Tirico will host Olympics coverage


By David Bauder

AP Media Writer

NEW YORK

The biggest change for Americans watching the Winter Olympics on television this month will likely be the first face they see on the screen.

Mike Tirico is replacing Bob Costas as host of NBC’s prime-time Olympics coverage, which starts Thursday from Pyeongchang, South Korea. Costas hosted 11 Olympics starting in 1992 until he stepped down last year. He became as identified with the event as Jim McKay was for an earlier generation.

“I’m taking the approach of I’m following him, not replacing him,” Tirico said. “You don’t replace someone like Bob.”

NBC has groomed Tirico, 51, and he’s studied up on Alpine skiing and the luge. Whether he’s well-suited for the role and accepted by the audience won’t become clear until he does it.

The job requires someone conversant in sports, of course. But he’ll also have to deal with unanticipated news events, history and pop culture. He’ll be expected to talk about the tense relations between North and South Korea and the absence of the Russian Olympic team because of a doping scandal. A sense of humor helps, too.

Costas adeptly bridged these worlds, said Andrew Billings, a University of Alabama professor and author of “Olympic Television: Broadcasting the Biggest Show on Earth.” The former host knew sports and also hosted a general-interest talk show for many years, and spoke out on issues like the dangers of football.

While most sports fans know Tirico from his years at ESPN, he’s less visible among the casual viewers who determine whether or not the Olympics are a success.

“Whoever goes in there is going to have to prove themselves, or reinvent what the job of Olympic host is,” Billings said.

Tirico’s not interested in changing the job, or pretending that he duplicates Costas’ skills and interests. “I’ll just try to take my sensibilities and curiosities and mix them in along the way,” he said.

Tirico worked as a host of NBC’s late-night Summer Olympics coverage in Brazil in 2016.

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