By Duncan Mackay

Dick_Ebersol_head_and_shouldersMay 19 - Dick Ebersol, a hugely influential figure in Olympic broadcasting, has resigned from NBC just as the race for the new United States television contract begins to reach its climax.

Ebersol, who was chairman of NBC Sports for 22 years, resigned some five months after Comcast Corp took control of NBC Universal amid reports that he was not happy with the new management.

The 63-year-old Ebersol will officially step down from NBC at the end of next month, which means he will not be involved in the company's broadcast of next year's Olympics in London nor the negotiations that are set to take place for the new contract covering Sochi 2014 and Rio 2016.

That will be a boost to NBC's rivals ABC/ESPN and Fox, who are also bidding for the Games.

The interested parties are due to travel to meet representatives from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Lausanne on June 6-7. 

But Richard Carrion, the IOC member who is handling the auction, revealed that he had already been contacted by NBC to assure him that Ebersol's resignation did not lessen their determination to retain the Olympic broadcast contract. 

Ebersol joined NBC as an Olympic researcher for the 1972 Games in Munich and, after he became chairman in 1989, he went on to oversee the network's coverage of Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Atlanta, Sydney, Athens and Beijing and the Winter Games in Albertville, Salt Lake City, Turin and Vancouver.

"It has been a sincere privilege to tell so many remarkable stories that have inspired me throughout my entire career," said Ebersol.

"Some of my favourite memories come from reading letters and talking to viewers who also have been moved by such powerful stories.

"I simply want to say thank you to all of those people who have touched me so deeply throughout my career."

Steve Burke, the NBC Universal chief executive, paid tribute to Ebersol's contribution. 

"Dick Ebersol is an incredible talent whose contributions to the company over the last four·decades in sports, news and entertainment are unsurpassed," he said.

"We will miss his intellect, experience, and passion for the television business."

Jacques Rogge, the President of the IOC, also praised Ebersol.

"Dick Ebersol is a consummate professional and has been instrumental in changing the way that television brought the Olympic Games to US audiences," he said.

Ebersol has been replaced by Mark Lazarus, a former high-ranking executive at Time Warner who joined NBC last December.

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