The 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, will not begin for another 16 months, but already there are winners.
One is the North American viewer, who will have an opportunity because of the made-for-television schedule to watch 135 of NBC's 179 1/2 hours of coverage from Seoul live and 80 1/2 hours in prime time.
ABC had only 1 1/2 hours more of prime-time coverage during the 180 hours it televised of the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.
The schedule, released this month at the International Olympic Committee's session in Istanbul, Turkey, is the result of prolonged and sometimes quarrelsome negotiations between the Seoul Olympic Organizing Committee (SLOOC) and the international federations for each of the 23 sports involved in the Sept. 17-Oct. 2 Summer Games.
NBC officials could hardly have been more pleased with the outcome, which means the SLOOC accomplished its goal in the negotiations.
Michael Eskridge, NBC executive vice president, said last week the schedule is "absolutely superb."
Not so enthusiastic are some sports officials and athletes, who are concerned that morning and early afternoon starting times, scheduled for the benefit of the American television audience, may adversely affect performances.
At the same time, most say they understand the need to accommodate American network television, which pays many of the Olympic movement's bills with its rights fees.
Of the 237 finals in the 23 sports, almost half will be held between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Taking into consideration the time difference of 17 hours, those finals will be on television in Los Angeles between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. the night before. With a 14-hour time difference between Seoul and the East Coast, New Yorkers will be able to see those finals between 8 p.m. and midnight.
"It's a trade-off," said Todd Smith, executive director of U.S. Diving. The earliest of the four diving finals, the women's springboard, is scheduled for 10 a.m.
"It may not be the perfect time to dive, but it's equal for everybody. Our technical diving committee was won over when it remembered that the men's platform final in Los Angeles in 1984 began at 11 a.m., and it was one of the best competitions we've ever had.
"We, of course, also like being on prime-time television. It's more exposure for our sport."
Among other sports that have morning or early afternoon finals scheduled are those that for U.S. television ratings are considered the big five: track and field, boxing, gymnastics, swimming and basketball. One women's semifinal basketball game is scheduled for 9:45 a.m.
In an effort to maximize its potential television revenues, the Seoul organizers submitted a tentative schedule to the three major American networks that would have forced some athletes to compete in finals as early as 8 a.m. That schedule was amended after discussions with the international federations.
The South Korean government also announced plans to return to daylight-saving time in 1988 to make the SLOOC's schedule even more attractive to the American networks. Using standard time, an event that begins at noon in Seoul would begin at 11 p.m. in New York instead of the more preferable 10 p.m.
"We say we are going to daylight-saving time for other reasons, but it's really for the Olympics," said one SLOOC official, who did not want to be identified.
When NBC won the bid over ABC and CBS, it became even more important for the SLOOC to provide an attractive schedule for American audiences because of a unique contract with the network.
The SLOOC will receive at least $300 million from NBC, with the potential for another $200 million depending on the network's profits from advertising sales.
ABC paid the L.A. Olympic Organizing Committee $225 million.
"The better the schedule is, the better we'll do in advertising sales," Eskridge said. "The better we do in sales, the more we can pay the organizing committee."
At the guaranteed rate of $300 million, that is two-thirds of the television rights fees the SLOOC has negotiated. Japan has agreed to pay $52 million, the European Broadcasting Union $28 million, Network Ten in Australia $7 million and Hong Kong's Asia Television $900,000. Discussions are in progress between the SLOOC and television interests from Canada, Africa, Eastern Europe and Central and South America.
Eskridge said NBC had little input into the schedule because it already was weighted in favor of the American networks. In other words, don't blame NBC.
"A lot of the adjustments that were made because of the location of the Games were made prior to the bidding (among the networks)," he said. "The only changes that have taken place since we became directly involved are in the area of fine-tuning."
Eskridge said his only disappointment is that, because of a conflict in the main stadium, the men's marathon winner will not cross the finish line on Oct. 2 until about 4:45 p.m. That is 2:45 a.m. in New York and 11:45 p.m. in Los Angeles.