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‘National shame’: ABC to end 67 years of live Olympics radio broadcasting

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The decision, first reported by The Australian, has been immediately criticised by veteran ABC figures.

“It’s an absolutely flat feeling walking in to work this morning … it makes me feel empty in the stomach,” said ABC Grandstand’s Alister Nicholson, who was part of the 2016 Olympics commentary team.

“I’m not so much disappointed for myself, I’m disappointed for the athletes and for the public.”

Long-time sports broadcaster Quentin Hull said “the ABC will lose part of its DNA by not being at the Tokyo Olympics”.

“The coverage has always shed a light on amazing stories of not only Australians, but human achievement the world over. It’s a national shame,” he said.

Retired sports journalist Peter Wilkins, who worked at the ABC for 37 years, said it was a “complete shame”.

“No respect for history, tradition or Australia’s cultural attachment to sport. Your ABC?”

Canberra-based commentator Julian Abbott labelled it a “pretty sad state of affairs” and noted the Tokyo Olympics would be in Australia’s time zone.

The ABC buys the radio rights from official Olympics broadcaster Seven but sources said it was staffing the 16 days of competition which presented the more significant cost. During previous Olympics, the ABC has sent a small commentary team to the host country, backed up by a larger Australia-based team. The budget for the coverage is likely to be hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The decision to end the live coverage comes as the broadcaster, which has a budget of just over $1 billion annually, wrestles with a three-year funding freeze that will cost the organisation $84 million in total. The freeze is worth $15 million in 2019-20, $28 million in 2020-21 and $41 million in 2021-22. The ABC has also absorbed $254 million of cuts since 2014.

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