August 23, 2008

NBC to Televise More Phelps

Trying to keep the Michael Phelps glow, NBC has agreed to televise next year's World Swimming Championships from Rome, along with the 2009, 2010 and 2011 national championships. The deal, announced Thursday, is NBC's latest attempt to ride the wake of the Olympic golden boy's race to history. In large part because of Phelps' successful attempt to win eight gold medals in Beijing, NBC Universal's Olympic telecasts have been a ratings success. Phelps' coach, Bob Bowman, had told the AP earlier that Phelps would definitely compete in Rome. Bowman said that in Rome the swimmer will focus on relays and shorter events, including the 100-meter freestyle and one of the backstroke events.

In closing

Olympic closing ceremonies usually offer less of a spectacle than opening nights, and the Beijing finale will have less than half the participants -- but that's still about 7,000 people. NBC Sports executive David Neal said yesterday he traveled 90 minutes west of Beijing to see a rehearsal of the ceremony conducted in secret on a college campus. Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou, who directed the opening ceremony, does the same for the Sunday's finale, set to air via tape delay at 7 p.m. on WPXI-11 and NBC affiliates. The opening ceremony was seen by 34.2 million people in the United States, a bigger audience than this year's "American Idol" finale. Sunday's closing is also expected to feature an eight-minute segment from London, site of the 2012 games, with Michael Phelps, David Beckham and a performance by singer Leona Lewis with Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page. The Beijing finale will have a completely new cast. Neal said none of the 15,000 people who were in the opening ceremony will be in the finale.

Country of conversions

Christian groups who flouted a Chinese ban on foreign missionaries are calling their underground evangelizing during the Olympic Games a success. Drawn to a nation of 1.3 billion people under atheist rule, the groups prepared for years for what the Southern Baptists once called "a spiritual harvest unlike any other." Christian missionary Mark Taylor of Pensacola, Fla. said 115 people from 12 countries gathered in Thailand for orientation before scattering throughout China, from Tibet through the far northeast. Two groups worked in Beijing, he said, though he would not give details. China tried to keep out foreign missionaries before the Olympics. It kicked out more than 100 suspected missionaries last summer, according to a U.S. monitoring group, the China Aid Association. China's intelligence services made lists of potentially troublesome evangelical Christians, and authorities tightened visa measures ahead of the games.

Originally published by wire reports.

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