US broadcaster NBC will not send any of it specialist commentary teams to cover the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic due to fears over Covid-19, USA Today reported on Wednesday.
Greg Hughes, vice-president of communications for NBC Sports, was quoted by USA Today as saying that commentary teams for sports such as figure skating and Alpine skiing would instead be based in the US.
“The announce teams for these Olympics, including figure skating, will be calling events from our Stamford [Connecticut] facility due to Covid concerns,” Hughes told the newspaper.
“We’ll still have a large presence on the ground in Beijing and our coverage of everything will be first rate as usual, but our plans are evolving by the day as they are for most media companies covering the Olympics.”
USA Today reported that main Olympic anchor Mike Tirico would be in China for the Games’ opening ceremony on February 4 before heading back to the US a few days later.
NBC officials said the coverage plan for Beijing was similar to the strategy used for the Tokyo Olympics last year.
The report noted that the broadcaster was concerned that staff testing positive for Covid-19 in China could be faced with lengthy stays in quarantine.
“The Beijing model is going to be very similar to Tokyo in that the heartbeat of our Olympic operation will actually be in Stamford, Connecticut, at our NBC Sports headquarters,” said Molly Solomon, NBC’s president and executive producer of the network’s Olympics production.
“With Covid’s changing conditions and China’s zero-tolerance policy, it’s just added a layer of complexity to all of this so we need to make sure we can provide the same quality experience to the American viewers. That’s why we are split between the two cities.”
NBC has held the US broadcasting rights to the Olympics since 1988.
In 2014, the broadcaster paid a mammoth $7.75 billion to the International Olympic Committee to extend its rights deal through the 2032 Olympics.