The BBC has won the rights to broadcast the Olympic Games up to the 2020 Olympics.

The new BBC deal – covering television, radio and digital rights for Sochi 2014, Rio 2016, Pyeongchang 2018 as well as the yet-to-be-decided host of the 2020 Games – will continue an Olympic broadcast arrangement that has been unbroken since Rome 1960.

But the BBC had to fend off rivals who had been in serious discussions with the International Olympic Committee to test the UK Government's protected list of sporting events, which includes all of the Olympic Games.

It is understood Sky had considered buying all of the rights and then selling off a free-to-air component to the BBC, or alternatively setting up a similar channel themselves, to specifically distribute a small amount of the 5,500 hours of Olympic coverage to circumvent the Government's rules.

However the IOC has been swayed by the BBC's long-standing commitment to the Games, its support of the sports outside Olympic periods, and its extensive free of charge penetration in to the UK audience.

The BBC will broadcast the London Olympics across 24 platforms – television and internet as well as radio.

Last month the IOC President Jacques Rogge told Telegraph Sport: “What we look for is the guarantee of the coverage and the quality.”

The BBC is understood to have paid much more than the £60 million it paid for the London Olympic rights, but compared to other rights fees the IOC has extracted around the world, the fee is considered relatively light, by sources familiar with the negotiations.

The BBC deal is the last major broadcast market the IOC had to complete and comes just weeks after the Premier League rights for the next three years were sold to Sky and BT for a record £3.2 billion.

The IOC has previously completed 2014-16 Olympic deals with France for £80 million, Germany for £120 million, Spain for £66 million and Italy for £141 million.

It has raised £2.32 billion across the globe for the next Olympic period, already up on the total raised for the London Games of £2.515 billion.

Mark Thompson, BBC director general, said: "I'm delighted that the Olympic Games will continue to be broadcast exclusively on the BBC into the 2020s. It's terrific news in the days before BBC Sport begins to cover the London 2012 Games and a tribute to the enduring partnership between the BBC and the Olympic movement."

Dominic Coles, chief operating officer 2012 Olympics, who negotiated the deal, said: "It's vital that big national and international events like the Olympic Games remain free-to-air where they can be watched by the greatest number of people.

“We're delighted to continue our long-standing partnership with the Olympics and the IOC, adding to BBC Sport's outstanding rights portfolio and firmly establishing the BBC as the home of major sporting events that unite the nation and this deal demonstrates that BBC Sport remains a force in sports broadcasting.”

By Jacquelin Magnay, Olympics Editor