Monday, February 11, 2013

The NBC false claim - and opening night of 1980 Winter Olympics on ABC

NBC recently issued a press release claiming that its planned coverage of the 2014 Sochi Olympics would feature the first ever prime time event coverage before the opening ceremony. However, this NBC claim is false. In 1980, ABC opened its Winter Olympics coverage in prime time on Tues 2/12 from 9:30 - 11 pm ET, one night before the opening ceremony on Wed 2/13. (For completeness, ABC did the same thing in 1984 for the Sarajevo games.)

<Update 2/25/2013: ABC also provided prime time coverage the night before the opening ceremony in 1976 for the Innsbruck games (per a blog comment which I have verified).>

I watched the Olympics on ABC that opening Tuesday in 1980 and recall the oddity of televised event coverage prior to the opening ceremony. I also found multiple newspaper archives which supported my memory. Today, I was involved in some Twitter exchanges which helped proved this claim false - Fang's Bites provided a nice summary.

I also just found video proof which further supplements this research. This ABC promo clip runs down the ABC prime time schedules including the Olympics coverage for both 2/12 and 2/13:

The ABC coverage that first night included Al Michaels and Ken Dryden calling parts of the USA-Sweden hockey game from Lake Placid. That game took place 33 years ago tomorrow.


  1. Yes! I'm glad you called them on this! I actually wrote a couple of weeks ago about the TV Guide that had the beginning of the Sarajevo Olympics, and it was right there in black-and-white - Olympic hockey one night, the opening ceremonies the next.

    It's one thing for NBC to try and get away with that kind of scam when there's no documentation to dispute it, but this is ridiculous!

  2. Hi Jeff,

    An account of ABC's 1980 Winter Olympics coverage
    2/12: 9:30 - 11PM EST after "Happy Days", "Goodtime Girls" and "Three's Company"
    2/13: 9PM - 10:30 EST; ABC aired "Eight Is Enough" before the Olympics and a special half-hour of "20/20" after
    2/14: 8:30 - 11PM EST after "Mork & Mindy"
    2/15: 8PM - 11PM EST
    2/16: 9PM - 11PM EST after "One In A Million" and the "Three's Company" spinoff "The Ropers"
    2/17: 7PM - 11PM EST
    2/18: 9PM - 11PM EST (after "All Star Family Feud")
    2/19: 8PM - 11PM EST
    2/20: 9PM - 11PM EST (after "Charlie's Angels")
    2/21: 8PM - 11PM EST
    2/22: 8:30 - 11PM EST (ABC aired "Pink Panther Olympinks" at 8PM then the tape-delayed "Miracle On Ice")
    2/23: 8PM - 11PM
    2/24: 7PM - 10:30 PM (ABC News Special aired at 10:30)

    Daytime coverage:
    2/13: 2PM - 4PM EST (ABC aired an afterschool Special appropriately entitled "The Olympic Gold Medal")
    2/16: 1PM - 3:30 EST (ABC aired a half-hour "American Bandstand" at 12:30, Pro Bowling at 3:30 and Wide World of Sports at 5PM)
    2/17: 1PM - 3:30 EST (ABC aired Championship Superstars at 3:30 and Wide World Of Sports at 4:30)
    2/23: 12:30 - 3:30 EST (ABC aired Pro Bowling at 3:30 and Wide World Of Sports at 5PM)
    2/24: 11AM - 1:30 PM and 2:30 - 5PM EST (ABC aired WCT Tennis at 1:30 and Wide World Of Sports at 5PM)

    Hard to believe there were only 12 days of Olympics coverage back then.

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  4. In 1976, ABC also carried 90 minutes of prime-time coverage on the night prior to the Opening Ceremonies of that year's Winter Olympics, and for the same reason: To show an edited version of the first game of the U.S. men's hockey team, which like in 1980 and 1984, was played the day before the Opening Ceremonies, along with a short preview of the Games.

    In fact, the 1984 "night before the Opening Ceremonies" show took up all of prime-time (three hours), with two of those hours being the complete first-round U.S. men's hockey game (with the intermissions edited-out), taped that morning, and the other hour being a general preview.

    ABC hyped the '84 team as being as good as the '80 team, and capable of repeating. But most hockey experts believed that the best the 1984 team could do would be to win a bronze medal--and only if one or two other contenders stumbled.

    1. Thanks for the comments! I verified that you are correct about the 1976 coverage so I updated the entry to reflect that info.