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HIGH WIDE AND HANDSOME
Frank Deford
August 02, 1976
Olympians were performing marvelously in Montreal, but on screens at home the prime-time concern was prettiness
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August 02, 1976

High Wide And Handsome

Olympians were performing marvelously in Montreal, but on screens at home the prime-time concern was prettiness

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These facts are not lost on the other networks, either. No event, in or out of sports, provides a network such artistic leeway, such a chance to distinguish itself. The national audience share for the Munich Games was 45% (or "a four-five" as TV people say), surprising at the time. But the first four nights of Montreal came in at a four-seven, and with many finals and glamour events to come. ABC might even pull a five-oh.

In light of the fact that the cagey Arledge has already locked up the 1980 Winter Games, the bidding for TV rights should run into a lot of rubles for Moscow. Montreal went for $25 million, and there is speculation within the industry that Moscow might double that—$50 million. "The Russians are watching everything we do here," Arledge says apprehensively. Because the ABC coverage is superior, because Arledge, as a benevolent despot, orders up our Olympics with fine taste and judgment, ABC should have the inside track. But, of course, CBS always has the long green, if the Russians just want top dollar.

It is ironic that during a week when the Olympics have never seemed more popular despite a beginning even more shaky than usual, the cry from many precincts has been for their abolition or drastic overhaul. One hysterical British editorial screeched that the Games have grown "from a beautiful baby into a depraved and twisted monster." Another popular theme among those insistent on "saving" the Olympics called for reducing their size and proposed the elimination of all team sports and inviting all qualified athletes to attend—amateur and professional—regardless of national origin. It was not explained why team competitions, which stress the universal ideal of cooperative effort, should be a candidate for elimination, nor how inviting more athletes would reduce the size of the Games.

But such controversy was not out where people could see it—in front of the tube. Taiwan? Africa and New Zealand? If you liked Dorothy Hamill's hair, ladies, you have only to wait for this week when Arledge's Follies will bring you Bruce Jenner's bangs for the first time in prime time. Also, for your added viewing pleasure, he is going to run, jump and throw.

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