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ESPN Won’t Send Staffers To Cover Olympics In Beijing

The original ESPN logo on display in Digital Center 2 in Bristol, Connecticut
(Image credit: Joe Faraoni / ESPN Images)

ESPN said it will not be sending news personnel to China to cover the Beijing Winter Olympics in February because of concerns about COVID-19.

“The safety of our employees is of utmost importance to us,” said Norby Williamson, ESPN executive VP, event and studio production & executive editor. “With the pandemic continuing to be a global threat, and with the COVID-related on-site restrictions in place for the Olympics that would make coverage very challenging, we felt that keeping our people home was the best decision for us.”

Covering the Olympics from the U.S. will also be cheaper for Disney’s sports network.

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Comcast’s NBCUniversal has the rights to televise the Olympics and NBC Sports said it will have more people covering the Olympics from its Stamford, Connecticut, headquarters than it will have in China.

ESPN said it had planned to send four reporters to China. It had sent five staffers to the Summer Olympics in Tokyo. 

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“As was the case with the Summer Olympics, organizers have taken steps to make information and online interviews available for media outlets covering the Games remotely. ESPN has multiple reporters assigned to do so for both television and digital news platforms,” ESPN said.

ESPN’s website will have a special section dedicated to Olympics coverage and SportsCenter will be reporting on results and presenting Olympic information and features while working within video usage restrictions imposed by Olympic organizers and NBCU. ■

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.