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Pat Imig

If ESPN broadcast the Olympics

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With the massive ratings success the Beijing games have brought NBC, the mainstream networks are eager to get their corporate hands on future events. Not surprisingly, that includes the Worldwide Leader in Sports.

Bidding for the 2014 Games from Sochi, Russia and the 2016 Summer Olympics will likely unfold over the next six to nine months, according to ESPN officials. A firm deadline is expected by October 2009, when the IOC determines whether Rio de Janiero, Madrid, Tokyo or Chicago will host the 2016 Games.

Given NBC Universal’s ratings and digital-media success with the current Games, which held an $894 million rights fee, the bidding will likely surpass the $1 billion mark, a floor ESPN is bracing for.

Safe to say an ESPN-hosted Olympics is a distinct possibility. But what would that mean for viewers? I've given it some thought and realized "the Olympics on ESPN" would more or less resemble mass hysteria.

Tons of Chris Berman - He'd secure the role of Bob Costas and we'd see his discount-rack ties, wrinkled pants and severe comb-over every night. He'd occasionally be joined by Tom Rinaldi and Jeremy Schaap for the sap features a la Mary Carillo. Nastia "that faucet is Liukin" anyone?

Wall to Wall Coverage -The 2016 Summer Games would be broadcast on ESPN, ESPN 2 and ABC, ESPN News would run special Olympic updates every 15 minutes, and ESPN Classic would air classic Olympic highlights. Since the highlights would be limited to ESPN-broadcast events, it would serve as a Chris Berman marathon. Also consider the advent of a new ESPN channel, "ESPN Karolyi", broadcasting nothing but Bela Karolyi 24/7. Frankly, I'm pulling for that one.

"Olympics Tonight" -A new highlight show spawns in the mold of "Baseball Tonight" and "NFL Live". Following in the Bristol tradition, the "Olympics Tonight" studio would include a mock swimming pool, mock high dive, mock track and mock balance beam. If it means Mark Schlereth and John Kruk will be involved in mock-swimming and mock-diving, consider me a loyal viewer. Ditto for Linda Cohn on the balance beam.

Warm Cereal -Following in the path of "Cold Pizza", ESPN presents a new variety show for the Olympics titled "Warm Cereal". ESPN's version of MSNBC's critically panned "Olympic Update" will feature Skip Bayless as the Tiki Barber of the show. Yikes.

Over-Zealous Interviews -Like Andrea Kramer before them, Rachel Nichols and Sal Paolantonio will interview athletes 20 seconds after they're done competing, just so you can't comprehend a word the athlete is saying because he or she is still out of breath. It gives that authentic "Olympics feeling".

Extras -Be sure to check out ESPN the Magazine with your official Olympics preview. When you're not reading, go on out to your local cell phone service provider and purchase the Mobile Olympics Phone for just $579! And don't miss out on limited edition ESPN Olympic Ice Cream Bars, stocked in your local grocer's freezer!

Wall to Wall Coverage II -To use this year's athletes as an example, there will be a Shawn Johnson Cam, Michael Phelps Cam and Usain Bolt Cam. The mini-cameras serve as a GPS tracking device so viewers can keep tabs on the athletes' daily activities via the ESPN Bottom Line -- even when the athlete isn't competing in an event. Imagine it similar to the following:

PHELPS: three fried egg sandwiches, six doughnuts, one box of Crunch Berries.

Countdown to the Olympics -Immediately after the the 2012 games, ESPN begins it's countdown to 2016 with a classic Olympic moment every day. That will include 1461 one-minute highlights just so, you know, you don't forget who has the 2016 games (it's ESPN). The segment will be hosted by Brett Favre.

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