NBC gets Its Rio2016 Olympic Night Swimming As Blazers “Put Money Before Athletes”

To the surprise of no-one in swimming, the money of NBC, the US broadcaster, has dictated that swimming finals will start at 10pm and finish around 1am at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Beyond medals, doping control, media rounds and supper, some will be getting to bed after 3am; child welfare issues arise

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To the surprise of no-one in swimming, the money of NBC, the US broadcaster, has dictated that swimming finals will start at 10pm and finish around 1am at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Beyond medals, doping control, media rounds and supper, some will be getting to bed after 3am; child welfare issues arise


Lawrie Cox

The only reason NBC is getting its way is the deathly silence of the sport. Yet again the lack of real leadership by either the Bureau, Federations, and bodies such as Australian Swimmers Association. Where the hell are they??
They all claim to be looking after the best interests of the swimmers. How by saying absolutely nothing? not trying to get federation and FINA to act against the IOC?
There is more noise in support by Harpo Marx than this lot.
Time to stand up for those you claim to represent and turn this back around for the sport and its swimmers. Not just the money.

Craig Lord

I agree Lawrie, leadership is weak because of the system of grace and favour that threatens removal from position for any who ‘jump the wrong way’, the details of how that works in those FINA Future features – for those who missed the series so far:

Part 5: http://www.swimvortex.com/fina-future-part-5-house-of-representatives-instead-of-swimmings-game-of-thrones/
with links in there to:
Part 1: Heritage & Hierarchy On Which The House Of The Swim Fed Is Built
Part 2: When Things Go Wrong, They Go Woefully Wrong. Why & How?
Part 3: The Dangers Of Chasing Fame & Fortune With No Checks & Balances
Part 4: Time To Honour Bone Fide Achievers In The Pool – Try Forbes Carlile

Robert Traynor

The simple solution is to boycott NBC and its advertisers. NBC will soon change its tune when it sees a financial loss looming.

Craig Lord

That’s a good idea for the wider ‘we’. Federations should be standing up for their athletes – and athletes andy coaches should be telling those who represent them to take the strongest of messages back to all who need to know and act. Otherwise accept the fate, as NBC would wish, and all on the foundation of an argument that says ‘swimmers need to stay focussed on the job and need to be able to respond to anything thrown at them’; of course similar rules don’t apply to blazers, NBC and others…


I can’t stand NBC’s coverage of swimming and how selective they are with their favorites. I bet Phelps will have more airtime than any American Swimmers, yes, including Ledecky.


From a purely selfish point of view I’m not too happy, as I would prefer it at a good viewing time for Europe; however I honestly don’t think it’s as big a problem as some are making out. As long as the heats also start later, as the article suggests, it should be possible to adapt. And if some athletes can’t deal with it, I don’t think that’s such a bad thing either; being able to adapt to challenging conditions has been part of many great athletes’ stories, and it’s certainly more compelling than seeing them pampered.

I do think raising child welfare concerns comes across as a tad hysterical. It wouldn’t be a massive hardship for juniors, and we’re not talking about a junior competition anyway. Competing at senior level (let alone the highest level) one should expect senior challenges.

Craig Lord

Felixtzu – there is nothing hysterical about child welfare and if that is the case, we should all aim to scrap any such thing for actors, singers and many others who work in their teenage years and are governed by such conditions (in a senior world, too). Many decades of work has gone into establishing such things – including research into sleep patterns and needs and much else – but if you think it hysterical, your view, of course.

Beyond that, I think you dismiss the views of athletes too keenly. Of course they have to be flexible, of course they have to put up with challenges … (and they do – the Olympic arena a place of sharp challenge under any circumstances) but that should not stretch to the ridiculous – it isn’t a freak show in which we throw obstacles in the way of competitors to trip them up: as Libby T and other world-class athletes point out, they work for many years to a singular moment and the least they could expect of those who serve as guardians of sport is some common sense that delivers the most ideal conditions. getting to bed at 3am and then being woken by teammates from other sports as they wake down the corridor at 6am set for their day is nothing to do with common sense, it is a decision being made by people who don’t have the first clue as to what life in an Olympic village is like (or if they do, they don’t care).


