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CBS's Work Is Criticized by USOC Marketing Boss

From News Services
Sunday, February 15, 1998; Page D12

The U.S. Olympic Committee's top marketing executive criticized CBS's coverage of the Winter Olympics, complaining that ratings could be down because the network is making bad decisions with the timing of its commercials.

"I am not happy with CBS," John Krimsky, the USOC's managing director for business affairs, told Bloomberg News. ". . . The networks have to got to be able to sustain sports competition for a longer period of time and they've got to stop interrupting at critical points to throw in one more ad and one more billboard."

CBS has received a 16.6 prime time rating for the first eight days of the Winter Olympics, down 12 percent from the 1992 Winter Games in Albertville. Ratings for the 1994 Games in Lillehammer were 27.8, the best in Winter Games history, in large part due to the Tonya Harding-Nancy Kerrigan figure skating rivalry.

While CBS has blamed low ratings on the time difference and erratic weather, Krimsky said e-mail to the USOC mentioned a different reason: commercial interruptions.

"The American viewer was not happy with the first week of these Games," Krimsky said. "We're not oblivious to what our viewers are telling us. We've got to a figure out a better way."

CBS spokesman Dana McClintock said he didn't want to comment on Krimsky's remarks because timing of commercials "is a production issue." McClintock said he doesn't understand why CBS is being blasted for its coverage when the quality is the same as the 1994 Games, which elicited production praise.

"They are a victim of the [weather] delays," Krimsky said. "They are a victim of the Japanese weather that has forced them to change so many times. I am very congratulatory to them. With graphics and features, they've done a wonderful job."

CBS has promised advertisers a 19.6 rating, a number the network must achieve or offer free commercials to advertisers, likely during the Olympics.

Canadian Riverdance
"Riverdance" is hitting the rink.

Canadians Shae-Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz have adapted the traditional Irish step dance for their free-dance routine Monday, only they're doing it in figure skates. Plenty of skaters have used the program's music, but no one else does the fancy footwork Colin Dunne and Michael Flatley made famous.

The Canadians visited the Trinity Dance School in Chicago for some tips on Irish dancing. Then, in September, Bourne and Kraatz met with Dunne, one of "Riverdance's" principal dancers, who showed them steps and gave them ideas.

"That was really a great opportunity for us," Kraatz said. "He showed us some of the footwork they were doing on the floor and eventually he came out onto the ice. He didn't want us to do the exact same thing they do on the floor simply because he wanted it to remain a skating program, and skating and dancing are a little different."

For the next two months, Bourne and Kraatz took Dunne's suggestions and fine-tuned them. The entire first section of their free dance is authentic Irish dancing, and unlike other skaters who've done "Riverdance," they carry that theme for the entire 4 1/2-minute program.

While the dancing itself is exhausting, Kraatz said the toughest part was learning to keep their arms at their sides.

"It's more difficult to show emotion," he said. "With traditional dance, you use your arms to convey a message. In this type of dancing, 'Riverdance,' you always have your arms down by the side of your body, so it becomes a little more challenging to do expression."

Oak Tree Update
Each gold medalist at the 1936 Summer Games in Berlin received oak tree seedlings to take home with them.

Jim Constandt, a longtime volunteer for the U.S. Olympic Committee, decided to try to find out what happened to them. During a two-year period, he contacted as many gold medalists as he could find.

He was able to determine that 16 oak trees are alive and healthy. Seventeen were confirmed to be no longer alive, including one that was struck by lightning. The status of the other 97 is unknown.

Why put in so much work?

"I believe there is a need to preserve Olympic history and tradition," Constandt says in his study. "The oak tree seedlings . . . were to be taken worldwide to be planted as a gesture of peace and goodwill."

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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