Olympics to return to CBC in 2014, 2016

A fan shields himself from the rain with an umbrella as he wait to pose with the Olympic rings near the basketball arena at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Tuesday, July 31, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

TORONTO - The Olympic Games will return to CBC in two years for the Winter Games in Sochi, Russia and again in 2016 for the Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, the International Olympic Committee announced Wednesday.

The decision puts the massive sports spectacle back in the hands of the public broadcaster, which last aired the Summer Games in 2008 from Beijing. Before that, CBC had aired 19 different Olympics over almost 60 years in Canada.

CBC executive Kirstine Stewart said a long-established Olympic track record helped it nab the rights after two joint proposals with Bell Media were rejected by the IOC.

Those pitches were said to have fallen apart over money but Stewart vowed CBC's solo bid would not further cut into the public broadcaster's hefty budget woes.

"We actually made sure that this was, based on our prior experience, a cost-neutral proposal," said Stewart, predicting broad coverage on CBC, SRC and multiple digital platforms.

"This isn't a deal that's built to cost the CBC money and in fact, what we're hoping for is a bit of a profit out of it."

Media rights to the Vancouver Winter Games in 2010 and current London Summer Games were awarded to a consortium of broadcasters helmed by Bell Media, which runs CTV and TSN, and Rogers Media, which runs Citytv and Sportsnet.

The Sochi announcement comes a little over a month after CBC and Bell Media announced they would no longer pursue the Games together.

The news sparked questions over the future of veteran sports anchor Brian Williams, who had long led CBC's broadcasts before heading to CTV to deliver their prime-time coverage of the Vancouver and London Games.

Williams quelled any suggestions he'd follow the Games to CBC in a terse statement

"I am very happy here at Bell Media. This is my future and this is where I'm staying," Williams said from London.

CBC/Radio-Canada president Hubert Lacroix called the IOC announcement "excellent news for Canadians across the country who will once again experience the Olympic tradition with their public broadcaster."

IOC president Jacques Rogge, meanwhile, touted CBC's "wealth of experience in broadcasting sports and the Olympic Games."

"We are pleased that we will once again be joining forces with them in the future," he said.

Still, the deal does not cut out rival broadcasters entirely.

Stewart said the terms include sub-licensing rights that allow CBC to partner with other networks, such as Rogers Media's Sportsnet or Bell Media's TSN.

"We will look to see who we might be able to make sub-licensing agreements with so that people have good access to over-the-air and television coverage of the Olympics," she said, adding those details have yet to be worked out.

She stressed that the Olympics bid would not exacerbate the CBC's ongoing budget woes, brought on by reduced federal funding. The broadcaster has already slashed staff and programming in a bid to shave $225 million from its budget.

Stewart wouldn't say how much the media rights cost but said CBC's proposal was carefully structured to fit tight financial constraints.

"There are no extra resources, as you know, around to be subsidizing such a thing," she said.

"So we made sure this is an independent project of its own and we made sure before we even went back to the IOC that we could feel confident that we felt that this deal could be supported in this way because otherwise it would have made no sense to do it."

The Vancouver and London Games cost Bell Media and Rogers Media a total of US$153 million.