Olympics Executive Producer Downplays Rio Concerns

Related: TCA: NBC's Bell Says Brazil Headwinds Only Enhance Games' Appeal

Political unrest, the Zika virus, pollution, infrastructure delays and worries over crime. There’s been no shortage of things to be concerned about leading up to the 2016 Rio Olympics, kicking off this week.

On Aug. 2, the day before the first games begin, Jim Bell attempted to allay those concerns.

“Strictly speaking from the Olympics coverage standpoint, the venues are done, [and] the one potential issue that may come up is the promise about cleaning [Guanabara Bay] that wasn’t kept, and how it might impact the sailing competition,” NBC’s executive producer of the Games said during a media call. “They’ve done multiple test events there, and they have had success with a temporary solution they can administer during events.

“Beyond that, it’s the same [with] the past Olympics: there are always concerns, justifiable or otherwise … . In Atlanta, Sydney, Athens, London, Sochi, there were different things we had to be aware of. … We feel reasonably confident about things here.”

Calling Rio a “tale of two cities” (“They have some haunting and harrowing images, and yet right along beside it the most spectacular images nature has to offer”), Bell chose to focus on everything NBC has lined up for the Rio Olympics, instead of focusing on everything that could potentially go wrong during the next three weeks.

“A favorable time zone means just an incredible amount of live coverage … I harken back to 20 years ago [in Atlanta] when we were limited basically the Olympics being on just one television channel, and now you see it on all these different platforms, with things like 4K … and add [virtual reality] to that,” he said.

Between network coverage and NBC Universal’s digital platforms, more than 6,750 hours of programming are planned for the Olympics, with NBC itself focusing on the more popular events — including swimming, track and field, gymnastics, diving and beach volleyball — for its primetime coverage. NBC itself has approximately 2,000 people on the ground in Rio to tackle coverage of the Games.

Viewers will have several live Olympic feeds to choose from during the day, and while NBC was nervous when it chose to stream the 2012 London Games live, NBC and it’s partners feel more than confident about getting the Rio Games to consumers across platforms and devices, without any technical snafus, Bell added.

“The world is evolving in terms of [the] audience’s ability to consume and understand these technologies, and I’m hopeful, whether it’s our web site … or the Olympic app, things will be fairly intuitive,” he said, adding that TV Everywhere authentication will be a smoother process this year compared to the London Games.

This will be the 15th Olympics NBC has aired, with some major firsts planned for Rio, including 4K coverage (on a one-day delay), virtual reality, streaming directly to connected TVs, and high dynamic range and Dolby Atmos treatment of the opening ceremonies.