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Broadcasters to discuss 2008 schedule in Beijing

Written by: Staff

BEIJING, Aug 9 (Reuters) Heated discussions can be expected when the controversial competition schedule for the 2008 Olympics is hammered out at a meeting of broadcasters in Beijing this week.

A draft schedule leaked to the Australian media last weekend had the finals of the swimming, gymnastics and men's basketball pencilled in for the morning sessions, prime-time for American television audiences.

NBC paid 3.55 billion dollars for the rights to three Olympic Games, including Beijing, and many are convinced the early starts are the result of the American broadcaster looking to ensure they get their money's worth.

The proposed shifting of the swimming finals from their traditional evening slot has caused uproar in Australia, whose strong swimming team has a great rivalry with the Americans.

Six-times Olympic medallist Michael Klim slammed the move as ''pandering to the American dollar'' and said leading swimmers planned to petition the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Swimming Australia have called into question whether athletes will be able to produce their best performances in the morning sessions, a factor Beijing organisers say must be taken into account.

''We will have to take into account the norms of the Olympic Games,'' Wang Wei, secretary general of the Beijing Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (BOCOG), told a news conference to mark the two-year countdown to the event on Tuesday.

''First of all, the session should encourage high performance from the athletes and this is in line with the athlete-centred approach that has always been advocated by the IOC. Second, we need to meet the needs of all stakeholders.

''The final decision regarding the schedule for competition rests with the IOC and BOCOG will respect the decision of the IOC.'' The IOC told Reuters that no firm decisions had yet been made.

''The draft schedule will be discussed in Beijing,'' an official said.

''But the final decision on the competition schedule is taken by the IOC Executive Board after a full dialogue.'' REUTERS PM PM1553

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