As the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics draw closer and COVID-19 concerns mount, NBC Sports will not send any of its broadcast teams to China, a spokesperson told USA TODAY Sports on Wednesday afternoon.
“Announcement teams for these Olympics, including figure skating, will be calling events from our Stamford, Conn., facility due to COVID concerns,” said Greg Hughes, senior vice president of communications for NBC Sports, in a statement. telephone interview.
“We will continue to have a strong presence in Beijing and our coverage of everything will be top notch as usual, but our plans are evolving day by day, as is the case with most media companies covering the Olympics.”
NBC’s broadcast teams for figure skating, downhill skiing and snowboarding were expected to be in Beijing, but those plans were cancelled.
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The network’s Olympic host, Mike Tirico, will remain in China for the Feb. 4 opening ceremony and the first few days of the Games, but will then head to Los Angeles to host the Super Bowl on Feb. 13. which is also on NBC this year.
Many of the announcer teams from the various winter olympic sports they were already scheduled to be based in Stamford. NBC employed a similar strategy for its coverage of the Tokyo Summer Olympics in July-August 2021, although some of the broadcast teams were in place for the most popular sports, such as swimming and gymnastics.
That, of course, was long before the omicron variant began to make waves around the world, prompting growing concern that anyone traveling to Beijing, from the world’s athletes to accredited members of the media , could test positive in the Games and having to spend days and even weeks in quarantine.
“The Beijing model is going to be very similar to the Tokyo model in that the heart of our Olympic operation will actually be in Stamford, Conn., at our NBC Sports headquarters. We will have more staff there than in the host city,” said Molly Solomon, president and executive producer of NBC Olympics Production.
“With the changing conditions of COVID and China’s zero tolerance policy, it only adds a layer of complexity to all of this, so we need to make sure we can deliver the same quality experience to American viewers. That is why we are divided between the two cities.”
Snowboarding analyst Todd Richards told USA TODAY Sports that NBC changed course this week due to concerns about COVID-related restrictions.
“I think they were a little bit wary that if someone tested positive for COVID, the Chinese government basically takes you and kidnaps you,” he said. “NBC has no control, so they wanted to have more control over the situation.”
In practice, Richards said, the move has little effect on his job and that of play-by-play announcer Todd Harris, because they usually aren’t close enough to the field to call the action, even when they’re on the spot. Due to COVID-related rules, all media must keep their distance from athletes.
“Anyway, in all the Olympics, we’re just looking at a computer screen,” he said.
Richards said on-air talent working from the United States will maintain a “vampire schedule” while staying on schedule for the Games in Beijing, which is 13 hours earlier than the East Coast.
“We’re talking snowboarding, and I don’t even care,” Richards said. “As long as we get to see the best snowboarding of all time, I don’t care if I’m sitting in a studio at 2 in the morning. I’m still going to be just as excited.”
Rachel Axon and Nancy Armor contributed to this report.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism