Bob Costas: NBC 'dealt the worst hand imaginable' with Beijing Olympics

For 25 years, Bob Costas was the face of the Olympics on NBC Sports. And until he stepped away for the Tokyo Games last year, Costas had served in a lead role of every Summer Olympics since 1988.

Just about any kind of drama, controversy or logistical problems (including his famous bout with pink eye) that could possibly arise in covering the Games, Costas has probably been there.

Yet the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, somehow, look and feel different.

“My friends and colleagues at NBC have been dealt the worst hand imaginable,” Costas, 69, told the New York Times.

Bob Costas at the anchor desk is a familar sight to NBC Sports viewers, especially when it comes to the Olympics.
Bob Costas at the anchor desk is a familar sight to NBC Sports viewers, especially when it comes to the Olympics.

From the lack of spectators due to China's COVID-19 restrictions, to the network's decision to have almost all of its commentators work out of its studios in Stamford, Connecticut, to the tenuous relationship between the United States and the host country, the task of televising these Olympic Games is fraught with challenges.

While the events will certainly produce their share of feel-good stories and thrilling competition, the political tensions over China's human rights policies will always be looming.

“The circumstances put an inevitable damper on the whole thing,” Costas told the Times. “The average person now fully understands the nature of the Chinese regime. It’s not something that just news nerds are aware of. This is broadly understood.”

In an appearance last month on CNN, Costas characterized reporting on the Olympics as "quasi journalism," because the network pays such a huge rights fee to broadcast and promote the Games -- and it's in its best interests to show things in a positive light.

However, many staples of Olympic coverage – sights and sounds from traveling around the host country or post-competition interviews with athletes and their families – won't be possible this time around.

"Inevitably, no matter how good a job they do," Costas said of his NBC colleagues, "those circumstances are going to have an impact.”

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Bob Costas: Televising 2022 Olympics full of challenges for NBC