At Rio's 'midnight' Olympics performance may suffer

Fri Jul 10, 2015 11:06pm EDT
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By Stephen Eisenhammer

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Rio de Janeiro may have a penchant for late-night parties, but scheduling of events past midnight at next year's Olympic Games could be a real test of endurance for the world's greatest athletes.

Academics and athletes fear the late hour could hinder performance and result in fewer world records and displays of athletic mastery at Rio 2016 as competitors struggle to adjust training and sleep patterns.

The schedule, partly the result of broadcast contracts, will see some swimming finals, beach volleyball and basketball matches run into the early hours. After media, warm down, drug testing and the taxi home, athletes might not be in bed until 3-4 am local time.

Athletics is also due to be held late, with finals finishing after 11 pm.

"It's going to be a challenge and could impact on times," said Marc Woods, a former British swimmer who won 12 Paralympic medals in five separate Games.

What will be the latest finals at an Olympics in recent memory has brought into focus the tension between sponsors, broadcasters and the sports they support and televise.

While viewing figures are vital for the funding of nearly all Olympic sports, athletes and fans have long expressed concern over the rising influence of television and advertisers.

"It kind of stinks. They're not really looking out for the athletes," said Dara Torres, a former U.S. swimmer who won 12 Olympic medals across five Games between 1984 and 2008.   Continued...

Residents play beach volleyball during at night on Copacabana beach, where the Olympic beach volleyball will take place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, July 9, 2015.  REUTERS/Sergio Moraes