Mike Tirico has an extensive resume of elite announcing assignments, including a decade at “Monday Night Football.” But he said nothing to this point matches what he will do next month: Host NBC’s prime time coverage of the Winter Olympics.
“Oh, this is the biggest thing; it’s not even close,” he said at a recent event to promote NBC’s coverage, which starts on Feb. 8. “’This is the Olympic Games. Just look at [recent] news: The Olympic Games are bringing North and South Korea together in public in front of the world to walk together in the Opening Ceremony, if that ends up playing out.
“That’s the power of the Olympics. There’s nothing that comes close to that in any of the sports we cover within our country. It’s the world. So for me it doesn’t compare to anything I’ve covered before.”
Tirico will host the Opening Ceremony alongside Katie Couric. Not in attendance: Commack’s Bob Costas, who hosted NBC’s prime time Olympics coverage from 1992 through 2016 and handed the NBC torch to Tirico early last year.
Tirico, 50, who grew up in Queens, said Costas has been a resource as he has prepared for what is an unusual television job. The prime time host does not get much air time yet is viewed as the TV face of the Games.
“It’s an amazing, unique opportunity in this business, because usually when you have these transitions they’re not smooth,” Tirico said. “This has been done with the great kindness of Bob and a true, genuine feeling of: What can I do? How can I help you?
“I’d be foolish not to ask questions of somebody who better than anybody else understands what that seat is like. So I’ll reach out and use that the best I see fit.”
Tirico said he views his role as “adding the right information, and connecting the stories that allow you to enjoy the Olympic Games at home. That’s what my responsibility is. I don’t think anybody’s going to go, ‘Hey, we have to watch the Olympics tonight because Mike’s on.’
“They’re going to watch the Olympics because of Mikaela [Shiffrin] skiing or Nathan [Chen] skating or Shaun White’s going to drop in the halfpipe . . . I’m just there to connect the dots, and since we will be live across the country when events are going on we need to keep you updated. That’s kind of what I’ve done most of my career at ESPN for those 25 years. I think it will be an easy transition for me.”
Tirico said he has enjoyed the preparation more than he expected to, in part because of chances to meet Olympic athletes, who often are more accessible and open than those in major pro team spots.
“You’ve covered a lot of locker rooms and talked to a lot of players; they get interviewed a lot,” he said. “These athlete don’t . . . There is more of a real feel to the athlete. They have not been five-star, coddled athletes as football and basketball players can be.”
NBC previewed a feature Tirico recorded last summer with skier Lindsay Vonn and her grandparents in Wisconsin, shortly before her grandfather – a Korean War veteran – died.
Tirico said his new role hit home recently when he found himself watching men’s skeleton on the Olympic Channel. “I said, ‘What has happened to my life?’” he said, laughing. “But I loved it, and I was excited to watch it.”