Opening ceremony coverage extended

NBC to start broadcast half-hour earlier

NEW YORK -- NBC's look at rehearsals for Friday's opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics has led the network to extend its tape-delayed coverage a half hour.

The ceremony now will be broadcast to American audiences at 7:30 p.m. ET/PT, NBC Sports announced during Sunday night's telecast of the NFL Hall of Fame Game from Canton, Ohio. The previous plan was to televise the ceremony beginning at 8 p.m. for four hours.

But NBC Sports said the ceremony looked so good during dress rehearsals that it figured out a way to get the party started sooner. There's no way to help, however, the fact that due to the time difference the ceremony will have been over for hours before the coverage begins.

In an interview Thursday with The Hollywood Reporter, NBC Sports Chairman Dick Ebersol marveled at Wednesday's first complete dress rehearsal, which he had seen with NBC Olympics anchor Bob Costas in the stadium. The ceremony, footage of which had been leaked on You Tube before being taken down, was created by "House of Flying Daggers" filmmaker Zhang Yimou. Ebersol said that it was the best he'd seen since his first in person during the 1968 Winter Olympics in Grenoble, France.

"This is the first one I've ever been to that they could have put on the first dress rehearsal. It could have been the show," Ebersol said. "They are that together. It is the most visually spectacular Olympic opening ceremony, winter or summer, I've ever seen in my life."

Ebersol said that Yimou had "pulled off a cinematic, stadium extravaganza. There's just a feast for the eyes everywhere. From the floor of the stadium to the heights of the stadium, everything is part of his visual show. I've never seen anything like it."

Sunday's announcement was one of several tie-ins between NBC's "Sunday Night Football" and the upcoming 17-day extravaganza that is the Beijing Olympics. Play-by-play announcer Al Michaels conducted an interview with colleague Cris Collinsworth in Beijing, where Collinsworth is preparing for his correspondent duties for NBC Olympics.