Rio Olympics: Bob Costas Defends Tape-Delayed Opening Ceremony, Talks "Corrupt" Russian Doping

Bob Costas - Getty - H 2016
Cindy Ord/Getty Images

NBC's lead host addresses concerns about the Games, those pink-eye memes and checking Twitter during the events: "Not only don’t I do it, I wouldn’t even know how to do it."

Bob Costas is the lead host and face of NBC’s primetime coverage of the Rio De Janeiro Olympics, his 12th Games. In the run-up to Friday’s opening ceremony, Costas, 64, called The Hollywood Reporter from his hotel room in Rio. 

How’s your room? 

Fine. It even has high-def TV; now if only I spoke fluent Portuguese.

Kidding aside, why do negative news stories always seem to follow the Olympics?

We are aware of the long list of potential issues in Rio. We will acknowledge them as the Games begin, and we will cover them if and when they impact the Games themselves.

NBC has said the opening ceremony will be a "curated" experience, which immediately invited criticism from the live purists. Are these complaints overblown?

The complaints about the opening ceremony strike me as silly. The opening ceremony is just that, a ceremony. A performance. It is not a competition. It makes perfect sense to delay it, and only by an hour on the East Coast, so that any minor tweaks — none of which would remove anything essential — can be made. As for the West Coast, who in their right mind wants this on in the afternoon instead of in primetime? 

Do you pay attention to the memes that pop up on social media while you’re covering the Games?

Generally, no. But I couldn’t help but be aware of some of what was out there about my pink eye at the last Olympics. Actually, I thought some of it was kind of funny. But as far as checking Twitter, not only don’t I do it, I wouldn’t even know how to do it.

What will your day be like once the Games get going?

I will probably be at the studio each day early- to mid-afternoon and be there until 1 or 2 in the morning. The rest of the time, you just try to sleep, maybe get to the gym for 45 minutes or so, and spend the rest of your waking hours getting updated by the research team. If I have any downtime at all, I’ll spend it memorizing my lines for when I replace Matt Damon in the next Jason Bourne sequel.

Which events do you most look forward to seeing?

I hate to be obvious, but the Olympic finales of Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps will be can’t-miss moments. Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross against the outstanding Brazilian contenders [in beach volleyball] should be a great scene on Copacabana Beach. And everyone is anxious to see if Simone Biles of the U.S. and Kohei Uchimura of Japan emerge from the Olympics regarded as the best all-around female and male gymnasts ever.

So far, 17 Russian athletes have been banned for doping. How do you think this will impact the Games?

I don’t think it will have any effect on how people feel about the genuinely great performances they will see. But it does raise doubts, not only about the Russian sports system — which is clearly corrupt — but about doping elsewhere in sports, including the Olympics. And of course, those doubts have existed for quite some time.

When you think back over all of the Olympic Games you’ve covered, is there one moment that stands out?

I could pick at least a dozen that would be a legitimate answer to that question, but when I am forced to choose, I have always gone with Muhammad Ali lighting the Olympic torch at the opening ceremony in Atlanta in 1996. It had so much meaning on so many different levels.

And the worst?

Same Olympics. The bombing in Centennial Park in 1996.