Despite all the scandals, it looks like the Australian and American host broadcasters of the Olympics are going to recoup their investment and have a great party on their boats.

NBC paid a whopping $1.3 billion for the rights based on the current pissweak Australian dollar but claim to have already booked $1.64 billion in advertising revenue over the two week period.

The games are set to cost them about $230 million to stage. General Electric CEO Jack Welch has flown into Sydney as part of his swansong after a stellar 25-year stint at the top and will be holding court on his NBC chartered cruiser on Sydney harbour for the duration of the games.

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News that GE’s television division NBC is set to profit from the games will no doubt piss off Rupert Murdoch who also has just flown into Sydney.

Rupert offered $200 million more to the IOC than the European broadcasters and NBC a few years back but got shafted by the IOC cronies so expect his papers to keep giving the IOC heaps during the games.

NBC is already running stereotypical feature pieces on Australia emphasising the slang, kangaroos and outback. Had anyone in Australia ever heard the expression “dead eye” as rhyming slang for a meat pie? You have now. Few people would realise that Sydney is one of the liveliest, most cosmopolitan and tolerant cities in the world and that Australia has one of the most urbanised societies in the world with 80 per cent of the citizenry living in coastal cities. But if you watch NBC, you’d still think the kangaroos deliver the mail.

The NBC website,, is offering up an amazingly detailed service. The Wall Street Journal has reported that 27,000 photographs grace more than 20,000 different pages on the site. With Telstra’s shithouse bandwidth don’t expect to be able to download it at a Kings Cross net cafe near you during the games.

It is the most comprehensive sports website in history but already those of us in Sydney are overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of material we’ve got to get across. The easy solution is just to party and not worry about the biggest peace time story in the world.

NBC are using the Olympics to leverage their loss making web business which is a joint venture with Quokka Sports Inc, the vehicle that has allowed that dodgy Aussie hero John Bertrand to make his fortune.

Remember Bertrand, he won the America’s Cup for Bondy, cost Victorian taxpayers a bit in loans not recovered by the failed Pyramid building society (he was a top Amway salesman with Pyramid boss and close mate Bill Farrow), then pulled off one of the great R&D tax rorts with his $45 million One Australia syndicate back in 1996. But all that’s another story for another time, just keep an eye on Quokka.

NBC is reportedly planning on promoting the site nearly 800 times during its 441.5 hours of saturation coverage. So when Michael Johnson’s gold medal run is replayed, the screen will contract, the web address will appear at the top and at the bottom will be a plug for his biography which is on the site.

You won’t be seeing Channel Seven squeezing the screen during big moments. They might be plugging their “celebrities” and programs like there is no tomorrow but Seven’s web sites will be taking a back seat.

And Kerry Stokes reckons they’ll make a cash profit from the whole exercise. About $150 million in advertising is locked in and the games will cost between $130 million and $150 million to produce, including the $50 million paid to the IOC cronies for broadcast rights.

Stokes has tried to match NBC and Packer by chartering a big boat for 500 guests at Darling Harbour, but despite being worth almost $1 billion these days he’s still small fry compared to the big yankee fish in town.

Jack Welch and the boys reckon they can pull 10 million unique users during the two weeks of the games. That is just massive and goes to show how huge the games are in America.

When Crikey visited America a couple of months back they were certainly very excited about the games and most of the global corporate partners are big American companies. It really is ironic how American dollars have subsidised a global rort for the IOC delegates which the egalitarian Australian media is doing its very best to pull apart. Good on them too.

When Crikey arrived in Sydney on Thursday, there was a woman standing at the gates holding a sign saying “Olympic Family” and she was approached by a 25-stone European who had obviously been on the freebie circuit for a couple of decades.

Whilst Seven is supposed to have exclusive access to all the Olympic venues, the Packer family tentacles are hard to withstand. Olympic Village mayor Graham Richardson gave his boss James Packer and wife Jodie Meares a pass into the NBC enclosure on Wednesday, something that should have pissed Kerry Stokes off no end.

Packer mates are also running all over the place as accredited Ticketek staff. You see Richo was chairman of the ill-fated SOCOG ticketing committee and gave the Packer family’s Ticketek firm the exclusive deal and they deftly managed to avoid any of the fallout. The list of accredited Ticketek staff is worth a close look. Lots of Packer mates and not that many ticketing experts is what the boys in the Seven camp are saying.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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