

Rights ownership was always expected to be a problem where major sports such as football are concerned while the failure to seal a deal so far with the International Association of Athletics Association is notable given track and field’s central role in the Olympics.

Vizer attack

A scathing critique of the Olympic Channel was delivered by judo federation president Marius Vizer is his now-infamous address at SportAccord last year.

Vizer said: “The IOC members voted, unilaterally, without a clear business plan, a commercialization plan and project, to reduce the dividends to international federations in order to establish the Olympic channel.

“Leaving from the premise that the Olympic movement has the assets, any business project in the world needs a business plan, investors, professional partners, breakeven points, strategy, consultation with stakeholders – international federations and to generate a benefit for all stakeholders.

“Only after the decision it appears that a plan is in process.

“At the same time, the cost of more than $450m to establish a digital channel seems exaggerated. Do consult us as stakeholders of the Olympic movement regarding all the proposals, contracts and partnerships that are being signed and make them transparent.”

No such concerns clouded the IOC’s launch announcement, of course.

It explained: “The Olympic Channel is a free platform that will present original programming, live sports events, news and highlights offering additional exposure for sports and athletes all year round.

Original programming

“Olympic Channel original programming will include both short-form and long-form content, focusing on elite athletes, their quest for success and sport around the world.”

Bach, in a fulsome welcome, said he considered the launch to be “the start of an exciting new journey to connect the worldwide audience with the Olympic Movement all year round . . . The Olympic Channel will inspire us all and reach out to new generations of athletes and fans.”

Content will initially be offered in English but with video on demand subtitled in nine languages.

The IOC added: “Fans can experience the power of sport and Olympism 24 hours per day, 365 days a year. Audiences will also be able to access content and engage through a variety of social media platforms as part of the Olympic Channel network.”

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