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This comes from a novel.

Speeches were pressed into soundbites and heats were truncated into finals.

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    Welcome to ELL.SE. Please provide the name and author of the novel; context is of prime importance in understanding the intended meaning of any writing. – choster Nov 23 '15 at 1:56
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For context, this seems to come from a novel named Gold and is referring to changes made to the format of the Olympics resulting from demands of TV schedulers. The sentence prior describes what is happening.

Heats is a racing term that refers to smaller and shorter races that occur for championship points, or to determine starting position. Usually they are leading up to the final championship race.

In this case, schedulers wanted more tense, exciting television action, so they put pressure on the Olympic committee to do away with long speeches, and less momentous racing events.

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  • That makes complete sense, and gives the context I didn't have. – BobRodes Nov 23 '15 at 1:14
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I don't have enough context to give you a complete answer, but the general tone of the sentence is that there was limited time to get things done so things were abbreviated. A speech is a long public statement. A soundbite is a short public statement, suitable for a news piece on television, for example.

Now, to answer your question: in a 100-meter dash (for example), the track will typically have eight lanes to run in. If there are 32 contestants in a race, there will be four "heats" of eight runners each, followed by a "final" with the first- and second-place winners of each of the eight heats. To "truncate" something is to chop it off to make it fit a particular length or space. So, in this case, they are chopping off all of the preliminary heats and only running the finals. Presumably, they have some way of cutting down the field to the number of contestants in the finals, without actually running the heats.

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  • I know truncate means' cut'.That's why it made me so confused. Thank you for answering my question! – colona Nov 23 '15 at 2:05
  • I've never been in the Olympics, but the swimming events I competed in did not take the heat winners to the finals. They took the best times recorded across all heats. That means if the best eight times were all in the same heat, then none of the swimmers from the other heats made it to the finals. That could happen often because the heats were usually created by putting the fastest swimmers together into one heat, then the next eight fastest, etc. Being in the slowest heat was bad because you couldn't have the best competition driving you to be faster. – Todd Wilcox Nov 23 '15 at 16:03
  • That makes sense. My recollection of heats comes from grade school city track meets in the 60's, and I suspect they didn't have enough stopwatches and referees to do that. :) – BobRodes Nov 24 '15 at 3:16

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