In 1990, the International Olympic Committee announced that the 1996 Summer Olympic Games would be held in Atlanta. It would mark the first time that a Summer and Winter Olympics would not be held in the same calendar year and it would also mean that the U.S. TV network televising the games would get the bulk of the action live in primetime.
NBC won the bid for the Summer games and prepared to show 171.5 hours of action. This marked the very last Olympics to be shown on just one network. In 2000, NBC began showing the Games on multiple platforms. And instead of taking advantage of the eastern time zone and showing events live, NBC showed many on tape, delaying events that had taken place just hours or even mere minutes before in an effort to insert features and create drama. Despite protests from critics and hardcore Olympics fans, the games had fantastic ratings for NBC and led the network to maintain its tape delayed philosophy for the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia.
Well, enough of this history lesson, let’s get to some video clips showing how NBC, CBC and BBC all covered the games.
Let’s start with this ID that NBC stations played for the beginning of the Games.
On July 19, NBC began its coverage with the Opening Ceremonies from Turner Field and here’s Bob Costas voicing the into. Pretty dramatic and the familiar Bugler’s Dream is used for the intro.
And here’s the opening of the Olympics, isolated from the previous video.
To compare, here’s CBC’s opening sequence for the Atlanta Olympic games, the first summer games it telecast since 1988.
Here’s the lighting of the cauldron as Janet Evans is the last athlete to get the torch, then she hands it off to Muhammed Ali to light the Olympic flame to signify the start of the Games. Bob Costas and Dick Enberg had the call in one of the most memorable moments in Olympic history.
Let’s head to track & field and one of the closest finishes ever. Gail Devers wins the 100 meters by a hair over Merlene Ottey.
This is the first half of the 400-200 meters double pulled off by Michael Johnson as called by Tom Hammond and Craig Masback.
And this is the 200 meters won by Michael Johnson in world record time as called by the BBC.
Over to swimming, Alexander Popov of Russia and Gary Hall, Jr. of the USA squared off in the 100 meters final. The familiar team of Dan Hicks and Rowdy Gaines had the call.
In gymnastics, this moment was not even seen live. Here’s Kerry Strug’s vault that won the team competition for the United States. Tim Daggett and Elfi Schlegel were the analysts and John Tesh who was totally over the top in these games had the call.
Here’s Shannon Miller, America’s most decorated gymnast, doing the floor exercise before Kerry’s vault. Ignore the plug at the end of the video.
From the All Around, this is Russian gymnast Svetlana Boguinskaia’s routine in the floor exercise. This was Svetlana’s third Olympics. There’s not much you say to describe this clip other than Svetlana was definitely trying to tell us something. We’re fortunate that John did not say much in this clip.
Luckily, NBC hired Al Trautwig to replace John Tesh on gymnastics in Sydney.
This is the opening to BBC’s Olympic Grandstand program using the theme to “Gone With the Wind” as a backdrop. I like this opening. And Des Lynam is the host.
Just as with the 1988 Olympics videos, I cannot embed the closing credits to NBC’s coverage of the 1996 games, but you can see them here. Bob Costas closed them out, then there was the obligatory video done to Beethoven’s Ode to Joy and the credits done to Randy Edelman’s music.
We’re just 12 days away from the Olympics. Next week, videos for the 2000 and 2004 Olympic Games. Yes, we’ll be doubling up so be prepared.