It’s awfully easy to waggle your fingers at NBC without considering the role they play. They’re putting up a hell of a lot of money for their broadcast rights. This money is obviously a key contributor to the Games and directly impacts the quality of the spectacle. These broadcast dollars actually play a key role in driving the entire economics of the sport even outside of the Games themselves. Swimmers likely wouldn’t be able to be professionals without the exposure NBC grants them. To me it seems fair that NBC should negotiate the ability to earn a return on this investment. Note that I’m not defending NBC’s chopped-up, overly-American-focused and incomplete swimming broadcast quality. I just think night finals are a minor consideration and even reasonable.

Craig Lord

Dave, while there is some room for accepting the general thrust of your argument, it overlooks several points, including:
1. vast amounts of broadcast money would be available even if NBC was not there
2. vast amounts of broadcast money is spent by other broadcasters who have rights below the rights of NBC, so the show is not simply there because of broadcast rights pertaining solely to the group with the big deal
3. tax payers in the host country are investing far more money without any guarantee of a return (more likely a loss, going on history) albeit that gains cannot purely be measured in money … but sod the hosts’ investment and prime time, eh?
4. the vast majority of athletes competing will not see a single dollar of that money feeding into the system, the majority experience in terms of ‘professional gains’ restricted to kit, travel, lodging, food and so on for the duration of Olympic camps and the Games, even among nations that have some of the best squads in the world. Again, in many cases it is domestic taxpayers who fund elite athletes – and parents, for the bulk of their ‘pro’ careers. I think you overstate that argument, even if you count things like FINA prize money at world championships, some of that passing on of wealth down to broadcast rights (but even then not only from NBC).
5. The reasoning leads to us accepting that a broadcaster not a sport should set the schedule simply in terms of its own financial imperative.

Can you imagine a couple of Games from now, Boston gets it but the IOC has a Chinese broadcaster as its partner: would the US be happy to have it all scheduled and broadcast to suit Beijing time? I rather doubt it…


Your last comment hits the nail on the head, Craig. This is not about finances, there are host broadcasters all over putting vast amounts of money into the Olympics. For me, it’s a morality Issue – A disgusting Insult to athletes and Brazilians who are sacrificing more than any other for these games. We hear non-stop chatter of inspiring a generation, what about the generation of Brazilian children who will not experience the Olympics up in their favela’s? Are we now telling them they can’t watch it on TV either because it will be on way past their bedtime? What message is it sending? Athletes have been Ignored, and young/poor Brazilian’s who should be at the centre of these games have been Ignored.

Shame on IOC, FINA, federations and NBC.

John Smith

This is truly sad. The tail is wagging the dog. Money over optimum performance conditions. Question: Will swimmers be justified to refuse NBC late night interviews following their races?

Craig Lord

Quite so, Dee.

Rob Kent

You are quite right as to why swimmers don’t speak up… fear of reprisal from the top officials in their own country is often the case. It is definitely the case in Canada, but we have bigger fish to fry with the corruption in our selection process here… http://matthewswanston25.com/2014/09/04/dear-swimming-canada-figure-it-out/


The child welfare argument is an interesting one. By the same token perhaps the training programmes (hours, intensity, timing) followed by many child swimmers on top of schooling and growing may also be considered be against their welfare interests. This would apply to a larger number of children than those likely to make Rio. But I guess nobody really wants to look under that particular stone.

Craig Lord

I think they do Andrew, in the round:

So Cal Swimmer

Well, what more can be said or done? I don’t condone what has happened, but I do remember the athletes having finals in the early afternoon in Seoul and in the morning in Beijing. It was bound to happen that we now have late night finals. Now that the swimmers are aware, they can prepare mentally. It is what it is. Before we know it, the Rio Olympics will be over and done and the fuss will be forgotten.


I look at this situation as a swim fan, which is what I will be when the Olympics will be happening. I won’t be able to watch them live if this is the schedule. I guess youtube will have to suffice.

@RobKent – Everytime I read about the Canadian national team I get really depressed.

Bill Bell

Doesn’t Brazil often run its major meets in reverse order, i.e., prelims starting in early evening and finals next morning? This seems a modification of that plan. Brazil’s what, four/five hours ahead of U.S. West Coast and three more on east coast? That would mean 5 pm start in California and 8 m on east coast — prime viewing hours.

