NBC’s new deal to cover the Paralympics means there is an outstanding opportunity for interest in the Games to grow to “new levels” in the United States, it has been claimed.
NBC plans to broadcast 116 hours of combined coverage for the Sochi 2014 and Rio 2016 Games.
It follows criticism of their coverage of London 2012 and Charlie Huebner, chief of Paralympics for the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), claims NBC’s new partnership is “unique and is significant for the Movement in the U.S. and around the world.”
“The fact we sold it out with six sponsors in unique U.S. markets is a huge opportunity to create awareness,” he told insidethegames.
“The commercial value of what they’re going to do is significant in terms of promoting the Paralympics, but now the hard work begins and we have to do a great job in making sure Americans tune in and watch the coverage.”
Huebner claimed “we’re nowhere near finished” and insisted that “great strides” have been made, revealing U.S. awareness in the Paraympics soaring from less than five percent in 2002 to more than 86 per cent today.
Huebner claimed broadcasting deals, together with having “multimillion dollar national media campaigns featuring Paralympians,” as a significant component of this growth.
He highlighted athletes as the “drivers who are enhancing awareness for their achievements on and off the field of play.”
In particular, he cited the swimmer Brad Snyder who ” a year after being injured in Afghanistan … wins a gold medal in London and the next weekend meets the President,” as well as wheelchair racer Tatyana McFadden, one of the world’s fastest.
Huebner predicted the U.S. would do better at Sochi 2014 than they did at Vancouver 2010, where they finished sixth overall with 13 medals, including four gold.
“We’re very excited about going to Sochi – we were there at the test events and our athletes love the courses and think they are going to be fantastic in terms of accessibility and venue ease,” he said.
“Our [ice sledge] hockey team will be competing for a medal, our Alpine and snowboard teams are expected to be very strong, and we’re rebuilding our Nordic team where we have 17 of a performance standard today in comparison with just two at Vancouver.
“We’re rebuilding, hoping to be competitive and hoping to bring home some medals.”
Huebner also dismissed questions that, after poor ticket sales, the Games would be a step back from London 2012, and insisted that “each Games are unique” and “from what we’ve seen thus far we’re really pleased with the planning that’s gone on.”
He also backed Sir Philip Craven following his re-election as president of the International Paralympics Committee.
“London was phenomenal, but now the challenge is to take that to a whole new level,” he told insidethegames.
“We feel very strongly that he is the right person to do that – not only in terms of enhancing the program in the U.S. but also in helping the overall Movement. We as the U.S. want to be supportive in helping the Movement grow all over the world.”
Contact the writer of this story at firstname.lastname@example.org. Insidethegames is an online blog of the London Organizing Committee that staged the 2012 London Games. The blog continues to cover issues that are important to the Olympic Movement. This article is reprinted here with permission of the blog editors.