Fri, Jun 23, 2006 - Page 21 News List

Proposal for swim finals in Beijing sparks debate

AP , LOS ANGELES

A proposal to move the swimming finals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics from the evening to morning hours so the races can be shown live in US prime-time is causing heated debate.

The IOC executive board discussed the request by NBC on Wednesday during its meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland. However, a final decision was put off until later this year.

Australian swimmers, coaches and broadcasters oppose the proposal, while the Americans seem resigned to such a switch.

"That's a very radical change," Mark Schubert, national team coach and general manager for USA Swimming told reporters this week. "We're very anxiously awaiting the final schedule."

The move would showcase swimming for eight nights in US prime-time, but it would air at less desirable times in Europe, Asia and Australia.

Mike McCarley of NBC Sports didn't return repeated messages for comment.

Swimming Australia and Channel Seven, which holds Australian TV rights to the games, have written letters opposing NBC's request for morning finals.

"This is about the integrity of the sport and allowing athletes to perform to their maximum," Swimming Australia executive director Glenn Tasker told the Australian newspaper.

"To force this on them would be grossly unfair and would produce a second-rate meet," he said.

Australian Olympic Committee president John Coates met with International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge in Lausanne on Tuesday to voice his opposition.

Coates said Rogge told him there would be no decision this week.

"He said the IOC would first consult with all the broadcasters and the international federation," Coates said.

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