When you pony up umpteen gadzillion the IOC sez: “Yessuh bwana!”

How they doing it for track (athletics)? Same deal? And basketball too?

As for the GOAT hogging the spotlight…no guarantee hell EVEN make team!

JJ Madrigal

As an former Olympian, I believe is a shame the decision; but it’s even worse the NO reaction from the swimming family completely, especially those selected to represent the athletes like the IOC members-former Olympians and FINA athletes commission members.
I think that US viewers is just a little part of the total viewers worldwide. OK, I agree that money talks, but they need to understand that their is not Show with no Actors.
I have a final question, what happen with the Track and Field? The IOC also moved their finals to late night or they have enough power to avoid that situation?


NO!!! NBC has stated their position. This is NOT over. I expect all those who read this have an invested interest in having Olympic Swimming remain pure. Not corrupted by these bastards.

If we begin now and work, we can try to avert this disaster. RIght?!


Not to mention spectators (many children), volunteers, security, cleaners etc…as well, getting to a venue in a major city for a 10pm start and not getting home til 2AM plus… the whole thing reeks.

albert bela

other sports like track and field do it all the time , i don t see what the problem is , all they have to do is start training and competing at those hours to adapt


One thing that new schedule will result in is:

Surprises. There will be surprising winners and losers.
Swimmers that best adapt to swimming best at 1 am will win over those who adapt worse, even if they are usually slower/inferior swimmers.

Ana Scherer

What the hell did Brazil, as the host country say? Agreed with this shenanigan because they are getting money from NBC? Couldn’t they have led a protest together with almost all the world’s swimming federations, FINA and the athletes? Sports these days are a joke and the athletes are being used and too complacent to say anything.


Craig hit the nail on the head. It is not as if NBC are in the position of being the host broadcaster and having to sink their own greenbacks into the actual “infrastructure” of doing so. They are merely the rights holder for ONE, albeit an extraordinarily lucrative, market sector. Then again, they have their very own bought and paid for IOC member; one Alex Gilady of Israel no less, a former NBC senior VP.

Craig Lord

albert bela… that’s simply not true… track and field are doing a part-Beijing, morning finals in some events … and swimming is the only sport that will finish at that time in the morning and then have athletes disturbed as the Olympic village wakes just beyond dawn for the next day


NBC pay big money to the IOC for television rights so it’s no surprise they carry significant influence. But the scheduling of events is a matter for the organizing committee. The most obvious question is why did it acquiesce?


Track and Field has their share of 10:00pm finals, though I suspect that it’s got a little more support because you want a big schedule gap in the name of avoiding the hottest part of the day when only racewalkers dare to tread.

Speaking of track, it has come out that Athletics Kenya sat on positive doping tests for nearly two years and let athletes continue to race after a positive test. Makes the Chinese rather look like pikers in the Sun case.


Doping in track and field is truly the biggest trainwreck in professional sports right now.


But Track and Field are usually wrapping up their finals by 10pm, swimming will be just starting at that time.

Craig Lord

Correct Torchbearer, there are no other sports in which entire teams will still be in the midst of live action and team support after midnight, with some looking at a post 2am and even 3am bedtime

haakon schram stokke

Finals at 10:00 pm will have the implication that athletes that are talented (and hard-working) enough to qualify for multiple finals during the Games will be at a distinct disadvantange compared to athletes who only make it to one or to finals. Period. What to do? Direct focus on the single man who may actually have the power to demand a change, Chuck Wielgus, Executive Director of US Swimming. The past several years have shown that Mr. Wielgus is the Boss of US Swimming. He should, if he was willing to do so, secure the internal backing for a potentially devastating threat to the IOC, FINA, and ultimately NBC: No change in the late finals plan – no US participation. Such a stance would immediately force NBC, and thus FINA / IOC to make significant concessions. Will he do so? Most likely not. Why? Too much money at stake in the long term for US Swimming. A strong wish to continue building relations with important sponsors, and thus avoid any unpleasant controversy. The losers due to this lack of sportsman leadership? The biggest stars of US and international swimming, such as Ledecky, Franklin, etc (do not believe Phelps/Lochte/Adrian will be factors as previously seen). They will in fact be partly sacrificed for the better good, i.e. the envisaged long-term financial health of US Swimming. Sad? Yes indeed.


