By Mike Hughes
LOS ANGELES -- The
Olympics always seem to bring dreams and fears, many of them
misplaced. But all of that hits new extremes in Rio de Janeiro.
People talk –
often – about the zika virus and security woes and banned athletes
and economic decay and, for athletes in open-water events, pollution.
“In some cases,
the best they've been told is, 'Try to keep your mouth closed,'”
said Bob Costas, NBC's primetime anchor. “That's rather difficult
when you are swimming.”
But alongside that
is ... well, the sheer joy of Brazil.
“The place is so
physically commanding and exotic and beautiful,” said Mary Carillo,
an NBC reporter and commentator. “The people are so warm and
friendly and I got to run around for a couple weeks.”
So did other people
doing features, she said. “Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski went to
Carnival and celebrated as only they could. They are as close to
Brazilian partiers as any North Americans can be.”
They're also former
Olympic skaters; Carillo is a former tennis star. NBC's team ranges
from athletes to a 76-year-old ex-anchor. “Tom Brokaw, in his 50th
year (with NBC), went down the Amazon and went to southern Brazil
with the Gauchos,” Carillo said.
The reports will
have plenty of chances to talk about Brazil's troubles, Costas said.
“It's not just that the president faces impeachment – more than
half of their Congress has already been indicted or is under
investigation for some kind of corruption. And the ecoonomy (is) in a
deep, deep recession.”
Still, there are the
festive parts. That's what viewers want after a rough year, Carillo
said. “I think America is ready to cheer (for) not only the
Americans, but everybody else.”
Well ... a lot of
NBC's attention will clearly be focused on Americans. Costas did
single out two superstars from other countries – Kohei Uchimara of
Japan, the dominent male gymnast, and Usai Bolt of Jamaica, the super
sprinter. But he put them in a category with two Americans.
(could become) the greatest all-round female gymnast of all time ....
Michael Phelps is already the greatest swimmer in Olympic history
.... We're talking about Mount Rushmore-type stuff.”
Those are in events
his primetime broadcasts will feature – swimming, diving,
gymnastics, the emerging popularity of beach volleyball and, in the
second week, track-and-field. Beyond that, Costas said, there will be
“a little bit of indoor volleyball (and) the gold-medal basketball
And what about the
rest – the 6,700 hours, scattered over 16 days on NBC and cable.
How will we find what we want? “I have no idea,” said Jim Bell,
NBC's executive producer. “Good luck.”
Bell did promptly
say that he was joking, then suggested nbcolympics.com. He also said
the open water has been tested and found safe for swimmers and the
zika threat is mild in this cooler time of Brazil's year. Also: “If
you download the Olympics app, I promise you'll find it and figure it
probably hopes so; she's a golfer, one of the many sports that don't
make NBC's prime time. “I definitely never thought I'd be in the
Olympics,” she said with a laugh. “How could I? This is the first
time they've had (golf) in 112 years.”
Piller grew up in
Roswell, N.M. (no she didn't see any alien after-effects) and started
golfing at 13. Now, 18 years later, she was ranked No. 29 in the
world last year and has a shot at Olympic glory.
Her event doesn't
start until Aug. 17, so she could sit to one side and listen to NBC
people talk to the Television Critics Association. Then they played a
spectacular video, backing a new Katy Perry theme song for the
Olympics. “I've got goosebumps,” Piller said afterward.
And that's precisely
what NBC figures other viewers will soon have.
-- Olympics, opening
ceremony Friday, closing ceremony Aug. 21
-- Events covered by
NBC and its cable channels