Countless hours of coverage in NBC's 2010 Olympic countdown [Updated]
Yes, the $5.7-billion NBC paid for U.S. broadcast rights to the Summer and Winter games from 2000 through 2012 had something to do with it. So when NBC was angry the U.S. Olympic Committee did not cut a deal with its "mini'' Olympic network, Universal Sports, the IOC told the USOC to cease and desist on the launch of its own planned network for the immediate future.
But there is another reason why the IOC loves its U.S. rights-holder, and that will start to be evident Nov. 4 when NBC launches its "Countdown to Vancouver,'' 100 days before the opening ceremony of the 2010 Winter Games.
The IOC wants to drum up interest in both the next Olympic Games and the idea of the Olympics.
Never has a U.S. broadcaster committed to an effort of the scope that NBC has planned to promote both its own upcoming Olympic coverage and the Olympics in general.
Using all its broadcast platforms, including NBC, Universal Sports, MSNBC, CNBC and the Weather Channel, NBC will air more than 1,250 hours of pre-Olympic winter sports competition, plus a variety of other Olympic-related segments beginning with the Nov. 4 "Today" show.
That night there will also be a prime-time Olympic segment across all the networks featuring U.S. Olympic champions Shaun White (snowboard) and Apolo Anton Ohno (short track speedskating) and the designated star-to-be of the 2010 Winter Games, alpine skier Lindsey Vonn.
[Updated 4:45 p.m. Tuesday] Expect NBC to give Vonn the Michael Phelps treatment as she goes after medals in several events. The difference is skiing is so much less predictable than swimming that no one would dare suggest Vonn should win multiple gold medals, even if she is the favorite in downhill, Super-G and combined. (An earlier version of this article said: The difference is skiing is no much less predictable than swimming that no one would dare suggest Vonn should win multiple gold medals, even if she is the favorite in downhill, Super-G and combined.)
The things Vonn can't control, like wind gusts that might hit during her run but affect none of the other skiers (which is entirely possible), mean her superior ability can be negated. That's just the inherent injustice of the sport, which is why skiers chant the mantra that the season-long World Cup is a better reflection of an athlete's prowess.
Vonn opened the 2009-10 World Cup season last Saturday with a solid ninth in giant slalom, her weakest event.
You can see plenty of Vonn on the NBC pre-Olympic event coverage, since it will broadcast (on NBC Sports, Universal Sports and Universalsports.com), the entire World Cup seasons of alpine skiing, long and short track speedskating, snowboard, bobsled and luge plus some events in freestyle skiing, ski jumping and cross-country skiing; the figure skating Grand Prix series; and the 2010 U.S. Figure Skating Championships.
Beginning Dec. 1, Universal Sports will have a "Countdown to Vancouver'' show every night (5 p.m. Pacific).
And if that's not enough for Olympic and winter sports junkies, nbcolympics.com will be up and running Nov. 4.
And I will be frequently blogging about things Winter Olympic as well.
-- Philip Hersh
Photo: Lindsey Vonn figures to be the star of NBC's enormous pre-Olympic and Olympic coverage this winter. Credit: Thomas Vonn