STAMFORD, Conn.—Amid rising concerns about the spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, NBC Sports has confirmed that its sports announcers for the Winter Games will be working from the network’s studios in Stamford Conn.
“The announce teams for these Olympics, including figure skating, will be calling events from our Stamford (Conn.) facility due to COVID concerns,” Greg Hughes, senior vice president communications, NBC Sports, told USA Today. "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.”
Responding to similar worries about COVID-19 and the strict health and safety restrictions that limit interactions with athletes, ESPN has also decided not to send news personnel to Chinese.
“The safety of our employees is of utmost importance to us,” said Norby Williamson, ESPN executive vice president, event and studio production & executive editor. “With the pandemic continuing to be a global threat, and with the COVID-related on-site restrictions in place for the Olympics that would make coverage very challenging, we felt that keeping our people home was the best decision for us.”
ESPN had planned to send four reporters to China, after dispatching five employees to last year’s Summer Olympics in Tokyo, but those reporters will now join a larger group dedicated to covering the Games remotely, ESPN said. As was the case with the Summer Olympics, organizers have taken steps to make information and online interviews available for media outlets covering the Games remotely. ESPN has multiple reporters assigned to do so for both television and digital news platforms.
In recent years, NBC Sports has deployed a host of technologies for remote productions that have allowed them to limit the amount of staff needed at the Olympic Games and carry out many tasks from their facilities in Stamford Conn.
During a surge in COVID cases during the Tokyo Olympics last summer, that infrastructure allowed a number of announcers to work remotely.
While NBC Sports has about 250 people on site in Beijing, it has more than 1,000 people who will be working on the games at its Stamford hub, NBC Sports executives explained earlier this week in a presentation outlining their coverage.
Prior to the decision that almost all the announcers will be providing commentary and coverage on the action from Stamford, NBC Sports had already been planning to cover a number of sports remotely.
COVID restrictions put in place by the Chinese government would also have made it difficult to get too close to athletes during the games.
Olympic host, Mike Tirico, will, however, be in China for the Feb. 4 opening ceremony, USA Today reports.
George Winslow is the senior content producer for TV Tech. He has written about the television, media and technology industries for nearly 30 years for such publications as Broadcasting & Cable, Multichannel News and TV Tech. Over the years, he has edited a number of magazines, including Multichannel News International and World Screen, and moderated panels at such major industry events as NAB and MIP TV. He has published two books and dozens of encyclopedia articles on such subjects as the media, New York City history and economics.
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