Star-studded Olympic cast

ALISON KORN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:50 AM ET

It used to be, athletes who did well at the Olympics got to join Ron MacLean in studio. Now they'll be meeting sports babe Jennifer Hedger.

There's a new look coming for television coverage of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, as Canada's Olympic Broadcast Media Consortium yesterday announced its 91-person broadcast roster for the Games.

The look includes a helping of eye candy, along with some proven broadcast heavy-weights.

Highlighting the announcement is the return of the authoritative, silver-haired Brian Williams to cover his 13th Olympics, after sitting out the Beijing Games last summer.

Williams will lead CTV's coverage from Vancouver as host of Olympic Prime Time, where he'll be introducing the major events and conducting interviews with newsmakers and athletes at the Games.

The next highest profile broadcasters will be the combo of James Duthie, host of the NHL on TSN, and CTV hard-news journalist Lisa Laflamme. They'll co-host Olympic Daytime. Duthie also will double-shift as host of Team Canada's men's hockey coverage.

And then there's Hedger. The popular TSN sports anchor will be seen nightly on an outdoor set as the host of Olympic Prime Time in Whistler. While I'm delighted she's well-respected in her current job as co-host of SportsCentre, I cringe when the last line in her biography notes how in 2007, Hello! Magazine rated her as one of the top 10 most beautiful women on television.

This is the Olympics, not a beauty pageant. But let's accept that CTV/TSN doesn't enjoy the taxpayer dollars that CBC does, and has to attract viewers to sell ads. She'll help.

The idea of an outdoor broadcast in Whistler is creative. During the daytime, Michael Landsberg, host of TSN's Off The Record, will be the host in Whistler. He has offended more than a few athletes on his show, so I wonder if he'll be any nicer during the Olympics.

As for other talent, TSN's Chris Cuthbert and Gord Miller will call men's hockey, Rod Black will call figure skating and short track speed skating, while Vic Rauter will do curling.

The athlete analyst team includes, among others, Olympic medallists Jamie Sale and David Pelletier, Elizabeth Manley (figure skating), Beckie Scott (nordic skiing), Cassie Campbell-Pascall (women's hockey), Catriona Le May Doan (speed skating), Russ Howard (curling) and Duff Gibson (skeleton).

There also will be Olympic content all over TSN, Rogers Sportsnet, CTV National News with Lloyd Robertson, Canada AM, eTalk, MuchMusic's MuchonDemand in Whistler, and MTV.

"The breadth and depth of high-calibre talent is unparalleled and gives us star power in all areas," said Keith Pelley, president of Canada's Olympic Broadcast Media Consortium. "There is no need to go outside the consortium to build our Olympic broadcast team."

Which means athletes will miss CBC's Scott Russell, a devoted chronicler of amateur sport. There also is no doubt that he'll miss them.

"I didn't have any extensive talks with CTV about joining them for the Games," said Russell, who has covered nine Olympics. "But I remain committed to the ongoing coverage of amateur high-performance sport, something we hold very dear at CBC. I hope to return to an Olympic broadcast before my career is done. I wish my friends and colleagues at CTV/TSN the very best. They will all be part of a spectacular and momentous time in Canadian history."

Home improvement

This week, Home Depot informed the United States Olympic Committee that it's ending its sponsorship that allowed Olympic athletes to work part-time hours for full-time pay and benefits.

No such worries in Canada, though. Home Depot's partnership with the Canadian Olympic Committee ended in 2004, following the Athens Olympics.

Since 2005, there has been an even better deal for Canadian athletes, from the Canadian home-improvement giant RONA.

RONA's Growing with our athletes program provides 100 Canadian athletes with grants of $8,000 per year for five years, for a total of $40,000. And they aren't required to work in the stores.

RONA has committed $800,000 per year until 2010 for a total of $4 million to the program.


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