10:35am PT by Michael O'Connell
Sochi: Bob Costas Could Be Benched for Duration of Winter Olympics
Shortly after announcing that Meredith Vieira would be pinch-hitting for Bob Costas during Friday's primetime Winter Olympics coverage, the journalist and NBC Olympics executive producer Jim Bell spoke with reporters about the lingering saga of Costas' eye infection.
The sportscaster, who has been the primetime face of the Olympics since 1992, is not in any condition to return to the job -- and though Bell says they are still taking it one day at a time, his condition is not clearing up as quickly as originally expected.
"I think he's shown some improvement of late," said Bell. "It's our hope that he'll be back, but it remains to be seen as to when."
Bell added that it was too soon to rule Costas out of the Olympic picture completely, but it could come to that: "Getting into next week, it may become a topic of conversation, but we're not there. … We'll wake up tomorrow, see how Bob is doing and make a decision then."
Vieira, who makes history on Friday night as the first woman to anchor NBC's primetime Olympic coverage solo, seemed excited about the opportunity but expressed her hopes that Costas would soon relieve her.
When asked how long she was prepared to take over the reins -- Matt Lauer, who anchored Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, has been pulling double duty with his Today gig -- Vieira said, "As many days as they ask me to do it."
Unlike Lauer, Vieira's Olympic obligations are such that she could feasibly hold down primetime for the rest of the games, which run through Feb. 23. She came to Sochi for interviews and to co-anchor the Opening Ceremony.
"But I'm hoping Bob is back tomorrow," she added. "There isn't enough vodka."
Bell also took the opportunity to discuss NBC's long-teased doc on the Nancy Kerrigan-Tonya Harding ordeal that's come to define the 1994 Winter Olympics. The special marks the first time that Kerrigan has reflected on being clubbed by a hitman hired by Harding's ex-husband.
"In all likelyhood, it's going to air on the last night of the Olympics," said Bell. "We've been holding it in our back pocket in case of weather."