Australian sports lovers have been stunned by news the ABC won’t chase the radio rights for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, ending the station’s nearly 70-year run as the only non-commercial radio broadcaster of the Games.
The Australian reported on Monday budgetary pressures contributed to the public broadcaster’s decision not to cover next year’s sporting smorgasbord in the Japanese capital.
“This is an incredibly tough decision, especially given our 67-year run as the official non-commercial Olympic Games radio broadcaster,” an ABC spokesman told the publication
“Due to competing budget priorities coupled with the fact that Australians can access Olympic Games coverage in many other ways, we have chosen not to pursue rights in 2020.”
The news has sent shockwaves around the country as sporting and media identities expressed their sadness at the loss of such an iconic tradition.
Commentator Julian Abbott and ABC sportscaster Quentin Hull were among those who lamented the news on social media. Hull called the development a “national shame”.
Hull’s tweet sparked a flood of replies. Fox Sports commentator and presenter Adam Peacock said on Twitter: “That’s not good. At all.”
Former sports journalist and now head of communications for the International Association of Athletics Federations Nicole Jeffrey wrote: “So sorry to hear that, Q. It’s a terrible shame. Such a short-sighted decision.”
ABC journalist Bruce Atkinson said “that sucks mate” and former Australian Olympian Dave Culbert, who competed in track and field at the 1988 and 1992 Games, tweeted: “A sad day indeed.”
It’s rare for England to show Australians any sympathy in the sporting realm but BBC athletics commentator Ed Harry was also taken aback by the news.
“Terrible news. Been lucky enough to observe yourself and ABC colleagues at close quarters doing what you do best, being the eyes and ears of your listeners, brilliantly,” Harry tweeted in response to Hull.
“Hope there’s a way back from this and some decision makers actually do the right thing mate.”
Australian Olympic swimmer Maddie Groves said the decision was “such a shame” while NRL reporter Brad Walter added: “This decision was clearly made by an accountant and not someone with any grasp on the ABC’s charter or how this will damage its brand.”
Channel 7 is Australia’s official television broadcaster for the Olympics and while the ABC has provided live radio coverage of the Games since 1952, the cost associated with covering such a large event meant it was no longer viable.
The Olympics will begin in late July and run for nearly three weeks before finishing in early August.
Last month controversy was brewing over the marathon at the Games, as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced the 42km run would be moved from Tokyo to the northern city of Sapporo so athletes could avoid the worst of the extreme summer heat in the Japanese capital.
The announcement enraged Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, who said at the beginning of discussions with the IOC she still wanted the marathon and race walk events to remain in the capital.
Despite the opposition, both parties eventually agreed to terms that would see the marathon take place in Sapporo.