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Old February 8th, 2010, 09:30 PM
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Logos of Olympic Broadcasters - Part 2: 1960s
As I noted in the Introduction, I wanted to put a spotlight on the logos of Olympics Broadcasters, specifically the networks in the United States (CBS, ABC, NBC). Each Olympic Games has what the International Olympic Committee calls an "emblem" tied with the host city. Basically, it's a logo. However, what most folks don't know is that the television rights-holders for each of those Olympics also tended to create their own brand for their broadcast.

In this installment, we're looking through the Olympics of the 1960s, which spans 6 Olympic Games -- 3 Winter, 3 Summer. Given that this era was the start of broadcasting the Games in the U.S., my guess is that full branding wasn't yet in effect, as I've been unable to find broadcaster-specific logos for some of these early Games (Tokyo 1964 being the exception at this point).

As we look through each of the 6 Olympics of his era, I'll be pointing out some U.S. television broadcast tidbits that will help put later logos in context. Additionally, we'll be showcasing the official emblems of each Games to emphasize design style and sensibilities. And in those cases where U.S. broadcaster logos do exist, we'll be able to compare & contrast the network logo vs. the official emblem.

Let's get started...

1960 Winter Olympics
Squaw Valley, California, United States - More Info

CBS had the honor of being the first American Olympics broadcaster, believe it or not. They paid $50,000 for the rights to show 15 hours of the event. Interestingly, the host? Walter Cronkite.

CBS camera at Squaw Valley

Given that the Games were held in the U.S., it probably was a lot easier to be covered by a local network. Fun Tanner piece of trivia... the guy in charge of the Opening Ceremonies? Walt Disney. (Yup, I had to get that Disney connection in somewhere, right?)

1960 Summer Olympics
Rome, Italy - More Info

Just a few months later, the Summer Olympics were held in Rome, and once again CBS had the broadcast rights. They aired 20 hours of the Games. But this was a time before satellite TV transmission, so they had to fly footage from Rome to New York to broadcast it.

There was no host in Rome for CBS. Instead, they went with a personality in New York... Jim McKay. This is where McKay started his long run of Olympic hosting. It should also be noted as the only time CBS ever showed the Summer Olympics.

1964 Winter Olympics
Innsbruck, Austria - More Info

The 1964 Winter Games marked the beginning of the ABC era of Olympic broadcasting, encouraged by the guy who would pioneer the coverage of sports on television, Roone Arledge. He helped bring ABC's Wide World of Sports to life.

ABC paid $597,000 for the broadcast rights, which produced 17.5 hours of programming. Arledge utilized much of the staff from Wide World of Sports, including the host, Jim McKay -- who was lured to ABC from CBS in 1961.

Like the Rome Games, coverage was flown by airplane to the U.S. in order to be broadcast, and was in black & white. However, with many of the events taking place in the morning, the folks in the States often got to see them broadcast on the same day.

1964 Summer Olympics
Tokyo, Japan - More Info

So off to Tokyo we head for the Summer Games, and we've got a newcomer on the scene... NBC. This would be their first crack at the whole Olympic Broadcaster role, serving up 12 hours of total coverage (of a schedule 14 hours). This is also the first time that the rights fee for a Summer Olympics broke the $1 million mark, with the network paying $1.5 million for the rights.

NBC's entry is notable because they introduced satellite coverage of the Games, producing more timely coverage. The Opening Ceremonies were also broadcast in color for the first time, capturing the first Olympics in Asia, though the events themselves remained in black/white.

NBC 1964 Winter Olympics Logo

And it's here that we can start our look at broadcaster logos! I pulled this image from an NBC media guide, but unfortunately, it's only available in black & white. You'll note that the original NBC Peacock icon is used, nicknamed "The Bird". This logo originated in 1956, and emphasized NBC's color television programming. A revised version of The Bird was created in 1962 with additional animation, making its debut in front of the Western TV show, Laramie... thus earning the nickname "Laramie Peacock." While the design of the bird is pretty much the same as the 1956 version, the animation and supporting background music were drastically different. It's most likely this version of the Peacock that was combined with the Olympic rings in this Tokyo representation.

1956 NBC Peacock icon

Observe that the logo does not reflect the official host city emblem for Tokyo, as later broadcasters such as ABC later used. Not being in color, I'm not sure what hues the background stripes behind the Olympic rings are supposed to be.

In short, it's a rather simple logo, heavily emphasizing the location of the Games in large type ("TOKYO"); the font does not match the official logo. At the same time, this logo visually brands the network that showcased the event, and you'll see NBC's peacock appear in later logos as well.

1968 Winter Olympics
Grenoble, France - More Info

1968 brought us both the Winter and Summer Olympics being broadcast by ABC. The rights fee was $2,500,000, with the network airing 27 hours of coverage from France.

By this point in time, the entire broadcast was in full color and satellite enabled, providing live coverage for select events.

ABC's extensive coverage of France's Jean-Claude Killy during the alpine events (he won 3 gold medals) and America's own Peggy Fleming in skating (winning the only gold for the U.S.) helped to popularize the Winter version of the Olympics in the States.

1968 Summer Olympics
Mexico City, Mexico - More Info

With the Games back in North America, most of the footage from the Mexico City Olympics was carried live by ABC. Their $4,500,000 rights fee allowed them to show 43.75 hours of coverage.

These Games brought with them quite a few controversies, including the infamous "Black Power" salute made by Tommie Smith and John Carlos while receiving their medals for track & field. The IOC banned the athletes for life.

That wraps up the 1960s. In our next installment we tackle the 1970s and actually have some Olympic Broadcaster logos to talk about!

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