Craig – “there is nothing hysterical about child welfare”.

It’s the suggestion that this could be a child welfare issue that comes across as hysterical, not the concept of ‘child welfare’.

Craig Lord

Yes, I realise that Felixtzu but the suggestion is what precedes the dealing with it in such matters as society develops… not ok for actors, singers and various others but fine for swimmers. Why, would be the question.


Personally, with little knowledge of child welfare law in Brazil, I would find these performance hours acceptable for teenagers in show business as well.

I don’t fully accept the analogy either. Child performers are usually going to be hired specifically as children: i.e. If we put on a performance of ‘Annie’ we would need to hire a young girl, so the duty of care is more clear cut. Whereas I would believe that if someone wants to compete at the highest level of sport they should have to face any challenge that we deem acceptable for adults.

Craig Lord

I understand your point Felixtu but don’t fully accept it – none of which makes raising the issue hysterical, it having been put there as a way of noting that the people who make these decisions don’t consider very much at all as regards the athlete – the money speaks beyond whatever policy you care to raise – and that ought not to be.


The time of day argument is mute. Swimmers will arrive early, adjust their day and move onward. No different than someone in the US or Australia or Europe, etc. traveling 3 or 4 time zones to compete. Or for those in Asia traveling to Brazil to compete.

The child welfare angle is delightfully silly. Simply grasping for any argument at this point. I doubt there will be any child under 15 at the Olympics competing for medals (but you never know) and HS age kids can handle this no problem.

Having said all that, i’m not condoning the time change…but the arguments are silly.

Craig Lord

jman – those are minor points, I think best focus on things like this:
would the US staging Boston in 2024 be happy for the IOC’s new Chinese broadcast partner to dictate that all things should be staged to suit Beijing prime time? No, it would not. S

Swimmers will adjust because they have to, not because they want to. That they will is simply used as an excuse to say ‘see, no problem’, which is simply not the case and is an argument that is too simple too surface. How does the swimmer in bed at 3am woken by the hockey team at 6 and the boxer at 7am in the village adjust? Don’t tell me that that is not a problem – it is. I just don’t see how anything justifies screwing up the whole of the way people prepare for years, asking shoals of swimmers the world over to ‘get used to it’ for months and years before, as coaches and others switch their work patterns to test out what will be etc etc.

Money first, athlete, sport, the schedules of rights paying broadcasters and other media the world over very much next. It is Olympic colonialism and the vast sums of money would be there without NBC, so that is no argument, in my view


We have a difference of opinion as to how big a problem this schedule is; however in my opinion the child welfare angle is ludicrous. That’s why raising it comes across as a bit hysterical to me, even though I know that would be an unfair accusation against such a high quality, sober journalist as yourself (at least on non-Putin issues). Of course, as you make clear, the real issue is how these decisions are made.


I would agree that being woken at 6 or 7 a.m. would be a problem. But that happens all the time. The Olympic Village is a 24-7 place and while the action is more visible and audible at certain times…..there are still those coming and going at all times of the day and night. Someone who wins a gold medal at a 10 p.m. final, has cool down, interviews, a little celebration but is not swimming the next day would likely ‘sleep in’ some can just as easily be woken up. Yes it might be only 1 or 2 vs. many…but it is always an issue.

To the larger point, i agree that the U.S. would not be happy about changing the times. But that would be the U.S. delegations decision just as it was China’s and Brazil’s. But the other point of this is $. I grew up in a time of limited funds for swimming. I look no further than this website (which i love) that advertises, and a whole host of other factors (don’t mean to just point you out) as to why the sport has changed and sports in general. You can add in things like having to compete in stadium pools, federations paying for gold medals and world records, high level sponsorship and advertising, etc. It is now about the money and you are not going to be able to change that no matter what you argue. Short of all swimmers from all countries threatening not to swim (which with NEVER happen) this is what we are stuck with. Swimming is a victim of it’s own success.

