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Bob Costas returns to Olympic coverage



By JIM LITKE

SOCHI, Russia (AP) - Bob Costas returned as host for NBC's prime-time Olympic coverage Monday night, if still not exactly clear-eyed, at least with a sharpened sense of respect for the colleagues and crew who covered for him during a six-day absence.

Costas joked at the show's opening that he was "sitting in" for Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira, who had subbed for him while he was out with an eye infection. He thanked the two, and viewers for expressing concern.

"My apologies to everyone for the unavoidable but uncomfortable circumstance of a broadcaster's ill-timed affliction getting in the way, even for just a moment, from what we all came here for," Costas said.

Hours before his return, he told The Associated Press that his infection has to run its course of 2-to-3 weeks, the entire Olympics. "It's the all-time perfect bad timing, but what can you do? It's a curve ball and you've got to go with it," Costas chuckled during an interview, "even though I couldn't spot the rotation on a curve ball right now."

The broadcaster who began his Olympic work as a late-night host at the 1988 Seoul Games looked relaxed at the NBC compound in a navy polo shirt and cardigan sweater. Traces of his bout with viral conjunctivitis were still visible - the infection began in his left eye and spread quickly to the right - and both are still reddened.

"I'm better than I was," he said, "but not as good as I'd like to be."

Costas nursed a cup of Starbucks coffee and propped his feet up on the desk as he discussed his unwanted week off.

He rated himself a 2 on a scale of 1-10. At one point, he thought there was about a 10 percent chance he wouldn't make it back for the games.

Costas interviewed President Obama on Feb. 6, the night before the opening ceremonies. He awakened the next morning "and my left eye was like a slit, and I'm thinking, 'What the hell?'" Costas recalled. "But I'm also thinking maybe I put a few eye drops in and it resolves itself. But as soon as the doctor got a look at it, he realized something was wrong."

Costas worked that night trying to cover up the redness by wearing glasses that made him look like a hipster. Drawing barbs from TV critics and snickers on social media, he finally sidelined himself after five nights of Olympic coverage when his blurred vision and sensitivity to light made working impossible.

"When something out of the ordinary happens, like with my eyes, you know (the attention is) coming, but again, the degree of attention to it makes me uncomfortable. Not because I don't understand it," he said, "but because that isn't the story that we came here expecting to talk about.

"So what I tried to do the first few nights - when I thought it was only going to be a few nights - is kiss it off with a candid line and move on and not dwell on it. But when it got to the point where I couldn't be on the air," Costas added, "you couldn't expect that people would ignore that."

Current "Today" show host Matt Lauer and former co-anchor Meredith Vieira subbed for Costas. It was the first time anyone except Costas had been the host of an Olympic primetime telecast on any American network since 1998.

Costas said he spent three days in a darkened hotel room awake at odd hours. The chance to watch the NBC feed kept him current, but also gave him a different perspective on the coverage.

"When they did the hookup, it really didn't matter when I slept - from noon to 8, or midnight to 8 in the morning. Generally, I was awake at 5 (a.m., Sochi time) so I watched a good portion of prime-time every night. ... I experienced it something closer to the way someone in the States would, except it was dawn when I was doing it," he added, "and it was a little blurry."

Costas also said he the chance to watch some of the network's cable coverage of events in real time, and thought about whether that would influence his own presentation.

"My Olympic road is closer to its end than its beginning," he said. "By the time I can foresee prime-time changing radically, somebody else will be doing it."


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htcorson February 19 2014 at 6:29 PM

Having a viral eye infection is no fun. Mine has taken me away from constructive work and is irritating as hell and it's been going on for 2 months. If you don't think so, throw some sand in your eye, every few minutes, and see how it feels. And the blurred vision makes work near to impossible, no matter your profession.

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Turd Ferguson February 19 2014 at 5:06 AM

Since when is pink eye real news?

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theenyc February 19 2014 at 4:47 AM

You look good in glasses. Calls attention to how serious you really about your work.
Good to have you back. I had to the same thing two weeks ago. Groan..groan.
Thee

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lunarstruck February 19 2014 at 3:45 AM

Let me get this straight - he got this from OBAMA?

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Nancy February 19 2014 at 3:44 AM

I dont think his eyes look that much better...he should go home and heal.. please just call ur stint at the olympics a wash this year Mr Bob..and let your stand in's finish it up

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chinasky99 February 19 2014 at 2:31 AM

it staggers the imagination that so many people took the time to write such mean-spirited, and obnoxious comments about bob costas. i'm a huge fan of his and feel, as someone else said , he is the olympics. his calm and informative segments are a hugely important part of the entire olympic experience. he has that great gift of making the viewer feel as though he is speaking only to her/him

sad that those people missed the entire intention of the olympics.

thank you, bob costas, for getting better!! and for all the years of information, entertainment and dignity and humor you have given to all of us.

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mark and sheri February 19 2014 at 3:28 AM

You want to have his love child. don't you? One reminder. He is a TALKING HEAD. Not a Messiah. Please, people, the individuals on Television are just not that important.

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abstracter February 19 2014 at 2:20 AM

That will teach you to leave the Russkie ho houses alone next time viral conjunctivitis, yeh right. He got some juicy in his eye from some svetalna, olga or so.

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mark and sheri February 19 2014 at 3:29 AM

**** maybe?

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jones9northcalif February 19 2014 at 1:44 AM

Is it just me..or, besides his mother, who really cares about this guys eyes?

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meemeepit February 19 2014 at 1:12 AM

OK SHORTMAN…be well and be done..

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WoozerMom February 19 2014 at 1:09 AM

At one time in my life, I was an upper grade elementary school teacher. I tended to pick up what the children gave me -- mumps, measles, pink-eye, and other contagious diseases. Having been an only child, I had not had these conditions as a child. And in my day (I am 74) there were no vaccines available which help children today not to contract them.

I felt so sorry for Mr. Costas. Unless you have had a contagious eye infection, you don't know how it feels, and the medical people advise us to avoid contacting other people so they won't be infected.

As a teacher, I contracted mumps from a student and was unable to have parent/teacher conferences. My principal was very upset. But what could I do? I stayed home in great pain and at one time had to forbid him from telephoning me as just reaching for the phone was painful. (So why did I quit teaching? This was one of the reasons.) I didn't even qualify for workman's compensation as I could not designate the actual child who gave half of my class and myself mumps. I lost all my sick leave and even lost some pay through this episode. God bless Mr. Costas.

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mark and sheri February 19 2014 at 3:30 AM

Huh? I thought this was about Costas and the Olympics. Ever thought about writing an e-mail to somebody you know instead?

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