The ABC has blamed budget cuts among the reasons Australian audiences will not be able to listen to the Tokyo Olympics live on ABC radio next year, ending a 67-year-old sports broadcasting tradition.
The public broadcaster has declined to buy the non-commercial broadcast rights from rights-holder Seven this year due to the cost of covering the games as well as budget pressures and the “changing broadcast environment”.
The rights would have given ABC listeners a dedicated digital radio station to listen to the Tokyo games in 2020 as well as live commentary from ABC Grandstand and coverage of every Australian medal.
At Rio in 2016 and London in 2012, Grandstand broadcast all Australia’s achievements in the pool and the track as well as major sports such as cycling, hockey, basketball and Rugby Sevens.
With the non-commercial rights the ABC has been able to broadcast on ABC local radio, Grandstand digital radio and on the ABC radio app.
The first Olympics as an official rights holder was Helsinki in 1952, and the ABC had full television and radio rights from the Melbourne Olympics until Montreal in 1976, when the television rights moved to a commercial station.
“This is an incredibly tough decision, especially given our 67-year run as the official non-commercial Olympic Games radio broadcaster,” a spokesman said.
“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.”
No Grandstand staff would be going to Tokyo next year, the spokesman said.
While the ABC will not provide live commentary for the Olympics on radio, ABC News and ABC Grandstand will provide daily Olympic updates across all platforms.
The ABC has been identified with the Olympics since it covered its first games in 1932, and ABC TV screened the first Olympic footage seen on television by Australians in 1956.
The dramatic “Gold! Gold to Australia! Gold!” call by ABC commentator Norman May was broadcast in 1980 – although it was not heard first on the ABC but on commercial radio station 2UE because it was in the middle of the night when the ABC was off air.
ABC Radio also broadcast Australian runner Cathy Freeman’s win in Sydney in 2000.