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Bob Costas, Olympics EP Jim Bell Talk Zika, Issues Facing Rio

NBCUniversal’s lucrative deal to broadcast the Olympics in the United States accounts for roughly one fifth of the revenue that the International Olympic Committee generates from the Olympic Games. But NBC Olympics executive producer Jim Bell rejects the idea that NBC should have used its standing as an important financial partner to pressure the IOC to delay the games or move them from Rio de Janeiro, which has been beset by infrastructure problems and concerns over Zika virus ahead of the opening ceremonies Aug. 5.

“I don’t think so,” Bell said Tuesday via satellite from Rio during the Television Critics Association summer press tour when asked if NBC should have leaned on the IOC to make a change. “You live in a world where there are going to be issues wherever you’re going to have the games. Right now, I think you could probably make the case that Zika is a bigger story in Florida than in Brazil, than in Rio, where it is technically winter and much cooler and drier. So canceling — is Disneyland responsible for bringing people to Florida?”

Bob Costas, who will anchor NBC’s primetime coverage of the games, said that NBC’s responsibility is in how its news and sports divisions cover the issues surrounding the games. Costas laid out a number of those issues in Rio, including political and economic turmoil, rising street rim, Zika and polliuted water in which some aquatic competitions are slated to be held.

“We plan to not just acknowledge but frame all of these issues before the games begin, and if and when they impact the games as they unfold,” he said. “It would certainly be my expectation that we would not shy away from it.”

To that end, Costas is planning an interview with IOC president Thomas Bach.

“Every question that is relevant about the IOC’s handling of these Olympics, the Olympics in general, the Olympics going forward, the Olympics’ intersection with authoritarian regimes like Russia and China, the economic challenges that the Olympics may pose in the future, the security challenges — I will put every one of those questions to Thomas Bach, the head of the IOC,” Costas said. “We’ll see what happens.”

Bell noted that problems in the host city are nothing new for the Olympics.

“Every Olympics has faced issues,” he said. “That’s true in almost every case, and usually the Olympics come off without any significant difficulties. There are so many great stories in and around Brazil, but we’d be naïve to think they don’t face security problems, that their politics aren’t in upheaval, their economy is in a deep recession.”

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