NBCUniversal unveils plans for unprecedented 7,000 hours of Tokyo Olympics programming

Tokyo Olympic Games: Fifty Days To Go
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NBCUniversal announced plans to present 7,000 hours of programming surrounding the Tokyo Olympics this summer.

The unprecedented coverage, making the 17-day event “the biggest media event ever,” according to the release, begins Tuesday, July 20, with six hours of live softball coverage on NBCSN, which includes the gold-medal favorite U.S. team against Italy in the sport’s return to the Olympics for the first time in 13 years.

It continues Wednesday, July 21, when the U.S. women’s soccer team takes on Sweden — the country that took the U.S. out of contention for an Olympic medal in the quarterfinal round in Rio — on USA Network.

Then builds in earnest with NBC’s first-ever live morning broadcast of an Opening Ceremony on Friday, July 23, followed by a full day of Olympic content.

NBC’s first coverage of an Olympic Games was the Tokyo 1964 Olympics. This year’s Tokyo Games marks the 11th consecutive Olympics presentation and ninth consecutive Summer Games for NBC, both records for a U.S. media company.

The wall-to-wall programming will service both English- and Spanish-language viewers, spanning two broadcast networks, six cable networks and multiple digital platforms.

“After a devastating year, the world comes together again, finally, in Tokyo this summer,” Molly Solomon, Executive Producer and President, NBC Olympics Production, said in the release. “We are going to deliver the most comprehensive — and accessible — coverage for any sports event in history.  The depth and breadth of our broadcasts will be unprecedented, showcasing once-in-a-generation athletes and storylines that will capture the incredible uniqueness of these Games and our times.”

The NBC broadcast network will air 250 hours of the biggest stories of the Games, including 17 consecutive nights in primetime with host Mike Tirico. “TODAY” and “NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt” will be on site with live coverage from Tokyo.

Five cable networks — USA Network, CNBC, NBCSN, Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA and GOLF Channel will present more than 1,300 hours between July 20 and the Closing Ceremony on Aug. 8.

NBC Sports Digital will stream all 41 sports and 339 medal events on the Olympic program — plus all ceremonies — on NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports app for 5,500 hours of streaming. Peacock’s full plans are forthcoming.

Telemundo Deportes will present the most extensive Olympic coverage ever in Spanish-language media focusing on those stories and disciplines that are relevant to the U.S. Hispanic audience, with over 300 hours of programming across Telemundo and Universo.

Additional highlights of the unparalleled programming include:

  • The men’s and women’s gold medal basketball games will air in primetime on NBC on Aug. 6 and Aug. 7, respectively, marking the first time the women’s final will be seen entirely in primetime since 1996
  • NBCSN will televise 440 hours of competition around the clock, including badminton, beach volleyball, equestrian, fencing, softball, soccer team handball, table tennis, plus long-form coverage of U.S. team sports in primetime
  • USA Network, airing its eighth Olympics, will provide 388.5 hours, including basketball, beach volleyball, cycling, diving, soccer, swimming, track and field, triathlon, volleyball and water polo
  • For its 11th Games, CNBC will air 124.5 hours that includes skateboarding’s Olympic debut, plus archery, canoe/kayak, rowing, rugby and water polo
  • Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA will also be home of Olympic tennis and wrestling this summer, presenting 242 hours
  • GOLF Channel will show 111 hours, including live coverage of the men’s tournament from 6:30 p.m.-3 a.m. ET from July 28-31; the women’s tournament airs live at the same times Aug. 3-6
  • NBC Sports Digital will provide a “Team USA Tracker” stream for select gymnastics sessions, allowing fans to follow the U.S. men’s and women’s artistic gymnastics from apparatus to apparatus throughout the competition
  • Telemundo network is planning 187 hours of live coverage, while its cable network Universo will have 122 hours, all of which will be streamed on the Telemundo Deportes website and app. Spanish-language coverage will focus on U.S. athletes but also on Games’ biggest stories of Latin American Olympians, such as Mexico’s men’s soccer team, BMX gold medalist Mariana Pajon of Colombia and two-time Olympic medalist diver Paola Espinoza of Mexico

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Football takes significant step in Olympic push

Flag Football
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Football took another step toward possible Olympic inclusion with the IOC executive board proposing that the sport’s international federation — the IFAF — be granted full IOC recognition at a meeting in October.

IOC recognition does not equate to eventual Olympic inclusion, but it is a necessary early marker if a sport is to join the Olympics down the line. The IOC gave the IFAF provisional recognition in 2013.

Specific measures are required for IOC recognition, including having an anti-doping policy compliant with the World Anti-Doping Agency and having 50 affiliated national federations from at least three continents. The IFAF has 74 national federations over five continents with almost 4.8 million registered athletes, according to the IOC.

