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30th Jul 2016

Olympics: European viewers more interested in London than Beijing

Figures show that European viewers were more interested in watching the London Olympic Games than the previous ones, held in Beijing in 2008.

The Geneva-based trade body, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), which looks after 74 national broadcasters from 56 mostly European countries, said in a flash report on Wednesday (15 August) the London event was "the most watched Olympic Games in history."

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  • EBU: London event was 'the most watched Olympic Games in history' (Photo: Athens 2004)

It noted that the BBC got 20 million British viewers for the men's 100 metres sprint final with superstar Usain Bolt compared to its top figure of 7.5 million viewers during its 2008 output.

It did not show any Olympic content on its international channels due to a straitjacket of licencing agreements.

In Germany, the state-owend ZDF network got a daily average of 3.6 million viewers for the 2012 games overall and 1.8 million in 2008.

The EBU's Olympic webstreaming site - eurovisionsports.tv - also sent out 34 million streams, a figure which "more than doubled since Beijing." The licencing regime again meant that only people in Europe and some north African countries could log on to the site.

EBU spokesman Ben Steward told EUobserver that the time difference - Beijing is seven hours ahead of Central European Time - made a big difference.

He added that Europeans felt a sense of ownership because London is physically closer to home: "It's European, so Europeans obviously tuned in to it more."

The EBU published its update to highlight the importance of state-run TV networks - its members - in covering major world events.

Each country had its own commentators and little touches for showing the games.

But EBU companies divided up the basic audiovisual content so that, for example, the BBC filmed boxing, rowing and sprinting, while Greek broadcaster ERT did weightlifting and Slovakia's STV did hockey.

"Evrybody knows their national broadcaster, like the BBC, and they just assume that they cover the games. But if you take hockey, it would have been the BBC editing the show and adding commentary, while STV provided the basic content," Steward said.

The EBU is not alone in trying to give a European flavour to London 2012.

German PR firm Euro-Informationen also published an online "EU Medal Tracker" showing that if you add up the 27 EU countries, they got 92 golds and 306 medals in total, beating the US or China by miles.

Meanwhile, Presseurop, an EU-funded news site in Paris, ran an online survey in which 42 percent of people said EU countries should compete under one flag.

"Are our readers being ironic?" it tweeted on 13 August.

EU free movement must be curbed, UK says

British leader Theresa May has said free movement of EU workers to Britain cannot continue as in the past, while visiting Slovakia and Poland on Thursday.

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