I will never forget the day in the spring of 2011 that Chuck Wielgus called me into his office on something that was urgent and confidential. I got down there as fast as I could thinking the worst, but he was so excited to share a conversation he just had with then NBC Olympics chief and NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol. The two have become very close over the years and Ebersol has done a lot for the sport of swimming.
This was a few months prior to NBC submitting in its bid to the IOC to extend its broadcast deal through 2020. NBC had broadcast every summer Games since 1988 and every Winter Olympics since 2002 at that time. They were bidding against FOX Sports and ESPN. At the time NBC wasn’t considered a lock to get the TV rights renewed and many feared aggressive bids from FOX and ESPN. Ebersol shared what he felt was a tie-breaker if the bids came down to dollars (which didn’t) and it would be something that the IOC, the USOC and the National Governing Bodies would love.
The idea was called Gold Map. The vision became a reality and now can be found at NBCOlympics.com/gold-map. It is a partnership of NBC, the U.S. Olympic Committee and the winter sport NGBs. It will be integrated into NBC’s multi-platform coverage of the Games with promotional features.
Scott Blackmun, the CEO of the U.S. Olympic Committee said in a press release, “When NBC first surfaced the Gold Map idea during its bid for the rights to the Sochi Games, we were impressed by their visionary thinking, and we are very excited to see the planning put into action.”
During NBC’s coverage of the Olympic Games they will promote finding a place on the map for families to learn to ski, flip, slide and skate and join the NGBs as members. It is truly making connection when Olympic inspiration strikes to turn it into youth participation.
It was an idea that showed that NBC is more than just a broadcaster. They are an investor in the future of youth sports and the Olympic Movement at all levels. They are a caretaker of the Olympic brand and are helping it grow the next generation.
This is a huge win for the NGBs and a simple, low-cost measure on NBC’s part to give back. In full disclosure, USA Swimming has a relationship outside of this with NBC as well, so it’s fair to call me bias, but I think the compliments are warranted.
At the time the idea came about, I lobbied NBC and the USOC to start this in London 2012. However there just wasn’t enough time to start that quickly. (And by lobby, I mean showing up at a meeting with the USOC and NBC while I was sick with the flu. They couldn’t end that meeting fast enough to get away from me!)
The program launched for the Sochi Olympic Winter Games and we will see more of it over the coming weeks.
We will also watch closely to see how we can make the most of it on the summer sport side in 2016.