Katie Couric Talks "Monumental Task" of Covering the Olympics and Security Concerns
The news anchor, who is heading to Pyeongchang, South Korea, to host the Opening Ceremony on Feb. 9, also weighs in on the hardest thing about the gig and Trump's Twitter habits.
Katie Couric's return to NBC's Olympic coverage marks her fourth time as co-anchor of an opening ceremony after covering a half-dozen as co-host of the Today show, first with Bryant Gumbel, then with Matt Lauer (she's called the misconduct allegations against Lauer "disturbing" and "distressing" but declines to say more). Couric, 61, hopes the Games — among the last communal events in an increasingly fractured media universe — will be a temporary antidote to the country's polarization. "This is an event that people can feel really good about, that won’t cause a bunch of arguments in their living rooms," she says. "For me, it's just fun to be a part of something that's so positive."
What is the hardest thing about hosting the Opening Ceremony?
It’s cultural commentary, sports commentary, geopolitical commentary. It's a spectacle and always so beautiful and such a magnificent display of national pride, you don't want to be yammering on incessantly. You want people to feel as if they're there, so that they can enjoy everything that's unfolding.
And there's always something that people don't like about NBC's coverage.
Today, anyone with a phone is a critic. I think they do an incredible job covering the Olympics. It is a monumental task to pull this off. It would be fun to see every critic on Twitter try to pull it off.
If NBC had asked you to do this when Kim Jong Un was firing missiles over Japan, would you have said yes?
I probably would have given it even more thought. But it seems that tensions have cooled for the moment. So as Colin Powell would say, I do not answer hypotheticals.
The Olympic venues are 60 miles from the DMZ. Have you been briefed on security protocols?
I went to Moscow a year ago to interview Edward Snowden and had to get a special phone. And I showered with the lights off. I haven't got a list of protocols yet, but I'm sure I will.
Did you ever harbor dreams of Olympic stardom?
Well (long pause) no. I was a gymnast and I ran track. I was actually a very fast runner when I was quite young. They used to pull me out of fourth grade to race against sixth-grade boys. I used to put Bengay on my legs and cut my hair so I would weigh less and run faster. But I don't think I ever thought that I had the right stuff to be an Olympian. But I was extremely competitive and I did love sports. I guess as a real sign of my generation, I became a cheerleader. And cheerleading has now gotten much more athletic. But if I had to do it over again I would have forgone the pompoms and stuck with sports.
Who was the first Olympian to make an impression on you?
This shows how long I’ve been watching the Olympics. It would be Peggy Fleming, Dorothy Hamill, Olga Korbut, Nadia Comaneci. I really admired some of the incredible women. I remember the Fosbury Flop, remember Dick Fosbury? He was the high jumper.
It's the first Olympics in the era of Trump. Do you think his tweeting and cable news coverage of his tweets will be a distraction?
Maybe he'll take a hiatus during the Olympic Games. I think people, no matter what their political persuasion, hopefully they’ll put aside their differences for a bit and celebrate something that is a chance for the world to come together in some way.
A version of this story first appeared in the Jan. 31 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.