In a closely watched vote in Singapore, the International Olympic Committee Wednesday awarded the 2012 Summer Olympic Games to London. Bob Wright, Chairman and CEO of NBC Universal, which will broadcast the Olympics in the United States, comments on the decision.
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT AND 'HARDBALL' GUEST HOST: How much of a surprise was it that London beat out Paris?
BOB WRIGHT, CHAIRMAN & CEO, NBC UNIVERSAL: I was very surprised. I was here probably in the anticipation that Paris would be awarded the Games and with our partners from Vivendi Universal. So, it was quite a surprise. The vote was 54-50, I‘m told.
MITCHELL: Exactly. I guess we won‘t know for a while — until things start leaking out — whether the two Finnish judges on the Olympic Committee might have voted against France as a result of Jacques Chirac dissing Finnish food and saying that England's great contribution to European culture was mad cow disease. I mean, Chirac is hardly the diplomat.
WRIGHT: Well, they have two votes. And if they were going to vote for France and they voted for London, it would have been tied if they had stayed with their — you know, if that was the case. So, I guess somebody is going to have to ask them. They're not going to publish the results of how individuals voted, but I don‘t know, under IOC rules, I suppose you can say how you voted. We‘ll find out.
MITCHELL: I know that you did expect it to be a European city. New York was really never considered a strong contender. Does it make any difference from a business perspective for it to be London over Paris for NBC?
WRIGHT: Well, just a comment on the first part of that. I mean, we thought it was more likely to be a European city. It's not really because it's Europe, as much as that France was the one. This was their third application. They did everything. They won all of the points ... going up to this actual voting. They got the highest grades. They've hosted the World Cup, which is the hardest sporting event in the world, other than the Olympics, to host. It goes on for weeks and it‘s got millions and millions of people. They did that. They had the athletics championships. So, they‘ve punched all the tickets. They were the likely winner independent of other things.
And London, this was their first application. So that makes it quite a surprise. New York, it was its first application. And so, in that respect, and because we have in the North American continent in 2010 Vancouver with the Winter Olympics, it made it harder for New York to be awarded the subsequent Olympics, going from ‘10 to ‘12. New York, by the way, should be, I would hope, in very good shape, and I hope it continues its bid for ‘16 and ‘20. And, you know, the French, this is actually their third time seeking it. They did not get any European favoritism. That's for sure.
MITCHELL: Now, the French, as you pointed out, were the favorites.... They had all the odds in their favor. They had a stadium already built. London is now going to have to rebuild the East End of London. That was one of the selling points, that this would be an enormous renewal program for London, right?
WRIGHT: Well, except the government is not the bidder here. The government of the U.K. is not financially backstopping the London Olympics. It will be more like the United States, where Mayor Bloomberg was pulling all of this together using his own persuasion and his own political devices, but more or less the money was coming from private organizations.
I think London will have a lot of that, plus, as you say, some very significant infrastructure adds between now and 2012.
MITCHELL: Now, given the five-hour time difference between London and the United States, will a lot of the Olympic venues be live broadcasts? Will a lot be taped? How do you make those decisions?
WRIGHT: Well, I think that every hour you‘re closer to U.S. time zones is better for our viewers in America. It means that the events are closer in real time. So, that's helpful. The fact that it's in an English-language country ... certainly makes it easier behind the scenes and doing a lot of the things that are necessary to put Olympics together. Five hours looks pretty good against being a lot farther away, such as we were in Sydney or perhaps being in Asia with Beijing will be more difficult.
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