(ATR) "We are ready and Rio is ready."
So says Mark Lazarus, the chairman of NBC Sports Group and the man in charge of Olympic coverage for the United States audience.
There seems little doubt in the validity of the first half of that statement, given the presentation NBC Universal put on for a group of journalists including Around the Rings in New York on Monday.
A series of slickly-produced video segments and a live remote interview with golf announcers Mike Tirico and David Feherty were interspersed with details of NBC’s ninth consecutive Olympics and its 15th overall.
Gary Zenkel, president of NBC Olympics, says Rio is his 11th Olympics and "this may be the smoothest buildup that I’ve experienced" in terms of preparation to broadcast the Games.
The various networks and digital platforms of NBC Universal will be offering a record 6,755 hours of programming for the Rio Games, 1,220 more hours than was produced for London 2012.
As for whether Rio is ready, prime time host Bob Costas says the many issues facing Rio in the run-up to the Games will be part of a one-hour prime time preview special live from Rio on Aug. 4, the day before the opening ceremony.
NBC says its news division will be based in Rio during the Games and will be keeping a close eye on events around the Games.
For the third consecutive Olympics, NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports app will live stream 4,500 total hours that will include all Olympic competition.
But the opening ceremony will still be broadcast on a tape delay. This time, however, it’s only one hour.
"This is the closest to live we’ve done," says Lazarus, "In London it was five hours, in [Sochi] Russia it was nine hours."
Lazarus explains the one-hour delay "allows us to put it into a time period when more people are at home to watch and it allows us to curate it with narrative and storytelling of our announcers to explain what is going on and it allows us to put in commercials without cutting large chunks of the show."
There are five events that will be prominently featured in the prime time coverage hosted by Costas: gymnastics, swimming, track and field, diving and beach volleyball.
Swimming and beach volleyball will be live along with "a lot" of the track and field while the gymnastics and diving will be on tape, according to Jim Bell, the executive producer for NBC Olympics.
The absence of the banned Russian track and field team in Rio will not have much effect on how NBC will handle their coverage.
Lazarus explains "There’s not a lot of star power there, at least star power familiar to U.S. audiences. So I don’t anticipate it having a large impact on our audiences. We will of course mention that [the ban] during the Games and if there was an athlete that would have been competitive for a medal we will mention that that athlete was not allowed to compete."
Lazarus called the absence of many of the world’s top male golfers "surprising and disappointing". He says that it’s a distinction male golfers have over the other 10,000 athletes who are coming to Rio.
Many of the golfers cited the Zika virus as the reason for passing on the Rio Games. Such has not been the case with NBC employees. Lazarus says less than two handfuls of the 2,600 staff decided to skip the trip to Brazil due to the mosquito-borne illness. They were reassigned to Olympic coverage at NBC’s Stamford, Connecticut offices.
Reported by Gerard Farekin New York
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