UPDATE, 8:30 AM: NBC has issued a news release about Bob Costas’ decision to end his streak of 157 nights of Olympics coverage. The network reiterated what Costas announced this morning on Today: that Matt Lauer will host NBC’s Olympic primetime and late-night shows tonight in place of Costas, who has an eye infection. In the news release, Costas says he bowed out tonight because, “as a practical matter, I simply couldn’t do my job because my eyes had become so blurry, watery and sensitive to light.” He added: “I’m hopeful the symptoms will improve in the next couple of days and I can return to the broadcast. Also, the last thing I want is to go through the rest of my life owing Matt Lauer a bunch of favors.”
Tonight marks the first time since CBS presented the Nagano Olympic Winter Games in 1998 that someone other than Costas will host an Olympics primetime show. It’s also the first time since 1988 that someone other than Costas will host the Olympic primetime show on NBC — a remarkable 157 straight nights. “I’m happy to keep his chair warm. Although I might Purell it before I sit in it!” Lauer said in the announcement, which noted Costas is listed as ‘day to day’ on the NBC injury report.
Costas’ full statement:
“It was becoming increasingly noticeable and uncomfortable, but if it was just that, I would have continued. We in broadcasting are lucky to have the jobs we do, and at one time or another, we’ve all gone on the air feeling less than our best.
“The difference is that last night and into this morning, it got to the point where, as a practical matter, I simply couldn’t do my job because my eyes had become so blurry, watery and sensitive to light.
“If it was just discomfort, I’d be there. I’m receiving excellent treatment…it’s a viral infection, and all you can do is try to manage the symptoms while the virus runs its course. But I’m hopeful that those symptoms will improve in the next couple of days and I can return to the broadcast.
“Also, the last thing I want is to go through the rest of my life owing Matt Lauer a bunch of favors.”
PREVIOUS, 6:20 AM: Bob Costas became the latest casualty of treacherous conditions of the Sochi Olympics, announcing on Today this morning he’s sitting out tonight’s coverage after the infection in his left eye spread to his right. Costas started his Olympics coverage for NBC on Thursday with his left eye inflamed and sporting glasses. Five days later, Costas’ now double-eye infection had become one of the Sochi Games’ talking points — and a Twitter trending topic during last night’s broadcast. “Bob Costas appears to be having a problem with both of his eyes now,” Fox Sports reported last night.
This morning, Costas phoned in to Team Today to announce he would not host the network’s coverage tonight because his eyes had gotten even worse than last night, when they looked plenty bad enough.
“Reluctantly — I was trying to throw a complete game here — but I think we’re going to have to go to the bullpen,” he told Matt Lauer. “I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but you’re Mariano Rivera, at least tonight.”
“Let’s hope it’s only tonight, because I’m walking around and I might as well be playing ‘Marco Polo.’ I have no idea where I am,” Costas added.
His eye infection has been the subject of chatter and speculation since the Games began: “Bear with me for a moment as I spare my friends in the press office countless inquiries,” he said during his first night of broadcasts, in re his left eye, which was “swollen shut and about as red as the old Soviet flag,” and the glasses. “According to the NBC doctors here, it’s some kind of minor infection, which should resolve itself by the weekend. If only all my issues would resolve themselves that quickly, but that’s another story.”
By last night’s show, Costas had abandoned the NBC doctors’ plan and was going with vodka instead, telling NBC’s Mary Carillo as he downed what was billed as a good-ish dose of the Russian booze, “My eyes can’t get any redder.” Polishing off his drink, he predicted, “Tomorrow morning I’ll be lying on a curb in Minsk.”
Costas became U.S. television’s first 10-time Olympic host, besting Jim McKay’s eight times for ABC, having served as primetime host for every Olympics on NBC since 1992. Back when NBC announced Costas’ Sochi duties, NBC’s Olympics EP Jim Bell called Costas the “foundation for our Sochi coverage both in primetime and late night.” Costas noted back then that the Olympics are a “unique television event,” in that they involve classic sports coverage, but loads of other stories as well, calling the Olympics “a three-week miniseries,” before he knew his eyes would get their own storyline.
Watch Costas’ Today phone-in here: