Olympic Flame Draws Offbeat Announcers

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Hockey-star-turned-announcer Bill Clement had such a great time working hockey for NBC at the Salt Lake City Olympic Games two years ago that he approached NBC about nabbing a role, any role, for the Summer Games. Smart move: With more than 1,200 hours to fill, including some pretty weird sports, the Peacock was all ears.

Executives were impressed by Clement’s résumé. For starters, he showed them the tape of his work doing the Great Outdoor Games for ESPN, announcing sports so off-beat they make the most obscure Olympic sport look mainstream.

"I’ve done target sports, like archery and riflery, and timber sports involving axes and saws. I’ve done log-rolling [two people try to buck each other off a spinning log] and boom-running [where people race along logs chained together floating on the water]," he says. "Those proved I was not uni-dimensional." But what sold NBC was badminton.

Clement disclosed that, as a youth in Canada, he had been a badminton champion. And so, at the Athens Olympics, he is analyzing badminton and table tennis and doing the play-by-play for the modern pentathlon.

Clement sees nothing but upside in being a stranger in a strange sports land. For one, the sports don’t even have their own clichés and sayings. "I’m starting with a clean slate," he says. "I feel free."

In Sydney four years ago, NBC had 67 voices on the air; in Athens, it will have at least 100 announcers, some making only a few thousand dollars for their few minutes of semi-fame. While we’ve already seen familiar faces, like Bob Costas and Jim Lampley (working his 12th Olympics), about half the announcers are making their Olympics debut.

For more on who will be calling kayaking, archery, water polo and more, see the Aug. 16 issue of Broadcasting & Cable.

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