THE Tour de France cycling race will remain on free-to-air television in major European markets including Britain and Italy until 2019 after organisers agreed a new broadcast deal.
Commercial broadcaster ITV will show the three-week Tour in Britain, while state-owned RAI will screen it in Italy. Pay-TV companies have made big inroads into the sports rights market in those two countries.
British riders from Team Sky, backed by BSkyB, have won the Tour in the last two years but the pay-TV company has been unable to secure live rights to the event. “We are clearly in the midst of a golden era in cycling in Britain and, more than ever before, the Tour De France is a landmark event in the sporting calendar,” said ITV’s Director of Sport Niall Sloane, who welcomed the new deal.
ITV has shown the race since 2002 and has benefited from a surge in interest in Britain, propelled by the Tour wins for Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome in the past two years.
The agreement was signed by Tour organisers ASO and the European Broadcasting Union, an alliance of broadcasters across the continent. Eurosport will show the Tour in more than 60 countries under the new terms.
Illustrating the expansion of broadcast technology, rights holders will be able to offer the Tour and a number of other major cycling races online, via smart phones and through social media networks.
Meanwhile, retired and disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong has yet to hand back his Sydney 2000 Olympic medal to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) nine months after losing it, officials said yesterday.
The American lost his seven Tour de France titles last year and in January admitted to years of performance-enhancing substance use in the most spectacular drugs case in recent years.
Following his public confession, the IOC ordered the return of the bronze medal he won in the time-trial at the Sydney 2000 Games and declared the race results void. IOC Vice President Thomas Bach, who also heads the IOC’s judicial commission, said the former rider had not challenged the decision.
“We still do not have the medal back,” Bach told an IOC session in the Argentine capital. “We will continue to work with the United States Olympic Committee to get this medal back as requested in our decision. This [the IOC’s January] decision has been communicated to Mr Armstrong and the USOC. This decision has not been appealed neither by Mr Armstrong, nor by the USOC and what we are lacking, sadly, is getting back the medal. Legally the case for the IOC is closed.” The once-revered athlete is battling to hang on to what remains of his reputation and his earnings and is fighting several lawsuits, including one from the US Justice Department.
In February, the justice department said it was joining a fraud suit filed in 2010 by Floyd Landis, a former Armstrong team-mate. Landis filed the suit under a federal law that allows whistle-blowers to report fraud in exchange for a reward.
The US Postal Service paid $40 million from 1998 to 2004 to have Armstrong and his team mates from Tailwind Sports wear its logo during record-breaking wins, with at least $17.9 million going to Armstrong.