LONDON >> If NBC wants to show Usain Bolt’s 100-meter victory on tape delay, the IOC says that’s up to the network.
Bolt’s blinding dash in the signature event of the London Olympics on Sunday came at 4:50 p.m Eastern time. NBC broadcast the race on television hours later in prime time, frustrating fans accustomed to watching action as it happens and sharing instant reaction through social media.
On Monday, International Olympic Committee spokesman Mark Adams deflected criticism aimed at NBC, which is the biggest financial backer of the Olympic body.
“It’s certainly not for us to tell them how to reach their audience,” Adams said, adding that NBC live-streamed the race for online viewers. “If you wanted live, you could get it live.”
With Bolt chased home by teammate Yohan Blake and former Olympic champion Justin Gatlin, the 100 fulfilled its billing as the main sprint showdown between Jamaica and the United States.
Other track and field finals shown later by NBC included the women’s 400, in which Sanya Richards-Ross won the first American gold medal in the Olympic Stadium.
Richards-Ross said at a news conference Sunday night that the broadcast coverage at home was “a little disappointing.”
“I know probably everyone at home probably knows the results already, but hopefully they’ll still tune in to watch it,” she said. “But I do think that they’re doing their best to try to get the most viewers to be able to watch it.”
NBC has exclusive U.S. rights for the London Games. It struck a $2.2 billion deal with the IOC in 2003, which included rights to the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics.
“Obviously, NBC are a good partner of ours,” Adams said. “Clearly they know their audience best. They have got absolutely record figures for these games. They tried to get the moment where it would reach the biggest possible audience, which they did.”
NBC has experience built on broadcasting every Summer Olympics since 1988. It also has shown every Winter Games since 2002 in Salt Lake City. The network will extend that run through 2020 after signing a package last year for four games.
NBC will pay $4.38 billion to the IOC for those exclusive rights. The deal includes all broadcast platforms, including Internet, cell phones and handheld devices.
“This secures the financial future for the next decade of the Olympic movement,” IOC President Jacques Rogge said after signing the contract in June 2011.
London Olympics organizing chief Sebastian Coe, a former track great, also defended NBC as a “very, very good partner.”
“It inevitably has to be for the broadcaster to decide what and how and where they schedule,” said Coe, who had not expected the glamour 100-meter event to be shown live. “I’m not sure that the 100 meters final has been shown live in the U.S. for many years. I don’t think that’s unique to London.”