Even as he’s set to host Thursday night’s NFL kickoff in Chicago, Mike Tirico is thinking about the upcoming Summer Olympics in Japan.
Tirico, who will anchor NBC’s coverage of the Olympics, said he recently traveled to Tokyo to shoots some promo material for the network and affiliates, work on some feature stories and visit the venues were athletes from all over the world will be competing for medals in 11 months.
The 2018 Winter games from PyeongChang, South Korea was Tirico’s baptism as ringleader the network’s primetime and late night coverage.But Tokyo will be an even bigger deal, he said.
“I was glad I got the winter as the first opportunity to host primetime to get a great feel for it,” Tirico said while visiting with reporters at NBC Sports Chicago on Wednesday. “The Summer Olympics is a different undertaking. It’s twice the size, more countries, sports, everything else.”
Tirico said the experience taught him that he didn’t have to over-prepare for the Olympics anchor job the way he did as a rookie.
“I think I probably tried to have a deeper understanding of all the sports than I needed to. That’s just not necessary for the Summer games because of the volume of sports,” he said. “Do I need to know every person who’s going to be involved in one of the races in the flat water boats? No, I don’t need to do that.”
At this point, Tirico doesn’t have a great background in skateboarding or climbing or know exactly how scoring works in those sports “But now I’ll be watching those events as the year goes on, so when we do dip into it, it’s not me dipping into it for the first time. I’ve watched it and watched the trials.”
Tirico no doubt was being modest about how much preparation he’ll be doing. And one expects him to be reach for whatever stories develop.
“You never know when that’s going to happen, so there’s a fine line, especially in a live Olympics,” he said. “You may have a medal ceremony in swimming that takes a little bit longer than plans, especially in a place where the weather could be an issue,” he said. “That’s where you may have to do a minute on why the marathon is being run at such an early hour in the day. Or why these swimming heats are scheduled the way they are, so you have to be prepared for that.
The NBC Olympics researchers prepare a mountain of material--too much for anyone to read, Tirico said. “But you can know where it is so you can get to it on a moment’s notice and have some familiarity with it.”
On top of getting to know the sports and the athletes, Tirico will have to learn about the countries for when he hosts the Opening Ceremonies. “You’re dealing with 200 countries walking in and you try to find the right thing to say at the right moment about each one,” he said. And then, once that happens, all that prep is gone.” And then it’s on to the competition.
Tirico said he’s looking forward to the Olympic Trials, where even the biggest names in their sport need to qualify for the games. I’ll be in those places where the gymnastics and swimming and track and field trial are going on to see which athletes are going to be the names we’ll be talking about in July and August.”
Among the athletes he’s looking forward to seeing perform in Tokyo are gymnast Simone Biles, who won goal in the individual all-around, vault and floor events, as well as being a member of “Final Five” gold-medal winning U.S. gymnastics team, and dominating swimmer Katie Ledecky.
There’s swimmer Caeleb Dressel, who could fill the role previously played by Michael Phelps. “He’s not going to be Michael Phelps, and almost no one is, but Caeleb Dressel has shown a couple of times at the World Championships he had the ability to do that,” Tirico said.
Tirico also cited sprinter Noah Lyles and runner and hurdler Sydney McLaughlin.
“Allyson Felix has an amazing story as a mom trying to come back and again make the U.S. Olympic team,” he added.