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A week since he last appeared during NBC’s primetime and late-night coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympics, Bob Costas returns to the Sochi desk on Monday night. He’s still recovering from pinkeye (viral conjunctivitis, he confirms), which spread from his left to his right eye, so he cautions that viewers shouldn’t expect to see him looking 100 percent.
“As people will see tonight, there’s still some redness there,” he told reporters on Monday. “They’re less than what they used to be. I’ll be able to function. … It won’t have any effect on what I do. It won’t look as bad as what it did the last night on the air. It probably will look better in 10 days, but the Olympics will be over.”
His worst symptoms, light sensitivity and blurriness of vision, have passed.
Missing in action since signing off last Monday, Costas’ chair was filled by Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira. And though there have been updates along the way, his general whereabouts have been a mystery.
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“The worst three days of it I was primarily in a darkened room,” said Costas. “There were other times, just to break the monotony, I would walk down to the lobby of the hotel to go to the restaurant our out on the terrace at night.”
Costas’ Black Sea-facing hotel room terrace was about all of the fresh air he got while he was sidelined. The worst of his pinkeye kept him from watching TV at all, but after a few days, he started catching up on Olympic coverage when a feed to all NBC networks was patched into his hotel room.
He said that he turned the dial away from the Olympics at only one point — to catch Saturday’s NCAA basketball game between Syracuse and North Carolina State. His alma mater, No. 1 ranked Syracuse, pulled out the win.
Costas also confirmed that he briefly thought he might be out for the entire remainder of the games. “There was a point, three or four days ago, where I thought there was a 10 percent chance that this might happen,” he says. “I always thought it was likely that I would be back today.”
As for the fevered public interest in his eye infection and lengthy absence, Costas says he’s avoided it completely but is aware that he’s gone “viral” in more ways than one.
Joining him on the Monday call was NBC’s Olympics executive producer Jim Bell. After half-jokingly calling Costas’ absence a “long nightmare,” Bell came to the defense of Christin Cooper — whose Sunday interview with Alpine skier Bode Miller drove him to tears after repeated questions about the death of his brother.
“It’s part of their story. I don’t think it’s particular to the Olympics,” said Bell, adding that Olympians’ relative-unknown status gives reporters “an even bigger responsibility” to tell personal stories. “Bode himself took to Twitter to defend Christin Cooper and did so again on Today. It ought to take some of the temperature down on it — or should, anyways.”
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