After six nights away from his Fortress of Solitude desk, Bob Costas will return to NBC’s primetime Olympics coverage Monday night. Speaking on a conference call with reporters this afternoon, Costas categorized his pinkeye status: “On the injury list of 1 to 10, this is now at about a 2.” The light sensitivity and blurriness has subsided, but, “as people will see tonight, there’s still some redness there,” he said. “It won’t look as bad as it did the last night I was on the air. And probably it will look better 10 days from now, but the Olympics will be over, so you just go with it.”
The worst three days, Costas said, were spent in a dark room. At times, however, he would go out on his balcony at night overlooking the Black Sea to get fresh air or venture down to the hotel restaurant. The second day he was off-air, it was arranged for him to have NBC feeds in his room, including New York and Los Angeles affiliates and NBCSN. He also had ESPN and CNN. “I got what I need,” he said.
NBC Olympics executive producer Jim Bell was on the call as well and seemed unfazed that the Sochi ratings were down from the Vancouver Games: “We couldn’t be happier with how things are going. Would it be nice to have another gold medal here or there? Sure. But that’s always the case at any Olympics.”
Bell also responded directly to criticism of the network’s handling of Bode Miller’s post-race interview Sunday, which included reporter Christin Cooper asking him repeated questions about his late brother, with the camera lingering on Miller as he cried, walked away, crouched down, and wiped his eyes again. Since Miller’s story had been set up in a package, they felt it was important to “button it up,” and, Bell noted more than once, Miller himself later defended Cooper. “So if he didn’t have a problem with it, to the contrary, he thought it was fine – he said it was what any reporter would have done in that situation and he stood by her, which he did, and the line of questioning – then I guess that ought to take some of the temperature down on it. Or should anyway. I think it has. I think the way it played out was fine.”
Asked again if he thought NBC should have cut away sooner from Miller’s emotional reaction, Bell said he would agree to disagree: “We have to make a lot of decisions every day in our coverage, and we made that one, and we’re fine with it, and the interview subject was fine with it, so I think that should be the end of it.”
When he was questioned earlier in the call about the network’s packages in general – which, for instance, also went in-depth into skeleton silver medalist Noelle Pikus-Pace’s 2012 miscarriage – Bell said he feels the network has a responsibility to tell athletes’ personal stories that are relatable. “At the Olympics, particularly because people don’t know these athletes, they don’t know their stories, they don’t know the sports, it’s even a bigger responsibility to be able to share those to get viewers to connect with these athletes and their stories and their sports.”