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When Molly Solomon told a woman from the International Olympic Committee that she would be speaking during NBC’s winning pitch to retain the Olympics, the IOC rep was shocked. “We don’t get many women who speak in this room,” Solomon, coordinating producer for NBC Olympics, recalls her saying.
After the presentation, which resulted in NBC wrapping up the U.S. rights to carry the next four Olympics, the woman gave Solomon an IOC scarf to express her admiration. To Solomon, it was a reminder of the role she plays as a top female executive in the male-dominated world of sports. “You don’t even think there are barriers, but sometimes there are,” she says.
Solomon has worked at NBC her entire career, first hired as an Olympics researcher for the 1992 Games right after graduating from Georgetown University. Former top NBC execs Dick Ebersol and Jeff Zucker both started the same way; 14 current or former Olympics researchers are working on NBC’s 2012 coverage. “It’s kind of like a fraternity,” Solomon says.
This year was Solomon’s first involvement in an Olympics bidding process, as the last time NBC bid, in 2003, she was in the hospital on bed rest, expecting triplets. Solomon is thrilled that NBC kept the Games, adding that the network’s perceived underdog status inspired them to fight even harder. “We really rallied as a team in the weeks after Dick resigned,” she says.
Ebersol, who was her boss, mentor and close friend for 21 years, gave Solomon her first production job when he named her coordinating producer for cable coverage in 1998; at the time, she had never produced before. “He gave me a new opportunity before I was ever ready for it,” Solomon says of Ebersol.
In between Olympics years, Solomon remains busy producing other sports like figure skating as well as heading talent development for NBC Sports Group, finding and training commentators for Olympics sports like handball and badminton. In 2012, Solomon will expand her role to include producing NBC’s Olympics primetime, including the opening ceremonies. To prepare, she’ll travel to London once a month for the next year.
The travel schedule is hard on her kids, but she manages with help from her husband as she balances the inherent conflicts of working motherhood, embodied by a saying posted over her desk: “Happiness is equilibrium. Shift your weight,” by the playwright Tom Stoppard. “It’s not fair to yourself if you think you can have it all,” Solomon says. “Now I’ve come to a good place where you have to identify what’s important and seek that.”
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