Craig Lord

Jman, I agree with some of those points but the last one is questionable in this regard: football is far bigger, richer etc etc than swimming … I cannot imagine the world cup final being played at 1am to suit a broadcaster (even in a world governed by the cutting edge of dubious)

Craig Lord

Felixtzu, flattery will get you nowhere 🙂 As for Putin, I would find it hysterical if you thought it just fine to grant people of that ilk the swim fed’s ‘highest honour’. Sport and politics should not mix, go the rules. Now there you do indeed have something not only hysterical but in terms of Putin, tragic and way beyond the bounds of night swimming.


I get the impression that NBC is doing this because of the huge backlash they received over their broadcast of the 2012 swimming (trailing interviews with ‘gold medal winner Missy’ hours before her race had been broadcast etc). They can’t afford to have that happen again, so I don’t think this is a battle we’ll win, unfortunately.

Oh well. I got up at 4am to watch Becky’s 400 free win in 2008 and I’ll do it again in 2016 (hopefully for Jazz this time!).


I actually think the ‘child’ issue is of relevance (15 and 16 year olds are considered children according to AUS law for example). Parents entrust their children to sports officials and administrators, and they then have a duty of care to those children. They should put the interests of these children (and young people) as a paramount concern in their decision making.
Putting on events at 1AM is not doing this.

Craig Lord

Thanks Torchbearer – the duty of care issue was what I had in mind but did not spell out well enough, perhaps. A decision was made here, I would imagine, without those who made it even sitting to consider that issue and then without a single federation among those who acquiesce in silence (the bulk of those around the world) having considered how this may fit into policies, rules and laws of their own countries and regions. It may all be that such a process would conclude “no problem” but that NBC, IOC etc are laws unto themselves is troubling.


If a politician plays a role in bringing FINA events to a country (and I don’t know if Putin has done much or not) there’s an argument to be had for honouring them. In that case sport and politics are only mixing to the extent that the politician is promoting sporting events in their country – just the reality of the world of major events.

It’s complicated, not least because so few nations are stepping up. The coverage here has not being balanced.

Craig Lord

Felixtzu – I disagree – go back in time, would you have honoured Hitler (some lovely pools built in his time and the Olympics a triumph). Don’t be silly. There should be a distance between such things, as the Olympic Charter calls for


Nice one.

I’m not saying we necessarily should honour Putin, just that the reporting here was over the top. Good to see you went straight for the Hitler comparison though.

Craig Lord

It makes the point, Felixtzu … and in our own time, plenty of examples where you would not dream of honouring the head of a nation that may run your sports event…. so best not even to have such things… keep sports to sports… that way you don’t stray into areas well beyond your world and into realms of deep and sometimes dangerous division. Nothing of our coverage on the FINA award (nor Putin’s direct link to a decree that calls for doping samples to be opened at the border) has been over the top, in my view. The fact is that you say you don’t agree but offer no solution but that in which we accept an unacceptable status quo – and you do so without writing in your own name, an easy path.


Taking a contrary view on one issue- Studies show that the biorhythms of the typical teenager are such that they actually do better when allowed to stay up later and then sleep later in the morning. There is actually a push for later starting times in American high schools because of those studies. So we shouldn’t worry about late night finals because they suit the typical teenager’s internal clock surprisingly well.

It’s the 4:30am regular wake up calls for morning practices that do far more damage to child welfare in a population that honestly does better when allowed to sleep until 8:00am every morning. And yet no one ever questions the child welfare of those morning alarms because…. tradition.

Craig Lord

beachmouse…. that’s not the main issue, as we know… the issue for teenagers is the same for all – village life… it won’t be helpful, and I think it should have been avoided on several grounds much more significant that welfare issues given that most of these kids will be in very good hands… that reference was there, I repeat, as an example of things that ought to be discussed when such decisions are made but never are in a realm that operates beyond the norms applied elsewhere in life and society.
Apart from that, I’ve read much on those studies, very interesting stuff (but not sure they were advocating that kids stay up later 🙂 … just that they should start engaging their brains later in the day for academic purposes…)


It is nice to have money but what I hate about pro sports and now the Olympics is that sponsors and businesses will gauge and trap the general public into giving away their soles to watch entertainment. That’s why I despise the arrogance and the egos of the NFL. Pure athleticism is not around anymore it is greed and ego. In many countries the athletes train for little or peanuts and to play with them like toys is a disgrace.

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