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Bruce McAvaney in sad development as role for Paris Olympics thrown into major doubt

The legendary commentator appears unlikely to call the Games later this year.

Gerard Whateley and Bruce McAvaney.
Channel 9 are looking to get Gerard Whateley (second from R) after missing out on Bruce McAvaney. Image: Getty

The iconic voice of Bruce McAvaney will likely be missing from coverage of the Paris Olympics later this because Channel 9 hold the broadcasting rights. McAvaney is one of the most famous voices in Australian sport and has been calling the Olympic Games since 1984 in Los Angeles.

All up he has covered 12 Olympics as a commentator, and provided some of the most iconic moments in Australia's sporting history at the Games. His call of Cathy Freeman's gold medal triumph in the 400m at the Sydney Olympics will live long in the memories of sporting fans who witnessed it - and even some who didn't.

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But it appears as though he won't be taking part in the Paris Games in July, with reports emerging that he won't be be part of Channel 9's coverage. McAvaney has scaled back his commentary commitments in recent years and no longer calls the AFL with Channel 7.

However he still leads the Seven Network's horse racing coverage and called the Canberra Track Classic and Maurie Plant athletics meets in recent weeks. But with Channel 9 having the TV rights for the upcoming Paris Games, it looks like McAvaney won't be taking part.

Johanna Griggs and Bruce McAvaney, pictured here at the Sydney Olympics in 2000.
Johanna Griggs and Bruce McAvaney at the Sydney Olympics in 2000. (Fairfax Media via Getty Images)

Channel 9 hoping to get Gerard Whateley for Paris Olympics

According to the Herald Sun, the Nine Network tried to secure McAvaney's services for the Games, but didn't have any luck. The Seven Network have since denied reports they "dug their heels in" in regards to releasing McAvaney to join the rival network, labelling those claims "completely incorrect".

Channel 9 have reportedly turned their attention to Gerard Whateley of Fox Footy and SEN instead. Whateley is said to be keen to call the Olympics for the network and has lobbied Fox Footy and SEN for a one-off release for the three-week event. The move was apparently rejected by Whateley's current employers when first floated last year, but further negotiations are said to be taking place.

Whateley was shadowing McAvaney as he called the athletics at the Maurie Plant meet last week, and is said to hold the 100m final at the Olympics as a 'bucket-list' desire to commentate. The veteran media man could follow in the footsteps of Eddie McGuire, who has been allowed to work across a variety of networks while contracted to others in recent years.

Dave Culbert and Tamsyn Manou, who worked alongside McAvaney at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 with Channel 7, have both been snapped up by Channel 9 for the Paris Games. But who the lead athletics caller will be remains to be seen.

Bruce McAvaney with Sally Pearson.
Bruce McAvaney with Sally Pearson ahead of the Rio Olympics in 2016. (Getty Images)

Sporting fans saddened over Bruce McAvaney development

If McAvaney isn't in the commentary box, it will surely come as a huge blow to Australian sporting fans. The 70-year-old proved he hasn't missed a beat as he called teenage phenom Torrie Lewis in Canberra recently.

He also worked on Channel 7's coverage of the Women's World Cup last year, and although soccer isn't his strong suit he held his own and won widespread praise. The broadcasting legend called over 1000 AFL games, including 20 grand finals, before walking away from the sport in 2021.

Apart from a five-year absence between 2002 and 2006 when Seven lost the TV rights, McAvaney has always been at the front of the AFL's free-to-air coverage. "I felt like I got to a stage in my career where I had to reduce my workload," he said in 2021. “I’m going to miss it enormously...I’m going to have to move on and just be a fan like everybody else.”

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