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British Sinead and John Kerr perform during an Ice Dance training session on February 11, 2010 at the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver before the start of the 2010 Winter Olympics. Getty Images/Vincenzo PINTO (VINCENZO PINTO)
British Sinead and John Kerr perform during an Ice Dance training session on February 11, 2010 at the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver before the start of the 2010 Winter Olympics. Getty Images/Vincenzo PINTO (VINCENZO PINTO)

The Usual Suspects

Olympic hockey takes a backseat on NBC Add to ...

How excited is NBC about the Americans' chances at men's hockey gold in the Winter Olympics? When Canada and the Excited States face off on Feb. 21 in the preliminary round, the Guy Caballeros of NBC are bumping the prime-time game to their cable outfit MSNBC. (Where Keith Olbermann is still blaming George W. Bush for everything wrong in the United States.) On the Jay Leno network, NBC has opted to show the original dance segment of ice dancing.

The reasoning is simple, NBC Olympic chief Dick Ebersol says. More women than men watch the Olympics. So chicks before sticks. Let that be your barometer for NBC-watching from Vancouver. "I am women, hear me remote."

Licence To Thrill

The Olympic broadcast consortium is playing catch-up in getting Canadians familiar with their athletes, who've seemingly been in witness protection the past three years and 11 months. The job might have been made easier had the Canadian Amateur Sports Channel/Le Réseau du sport amateur canadien been given federal approval after applying for a licence in December of 2007.

The channel, which has the backing of the Canadian Olympic Committee and many of the Canadian amateur sports organizations, has grown exasperated at the snail's pace of their application for a licence. "We were told our application would be processed in short order when we applied in 2007," Tom Murray of the CASC group says. But with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission preoccupied with the scrum between Canadian networks and cable- satellite carriers, the approval process has ground to a halt 26 months later.

Now the channel will likely have to resubmit its bid under new guidelines set out by the CRTC. "We feel like we're collateral damage to the other process," Murray says. "We spent over a million dollars on research to support the application. But it's been so long the material is stale-dated, and we'll have to spend almost that much again when we resubmit."

For its part, the CRTC offers little insight into the delay. "We are currently reviewing the criteria used to assess applications for mandatory distribution," the CRTC's Renée Fairweather says. "This process is open for comments until March 1, 2010."

Aggravating Murray's group further, The Weather Network was approved for a licence while his investors waited. "Good for them," Murray says. "But why were they so urgent? Amateur sport is in crisis in this country. We will generate an estimated $30-million a year to the COC if we get the licence."

After watching TSN2 wait forever to win carriage on Rogers' cable system, the amateur channel says it won't bid for anything less than an 91h licence, which obliges cable and satellite carriers to take it.

And there's the sticking point for the CRTC. An 91h licence includes mandatory fees from cable companies, which are then passed along to subscribers. It's literally a licence to print money. The CRTC, mindful of public pushback on fees, rarely hands out 91h spots. Sources have told Usual Suspects that the amateur channel was told it was a risky move to try for an 91h licence. A bid for a licence that makes carriage merely optional would have been approved more rapidly. In other words, the amateur channel knowingly chose the tougher road.

Murray acknowledges this, but says his group's research shows a majority of Canadians would pay the estimated 60 cents it would cost to include his group's channel. "We're not going away," Murray says. "If we can get approval soon we would still be able to be considered as host broadcaster for the 2015 Pan Am Games. There's a real niche for us that the sports networks can't fill."


If we're going to have an official inspirational Olympic song to offer the world, would it be too much to ask that it be in the Queen's English? Usual Suspects believes in the power of the hit sung by 15-year-old Nikki Yanovsky, too. But she should be extolling the power of "you and me," not "you and I."

Wrist Slap

Finally, what would an Olympics be without a little International Olympic Committee bashing in the media? The first blast comes from Australia, home of 16-year-old figure skater Cheltzie Lee. She was reportedly told she can't wear a yellow wristband in memory of her friend Morgan Innes, another young skater who was killed when a ferry and a pleasure boat collided in Sydney Harbour in 2007. The IOC deems the bracelet as "sponsorship."

Naturally, folks Down Under had a Tasmanian Devil over the injustice of it all. Now it turns out that Cheltzie doesn't even wear the band in competition. "There was never, I don't think, an intention to wear it," Australian team spokesman Mike Tancred says. Oh. Well, the IOC stinks anyhow. Advance Australia Fair

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