ABC chair Ita Buttrose and Australian Olympic Committee boss John Coates.
ABC chair Ita Buttrose and Australian Olympic Committee boss John Coates.

ABC’s Olympic boycott comes to a head

SIXTY-seven years of Olympic memories and moments come down to this.

An emergency meeting between media icon and ABC chairwoman Ita Buttrose and Australia Olympic Committee boss John Coates will be held at the head office of the radio broadcaster in Sydney on Wednesday.

In the wake of widespread criticism directed at the ABC for its decision not to buy the non-commercial radio broadcast rights for the Tokyo Games next year, the meeting is expected to be held at the Ultimo offices and can't be understated.

If the ABC stands by its decision - which has been slammed by sports broadcasters and the Australian public - the Tokyo games next year will be the first Olympics that the public broadcaster hasn't covered since Helsinki, Finland, in 1952.

Confirmation last week by the ABC that it was preparing to place a blackout on Tokyo sparked speculation about the broadcaster's budget strategy.

ABC chair Ita Buttrose. The broadcaster needs to save $84 million. Picture Kym Smith
ABC chair Ita Buttrose. The broadcaster needs to save $84 million. Picture Kym Smith

The ABC has claimed it would cost $1 million to stage its coverage at a time when the organisation is trying to find savings more than 84 times that amount.

"Due to competing budget priorities coupled with the fact that Australians can access Olympic Games coverage in many other ways, we have chosen not to pursue rights in 2020," an ABC spokesperson told reporters.

In response, the AOC allowed chief executive Matt Carroll to take a brickbat to the ABC for being "shortsighted".

"The Olympics can inspire Australians to embrace something valuable and as the ABC's charter indicates - to contribute to a sense of national identity. There's no bigger event in the world to fulfil this ambition,'' Carroll said.

"Tokyo 2020 presents such an opportunity to do that, given the time-zone, in particular."

However, ahead of the landmark meeting, the AOC was taking a different tact when approached by The Daily Telegraph on Tuesday.

Coates hopes he can use his longstanding relationship with Buttrose to win the ABC back with common sense and clarity.

It will be the job for Coates and Carroll - who will also be present at the meeting - to illustrate how, despite the shifting landscapes of how the public can consume media in 2020, the ABC still has a significant role in delivering news of Australian sporting excellence to the farthest-flung areas of the country.

The Olympics will begin in late July and run for nearly three weeks before finishing in early August.