Ted Turner, Georgia’s Mouthy Mogul – Part 4
By Matthew Jorn
Even after the drastic change in Turner Broadcasting’s corporate makeup, Ted Turner continued to exert his energy in a brash and cavalier manner. In 1986 he financed and hosted the Goodwill Games. The games were broadcast and shown entirely on Turner Broadcasting stations. They were put on with the caveat that they were meant to help improve U.S. and Soviet relations.
This came after the 1979 invasion of Afghanistan by Soviet forces, which caused the United States and other western countries to boycott the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow. The Soviets responded four years later by boycotting the 1984 Olympics held in Los Angeles.
Turner thus decided that inventing his own international sporting event and inviting all of the begrudging parties would be a good idea. Over 3,000 athletes from 79 countries participated in the games, including the United States and Soviet Union. The athletes broke numerous world records in the pole vault, heptathlon, and cycle racing competitions, among others.
Successive games were held in Seattle in 1990, St. Petersburg in 1994, and New York City in 1998. Each new one saw less participation than the last. The games were then purchased from Turner by Time Warner Australia. They held the last games in Brisbane in 2001, which saw very low ratings in America and elsewhere.
The first (and successive) games were financial flops. The 1986 games ended up costing Turner 15 million dollars, a small price to pay to contribute to the fight for world peace, or so he suggested. In hindsight it is clear that the ever-calculating Turner was already mapping out Atlanta’s 1996 Olympic bid and his experience creating the Goodwill Games lent huge credibility to his ability to make the Olympics a success in Atlanta.
While handling the games, Turner also managed to found a new network with intentions of rivaling the big three. Turner Network Television hit the airwaves in October 1988. His company continued with its acquisitions, purchasing Hannah-Barbara’s catalogue of cartoons for its new Cartoon Network. In time, Turner Broadcasting grew to include TBS, the Cartoon Network, Headline News, Cinemax, Home Box Office, New Line Cinema, and Castle Rock Entertainment.