Swimming, gymnastics finals set for morning in 2008 Olympics, says IOC

The competition schedule for the 2008 Beijing Olympics has been finalized, with the swimming finals and some of the artistic gymnastics to be held in the morning, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced on Thursday.

"After a thorough consultation process, the IOC executive board has approved a final version of the competition schedule," IOC's coordination commission chairman Hein Verbruggen told a press conference.

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

The men's basketball final will take place in the afternoon, an IOC spokesman confirmed to Xinhua.

The schedule, agreed after months of tough negotiations, will allow the prestigious events to be aired at peak-time in the United States by host broadcaster NBC who paid 3.55 billion US dollars for rights to the 2000-2008 Games.

But athletics finals will be staged in the evening, with the traditional exception of the marathon.

The proposed shift to morning for the swimming finals had sparked controversy when it was leaked in Australia earlier this year, with some swimmers accusing the IOC of sacrificing the interest of athletes to satisfy the needs of NBC.

The IOC had looked at precedents and tried to balance the interests of broadcasters, athletes and sports federations before making the decision, said Verbruggen.

"Such a schedule is a matter of discussions with the host country, with the organizers, with the international federations. The IOC will never take a decision without the consent of the federation concerned," he said.

"And also you need to listen to the wishes of the broadcasters and what comes out of that is a compromise."

Rowing in 2008 will be held in the afternoon in a concession to the British TV market, while diving finals will be held in the afternoons and evenings for the Australians.

"There can never be a perfect 'one-size-fits-all' solution which suits each and every stakeholder equally, but the IOC decision has endeavored to find the best balance for the Olympic Movement as a whole," said Verbruggen.

Asked whether it was fair for Chinese who may not be able to watch morning events because of work, Gilbert Felli, IOC's Olympic Games executive director, said swimming was just one of many sports at the Games.

"We are not talking about the swimming world championships, there will be plenty of other competitions for the Chinese to watch on television in the evening," he said.

At the 1988 Seoul Games, swimming, gymnastics and athletics finals were held in the morning.

Source: Xinhua

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