Piotr Lisek gets philosophical in b&w.
Arthur Nory with a PSA...
Pole vaulter Pauls Pujats contemplates nature.
Yaroslava Mahuchikh has a beach day.
Wrestler Epp Mae is going places.
60 Years Ago Today, A U.S. Sports Phenomenon Was Born
"Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sport. The thrill of victory...and the agony of defeat. The human drama of athletic competition. This is ABC's Wide World of Sports."
This was the voice-over introduction to the long-running sports program that was a cornerstone to sports fans in the United States on Saturday afternoons, Wide World of Sports. I can remember eagerly watching it weekly, particularly in the 1980s, and wondering with anticipation what sport would be showcased.
I like to think that at least some of my sports fandom can be traced to this show. I suspect others would say the same.
On Saturday, April 29, 1961, Wide World of Sports debuted on broadcast television network ABC. Featuring coverage of track & field from both the Penn and Drake Relays, the show introduced announcer Jim McKay to audiences.
An intermittent sportscaster before his first Olympic assignment with ABC's Rome 1960 coverage, McKay was offered hosting duties for Wide World with the expectation that it might only last 20 weeks. The show ended up lasting for 37 seasons into 1998, with McKay as host for most of the run.
Known for a calm demeanor, McKay became synonymous with the show, and its coverage of "a number of sports not normally seen on TV." As ABC owned Olympic broadcast rights for a number of Games throughout the show's run, coverage overlapped, and McKay was inextricably linked to the Olympics as well. He covered 12 Games in all, most notably Munich 1972, when he delivered the Munich massacre news to the U.S. His heartfelt "They're all gone" continues to be a haunting call of the moment. Memories of my first real Games watching - Los Angeles 1984 - are peppered with visions and sounds of McKay's commentary.
Wide World, meanwhile, did showcase a variety of sports not normally seen at the time. In an era when football and baseball ruled broadcast television, it regularly shined a light on a number of Olympic sports, particularly figure skating, gymnastics, and track & field, but also skiing, swimming, golf, bobsled, tennis, and more. You might also find horse racing, hurling, Little League, or auto racing. Olympic stars such as Olga Korbut, Nadia Comaneci, Sugar Ray Leonard, Phil Mahre, Mary Lou Retton, Fu Mingxia, Greg Louganis, and Bonnie Blair are just some of the athletes to have been brought into U.S. living rooms outside of the Games.
Famed sportscaster Howard Cosell established himself as a boxing commentator on Wide World. His at-times tense rapport with Olympic champion Muhammad Ali (Cassius Clay) became legendary.
More enduring that McKay's "spanning the globe" line in the show's intro, is his "agony of defeat". Narrated over a clip of ski jumper Vinko Bogataj's crash in competition, it became a signature element of the show's sports presentation.
The show's yellow gold jackets became an instantly recognized icon, as well. (See McKay, above) As did the show's theme music.
On January 3, 1998, Wide World of Sports as an anthology series ended its run, a casualty of the rise of cable television's sports coverage and the migration of sports to ABC's sister network ESPN. The moniker remains owned by the conglomerate, and is most widely associated today as a sports facility/entertainment complex owned by DIsney and ESPN.
Wide World of Sports remains for me a critical and personal piece of sports broadcasting history. The show's devotion to the broader spectrum of sports opened eyes to a bigger world, and helped start me on the path toward Games and Rings. Cheers to the memories.
Can Jade Jones become the first Team Great Britain woman to win three consecutive Olympic gold medals this summer in taekwondo?
Rugby sevens star Carlin Isles is playing in honor of his brother, and ready for the U.S. to improve its Olympic placement from Rio 2016.
Count Jamaican Danusia Francis as a fan of the full-length leotard for women recently unveiled at the European Artistic Gymnastics Championships.
Win Htet Oo: A Tokyo 2020-bound swimmer takes a stand against the military coup in Myanmar.
It took an "atomic bomb" to reset Kim Astrup and Anders Skaarup Rasmussen in their outlook in badminton doubles ahead of Tokyo 2020.
Can Switzerland make it to the medal podium in beach volleyball at Tokyo 2020? Its women are leading the charge.
Team New Zealand's middle distance runner Nick Willis reflects ahead of Tokyo 2020 being his fifth and last Games, and passing the proverbial baton onto younger athletes.
Irish sprinter Phil healy contemplating a possible 200 - 400 meters double this summer in Tokyo.
After a disappointing Rio 2016, hurdler Jasmine Camacho-Quinn is having a strong start to her 2021 season, just in time for Tokyo 2020 preparations.
Could soccer superstar Sergio Ramos appear for Spain at Tokyo 2020? He's weighing his interest still...
A fan of top archer Brady Ellison? Tokyo 2020 has an in-depth catch-up with the U.S. star, on his recent natural recovery from injury, outside hobbies, and more.
Track cyclist Elinor Barker chats with WalesOnline on targeting Tokyo 2020 success a year later, mental health, and more.
Mongolia is a 3x3 basketball power? Sure!
Rio 2016 diving almost-medalist Benjamin Auffret announces his retirement.
Golfer Adam Scott: Who needs him, anyway?
RIP to Jordanian boxer Rashed Al-Swaisat, who passed away following injury during a World Youth Championship match earlier this month.
It's not too early to start thinking about Paris 2024, especially when you're an expert kiteboarder. Axel Mazella is eager to showcase home team advantage in the soon-to-be new discipline.
Great Britain's Alys Thomas is on track to make her Olympic debut in swimming at the rather advanced age of 30.
Christine Mbomba proves herself to be one to watch in the 400 meters after twice going under 50 seconds this month.
At age 19, Bryce Tyron is already a BMX freestyle veteran with Olympics on his mind.
Can Zeb Powell take his "coffin to method back flip" to new heights in snowboarding?
Milena Baldassari is ready.
Johannes Vetter celebrates a good throw.
Sally Fitzgibbons enjoys a sunset.
Fabio Basile on a breather...
Sarka Pancochova crosstrains.
Above: Athens' Kallimarmaro, the site of the 1896 Summer Olympics
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An Olympics fan blog celebrating all things Olympic sport athletes
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Me at Rio 2016's Barra Olympic Park
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