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For 539 NBC hours, researchers rule

FESTIVE TEST: Speed skater Allison Baver once was drug tested at the Sundance Film Festival.

FESTIVE TEST: Speed skater Allison Baver once was drug tested at the Sundance Film Festival.

Since ABC Sports hired its first researcher — Dick Ebersol, a future head of NBC Sports — before the 1968 Winter Games in Grenoble, France, television networks have dispatched people to immerse themselves in the Olympics to find information to use in their telecasts.

In the predigital age, there were no websites filled with pre-Olympic results. News about athletes moved slowly among countries.

Now, information once contained in huge binders fits on a thumb drive. Access to news and results is almost instantaneous. And unlike the 43½ hours ABC televised from Innsbruck, Austria, for the 1976 Winter Games, five NBC Universal networks will carry 539 hours of live coverage next month from Sochi, Russia, and nbcolympics.com will stream at least 1,000 more.

Still, the job of NBC's five researchers is unchanged: prepare the networks in advance, and keep the producers and announcers updated. The big payoff is hearing a nugget they unearthed used in a broadcast. "That doesn't get old," said Alex Goldberger, a researcher since 2010.

weirdest drug test sites: Athletes must keep the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency informed of their whereabouts 365 days a year so drug testers can find them at any time. Among the strangest places they have been tested, via Cosmopolitan magazine: a car repair shop (Alpine skier Heather McPhie), the Sundance Film Festival (speed skater Allison Baver), church (snowboarder Kelly Clark) and at a donor meeting for the American Diabetes Association (curler Ann Swisshelm).

For 539 NBC hours, researchers rule 01/11/14 [Last modified: Saturday, January 11, 2014 9:41pm]

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