By Duncan Mackay at the Main Press Centre on the Olympic Park in London

BBC The_Olympic_broadcasterJuly 18 - The BBC announced today it has negotiated rights to cover the next four Olympic Games up until 2020 in a deal that takes the amount the International Olympic Committee (IOC) have raised from European broadcasters past the $1 billion (£639 million/€815 million) barrier. 

The present BBC deal expired after London 2012.

The new contract includes exclusive television, radio and digital rights.

"As the host of the London 2012 Olympic Games and the birthplace of many Olympic sports, the UK is a very important nation for the Olympic Movement," said Jacques Rogge, President of the IOC.

"The BBC is a world-renowned media organisation with which we are proud to have worked for many decades, including for the upcoming Olympic Games. 

"We are delighted that the BBC will continue as our partner beyond London 2012, providing fantastic free coverage of the Olympic Games to the widest possible audience in the UK across a variety of media platforms."

The BBC, the self-styled "Olympic Broadcaster", were just as pleased.

"I'm delighted that the Olympic Games will continue to be broadcast exclusively on the BBC into the 2020's," said Mark Thompson, the director general of the BBC.
"It's terrific news in the days before BBC Sport begins to cover the London 2012 Games and a tribute to the enduring partnership between the BBC and the Olympic Movement."

Rio 2016 and the 2020 Olympics - which will be held in either Istanbul, Madrid or Tokyo - will represent the 16th and 17th Summer Olympic Games broadcast by the BBC, a sequence that began with the 1948 Games in London and one that has run unbroken since the 1960 Games in Rome, when Britain won two gold medals, Don Thompson in the 50 kilometres walk and Anita Lonsbrough in the 200 metres breaststroke.

Don Thompson_wins_50km_Rome_1960The BBC has been covering the Olympics unbroken since Rome in 1960 when the British winners included Don Thompson in the 50 kilometres walk

In total the BBC will have broadcast 33 Olympic Games after the 2020 Games, including the 16 Winter Olympics since Squaw Valley, California, also in 1960.

"This news will come as a massive boost to our teams who are about to undertake our most ambitious sports broadcast ever at the biggest sporting event in our country's history," said Barbara Slater, the director of sport at the BBC.

"The Olympic Games has always been significant as an event that brings the nation together as well as a catalyst for broadcasting innovation and we're delighted that BBC Sport can now continue to deliver on these traditions through to 2020."

At the London 2012 Olympic Games, for the first time, the BBC will be providing live coverage of every Olympic Sport from every venue throughout the day.

This will amount to around 2,500 hours of live Olympic sporting action, over 1,000 hours more than Beijing 2008.

"It's vital that big national and international events like the Olympic Games remain free-to-air where they can be watched by the greatest number of people," said Dominic Coles, the BBC's chief operating officer of the 2012 Olympics, who negotiated the deal.

"We're delighted to continue our longstanding partnership with the Olympics and the IOC, adding to BBC Sport's outstanding rights portfolio and firmly establishing the BBC as the home of major sporting events that unite the nation and this deal demonstrates that BBC Sport remains a force in sports broadcasting."

The sum the BBC is paying to retain the rights has not been disclosed, although the contract is understood to be sterling-denominated.

The deal does mean, however, that barring extraordinary swings on foreign exchange markets, the IOC will, in its 2013-2016 cycle, raise more than $1 billion (£639 million/€815 million) from European broadcasting rights for the first time.

Rights to virtually all European countries for the current cycle, culminating with London 2012, were sold in one fell swoop to the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) for $746 million ($477 million/€608 million).

This deal excluded Italy, which is thought to have added some €112 million (£88 million/$137 million) to the overall total.

Prior to today's deal, the IOC had raised about $929 million (£594 million/€757 million) from European rights for the 2013-2016 cycle, leaving it $71 million (£45 million/€58 million) short of breaking that $1 billion £639 million/€815 million) barrier.

Thanks to the BBC, that gap has now been closed.

BBC London_2012_marketing_campaign
BBC's planned coverage of London 2012 has been praised by senior IOC officials, including President Jacques Rogge

"The BBC consistently does an excellent job of broadcasting the Olympic Games, so this long-term agreement is very good news for sports fans in the UK," said Thomas Bach, the vice-president of the IOC, who handled negotiations for them.

"From a commercial perspective, we adapted our traditional broadcast rights approach in Europe for the 2014-2016 cycle and beyond, and have negotiated several key European territories directly.

"This announcement is significant as it completes the IOC's direct negotiations for the 2014-2016 period in Europe."

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]

Related stories
June 2012: IOC looks to UK to drive European broadcast income beyond $1 billion
February 2009: Britain excluded from new IOC TV agreement