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Volume 20 No. 42
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Ebersol stays hard at work at Olympics, but new role gives him time to enjoy the Games

On the opening day of Olympic competition in London, Dick Ebersol went to the U.S.-France basketball game. The sight of him in line for concessions stopped one executive in his tracks.

Ebersol at an Olympics event? It was something that hasn’t been seen in the last two decades — a stretch dating to 1992, during which Ebersol was the Games’ executive producer for NBC and defined its coverage in the United States.

Dick Ebersol has emerged from the bunker he used as the Games’ executive producer.
Needless to say, it’s been a different Olympics for the former chairman of NBC Sports & Olympics.

Between 1992 and 2010, Ebersol spent the majority of the Olympics holed up in an expansive, bunker office at the International Broadcasting Center. The office had televisions for every competition so that he could keep track of events, and even a bed and a shower so that he never had to leave the broadcasting center if he didn’t have time to head to a hotel.

Plans for a similar office in London were scrapped by NBC after Ebersol left the network last year. NBC repurposed the space to make room for more employees that it wanted to bring over from the NBC Universal family of networks.

Still, Ebersol is spending the majority of his time in London working on the Olympics broadcast. He’s in the IBC most days advising Jim Bell, NBC Olympics executive producer, on broadcast decisions. He opens every day at an NBC meeting to discuss programming plans and events, but he is spending the rest of his days and nights differently than he did in the past.

He was able to take in the U.S.-France basketball game. He is staying in the same hotel as the rest of NBC’s production staff. And he often is seen outside the IBC smoking a cigar.

“He has his family here, and he’s enjoying himself,” Bell said.

Ebersol declined to be interviewed for this story.

Reduced workload aside, Ebersol’s taken as much interest in these Olympics as any that have preceded it. He was on the phone with NBC’s swimming color commentator Rowdy Gaines the day Michael Phelps won his 19th Olympic medal, asking Gaines about how Phelps looked in practice and what his mood was like.

“He’s very invested [in Michael] from a friendship standpoint,” Gaines said. “He’s been with him four Olympics, too, and Dick loves the Olympics. He has a really strong passion for them.”

While it’s been different not having Ebersol run the show in London, NBC executives are glad to have him on site as an adviser. The company opened a three-hour seminar before the Games with several executives praising his approach to the Games and saying that the approach wouldn’t change in London, Gaines said.

“There are two reasons why the Olympics are what they are today,” said Gaines, who attended the seminar. “There’s Roone Arledge and Dick Ebersol. Those are the two main factors why you see the Olympics on television the way it is. They are visionaries.”