Negotiations for rights to televise the 1980 Olympic games from Moscow were reopened yesterday by the Soviet Olympic Organizing committee, one day after NBC announced it had reached a final agreement with the Soviets for exclusive television rights to the games.
NBC said yesterday that its agreement will be signed at noon today (EST), in a ceremony to be telecast live from Moscow. But Allan E. Starodub, a spokesman for the Soviet committee, was quoted in Moscow as insisting, "No one has yet been awarded the rights."
Meanwhile, an ABC delegation led by ABC sports president Roone Arledge, was still Moscow last night and reportedly making a last-ditch effort to secure the Olympics for ABC, which has televised seven previous Olympics Games. CBS pulled out of the competition in exasperation last week.
Carl Linderman Jr., vice president of sports for NBC, said in Moscow that the signing of the NBC-U.S.S.R. agree ment will take place as scheduled, despite Starodub's statement, "Confusion seems to reign but we will sign the contracts tomorrow," Lindeman said yesterday.
"Each company can say what it wants, but NBC did not receiver the rights,"Starodub told Western reporters .
And in New York, an NBC spokesman said the network was standing by its original announcement on Sunday, but declined to give any financial or technical details of the proposed telecasts. The Soviets reportedly had asked as much as $100 million for the rights, as compared to the $25 million ABC paid the city of Montreal to telecast the 1976 Olympics and the $13.5 million ABC paid for the 1972 Olympics from Munich.
"A lot of people are saying a lot of things," the NBC spokesman said. "But we are saying we have a deal, and we believe that events will bear that out."
Spokesman for ABC in New York and in Moscow would not comment on reports that Arledge was still negotiating for his network. "ABC has no comment whatsoever," said a New York network spokesman. "We just have to wait and see."
The aura of confusion and recrimination was hardly new to the negotiations, which have dragged on for months and seen all three networks, in December, walking out of the negotiations in protest, only to return later.
In late December, a New York-base Soviet -American trade firm, SATRA, announced it had made a "provisional" agreement for exclusive TV rights that pre-empted all three American TV networks. The Soviets later termed that agreement a "protocol" and said the rights were still up for grabs.
SATRA officials would not respond to inquiries at their New York head-quaters yesterday.
Sam Jaffe, who served as ABC's Moscow correspondent for four years starting in 1961, said yesterday from his Bethesda home that nothing about the on-again, off-again Olympics negotiations has surprised him, because he negotiated the first American sports telecast from the U.S.S.R. - a Soviet American track meet - in 1961 under similar conditions.
It took "seven or eight weeks" of discussion to finalize the deal, Jaffe recalled, and then, while Arledge, ABC technicians and broadcast equipment were on their way from Vienna to Moscow, Jaffe was told by a Soviet official that the deal was off and that Arledge's airplane might be considered in violation of Soviet air space if it attempted to land in MOscow later that night.
It took the intervention of the U.S. ambassador to straighten things out, Jaffe said. "This is what the Russians like do, play one side off against the other," said Jaffe. "They 're doing to NBC exactly what they did to me. The Russians love to play Mickey Mouse."