ESPN said Thursday that due to concerns over Covid and Covid-related restrictions that it will not send its news personnel to the Winter Olympics next month in Beijing. The news comes a day after rightsholder NBC said it will keep most of its announcing teams in the U.S. during the Games, which are set to run February 4-20.
ESPN had planned to send four reporters to China; it sent five to the Summer Olympics in Tokyo last year. With NBC holding rights, ESPN along with other U.S.-based news outlets has certain restrictions on usage of video but covers the Olympics via SportsCenter and via a dedicated Olympics vertical.
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“With the pandemic continuing to be a global threat, and with the Covid-related on-site restrictions in place for the Olympics that would make coverage very challenging, we felt that keeping our people home was the best decision for us,” ESPN’s EVP Event and Studio Production & Executive Editor Norby Williamson said.
NBC with its rights deal will have by far the biggest contingent of U.S. media on the ground in Beijing.
“We’ll still have a large presence on the ground in Beijing, and our coverage of everything will be first rate as usual, but our plans are evolving by the day as they are for most media companies covering the Olympics,” NBC Sports’ SVP Communications Greg Hughes told USA Today earlier this week.
Beijing organizers have been trying to keep up with the shifting demands of putting on an Olympics during a global pandemic. Last week, officials said they will not sell tickets to attend events in-person, instead selecting “groups of spectators” with few other details provided.
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