The NFL has helped lead the push for flag football to be added for the 2028 Los Angeles Games. Flag football had medal events for men and women at last year’s World Games, a multi-sport competition including Olympic and non-Olympic sports, in Birmingham, Alabama.

Football is one of nine sports that have been reported to be in the running to be proposed by LA 2028 to the IOC to be added for the 2028 Games only. LA 2028 has not announced which, if any sports, it plans to propose.

Under rules instituted before the Tokyo Games, Olympic hosts have successfully proposed to the IOC adding sports solely for their edition of the Games.

For Tokyo, baseball-softball, karate, skateboarding, sport climbing and surfing were added. For Paris, skateboarding, sport climbing and surfing were approved again, and breaking will make its Olympic debut. Those sports were added four years out from the Games.

For 2028, the other sports reportedly in the running for proposal are baseball and softball, breaking, cricket, karate, kickboxing, lacrosse, motorsports and squash.

All of the other eight sports reportedly in the running for 2028 proposal already have a federation with full IOC recognition (if one counts the international motorcycle racing federation for motorsports).

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Helen Maroulis stars in wrestling documentary, with help from Chris Pratt

Helen Maroulis, Chris Pratt

One of the remarkable recent Olympic comeback stories is the subject of a film that will be shown nationwide in theaters for one day only on Thursday.

“Helen | Believe” is a documentary about Helen Maroulis, the first U.S. Olympic women’s wrestling champion. It is produced by Religion of Sports, the venture founded by Gotham Chopra, Michael Strahan and Tom Brady. Showing details are here.

After taking gold at the 2016 Rio Games, Maroulis briefly retired in 2019 during a two-year stretch in which she dealt with concussions and post-traumatic stress disorder. The film focuses on that period and her successful bid to return and qualify for the Tokyo Games, where she took bronze.

In a poignant moment in the film, Maroulis described her “rock bottom” — being hospitalized for suicidal ideations.

In an interview, Maroulis said she was first approached about the project in 2018, the same year she had her first life-changing concussion that January. A wrestling partner’s mother was connected to director Dylan Mulick.

Maroulis agreed to the film in part to help spread mental health awareness in sports. Later, she cried while watching the 2020 HBO film, “The Weight of Gold,” on the mental health challenges that other Olympians faced, because it resonated with her so much.

“When you’re going through something, it sometimes gives you an anchor of hope to know that someone’s been through it before, and they’ve overcome it,” she said.

Maroulis’ comeback story hit a crossroads at the Olympic trials in April 2021, where the winner of a best-of-three finals series in each weight class made Team USA.

Maroulis won the opening match against Jenna Burkert, but then lost the second match. Statistically, a wrestler who loses the second match in a best-of-three series usually loses the third. But Maroulis pinned Burkert just 22 seconds into the rubber match to clinch the Olympic spot.

Shen then revealed that she tore an MCL two weeks earlier.

“They told me I would have to be in a brace for six weeks,” she said then. “I said, ‘I don’t have that. I have two and a half.’”

Maroulis said she later asked the director what would have happened if she didn’t make the team for Tokyo. She was told the film still have been done.

“He had mentioned this isn’t about a sports story or sports comeback story,” Maroulis said. “This is about a human story. And we’re using wrestling as the vehicle to tell this story of overcoming and healing and rediscovering oneself.”

Maroulis said she was told that, during filming, the project was pitched to the production company of actor Chris Pratt, who wrestled in high school in Washington. Pratt signed on as a producer.

“Wrestling has made an impact on his life, and so he wants to support these kinds of stories,” said Maroulis, who appeared at last month’s Santa Barbara Film Festival with Pratt.

Pratt said he knew about Maroulis before learning about the film, which he said “needed a little help to get it over the finish line,” according to a public relations company promoting the film.

The film also highlights the rest of the six-woman U.S. Olympic wrestling team in Tokyo. Four of the six won a medal, including Tamyra Mensah-Stock‘s gold.

“I was excited to be part of, not just (Maroulis’) incredible story, but also helping to further advance wrestling and, in particular, female wrestling,” Pratt said, according to responses provided by the PR company from submitted questions. “To me, the most compelling part of Helen’s story is the example of what life looks like after a person wins a gold medal. The inevitable comedown, the trauma around her injuries, the PTSD, the drive to continue that is what makes her who she is.”

Maroulis, who now trains in Arizona, hopes to qualify for this year’s world championships and next year’s Olympics.

“I try to treat every Games as my last,” she said. “Now I’m leaning toward being done [after 2024], but never say never.”

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