These Winter Olympics are going to be different, mainly because they’re on CBS instead of ABC.
Jim McKay, for the first time since 1960, isn’t be the prime-time host. Baseball commentator Tim McCarver and morning news anchorwoman Paula Zahn will serve as co-hosts.
With the competition getting into full swing today, get ready for such people as new baseball play-by-play man Sean McDonough on bobsled and luge, auto racing announcer Ken Squier on short-track speed skating and football announcer Verne Lundquist on figure skating.
John Madden at one time was scheduled to be part of the CBS team in and around Albertville, France, although it is hard to imagine him calling such events as the biathlon.
Madden didn’t make the final cut, though. One problem was getting him to France. He doesn’t fly, and the Maddencruiser doesn’t float.
CBS hasn’t televised an Olympics since 1960, when it did both the Winter and Summer Games.
McKay was with CBS in 1960 and worked Winter Olympics at Squaw Valley, Calif., as a reporter. Walter Cronkite was the host.
McKay later switched to ABC and became an Olympic fixture through the 1988 Winter Games at Calgary. ABC for years called itself the “network of the Olympics.”
Now it’s CBS’ turn. Counting Saturday’s coverage, CBS will devote 116 hours to the Albertville Games, 30 more than ABC had from Calgary.
Plus, TNT will offer 45 hours of weekday coverage. The TNT co-hosts will be Nick Charles and Fred Hickman.
The CBS lineup of commentators includes some big names, such as Katarina Witt and Scott Hamilton on figure skating and Andy Mill, husband of Chris Evert, on Alpine skiing.
The lineup also includes some lesser-known names, such as John Fee on luge and Jeff Hastings on ski jumping.
And news types such as Mike Wallace, Morley Safer, Charles Kuralt and Andy Rooney will be whizzing around the Alps, filing stories.
Kuralt will offer a particularly captivating piece tonight on the mountainous terrain.
The CBS telecasts will be divided into five parts: weekday mornings, 7-9 a.m.; midday highlights, noon-12:30 p.m.; prime time, 8-11 p.m.; late-night highlights, 11:30-midnight, and weekend daytime at varied times.
During two hours of daytime coverage Saturday, CBS covered a first-round hockey game between Canada and France, plus downhill and ski-jump practice sessions. Later came the opening ceremonies.
Today, the first full day of competition, there will be more hockey, men’s luge, women’s cross-country skiing and freestyle skiing from 11 a.m.-2 p.m., then U.S.-Italy hockey, men’s luge, ski jumping and women’s speedskating from 2-6 p.m.
Prime time tonight offers the men’s downhill and pairs figure skating.
TNT’s daytime weekday coverage, beginning Monday, will run from 10 a.m.-3 p.m., which is three hours earlier than it runs in the East.
Generally speaking, except for some of the weekend daytime coverage, just about everything on CBS will be delayed in the West. About a third of the morning coverage during the week will be live in the East but delayed three hours in the West.
On Sunday, Feb. 23, the final day, the gold-medal hockey game will be shown live in the East at 9 a.m. and in the West at 6 a.m.
Sports fans don’t like delayed coverage for the obvious reason--it eliminates the suspense.
But in the case of the Winter Olympics, delayed coverage isn’t all bad.
For one thing, results usually aren’t as important as the spectacle.
How many people really care how American Duncan Kennedy fares in the luge? The exciting part is just watching. And the luge doubles is twice as exciting.
We may learn that Midori Ito has beaten Kristi Yamaguchi for the gold medal in figure skating, but we’ll still watch it.
The advantage of delayed coverage, from CBS’ standpoint, is that it allows time to produce a tightly edited, organized program. And, the CBS people say, it also enables them to insert commercials judiciously and unobtrusively.
CBS says it generally will have fewer commercials than ABC did from Calgary, 10 1/2 minutes an hour instead of 12.
Radio coverage: For those who want to get the results before watching the events on television, KNX will carry 200 reports from CBS radio throughout the Games. They’ll generally run at 45 minutes past the hour, beginning at 3:45 a.m., except on Sundays, when they begin at 6:45 a.m.
Both television and radio crews with have their hands full covering these Games. Although Albertville is the host city, the competition is spread over a 618-square mile area and 10 sites in the Savoy.
“The principal advantage of the Albertville site is that it is one of the most beautiful places on earth,” said Neal Pilson, CBS sports president. “The disadvantage is that logistically it will be a difficult Olympics to cover because the mountainous terrain makes it a challenge.”