When NBC’s 2018 Winter Olympics primetime coverage began Thursday evening, many longtime viewers noticed a familiar face missing: sportscaster Bob Costas, who has hosted every Olympic Games since 1992.
In his place was Mike Tirico, who joined NBC in 2017 after a long career at ESPN. Tirico previously helped out on Olympic coverage during the 2016 Olympics in Rio, when he had daytime duties and hosted the closing ceremonies.
The move to replace Costas with this specific successor is fitting, since Tirico was the first student to receive the Bob Costas Scholarship at the University of Syracuse — Costas’s alma mater — back in 1987.
“It has been both a privilege and an incredible personal and professional experience to have been part of NBC’s Olympic coverage all these years,” Costas said in a statement announcing his departure last year.
“I’m especially appreciative of all the talented and dedicated people I worked for and with on those broadcasts,” he added. “I always felt that, in a certain sense, I was carrying the ball for them. It’s been a wonderful run, but I just felt now was the right time to step away and I’m grateful that NBC left that decision to me.”
Olympic viewers will be in good hands, however: Tirico has decades of experience, and has hosted a wide variety of sporting events, such as The Open, The Ryder Cup and Breeders’ Cup horse racing. He also served as play-by-play announcer for Sunday Night Football and Thursday Night Football.
In all, 65-year-old Costas has hosted 11 Olympics televised by NBC over the last three decades (he was also a late-night host at the 1988 games in Seoul). According to sports media reporter John Ourand, Costas was planning the Olympic exit since his last contract negotiations in 2012.
In his statement, Costas reflected on his Olympic hosting career, and said his favorite moment was watching legendary boxer Muhammad Ali light the flame at the Atlanta Olympic Games in 1996, despite the legendary boxer having Parkinson’s disease.
“Somehow even in that condition,” Costas said, according to ABC, “he was just as charismatic and magnetic as he’s always been.”
With Costas’ Olympic duties at an end, it is probably safe to say his least favorite moment happened during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, when he famously kept up his reporting duties while battling a pinkeye that captured the nation’s attention.
“My eyes can’t get any redder, no matter what I do,” Costas joked while taking a vodka shot on air with fellow sportscaster Mary Carrillo in attempt to make light of the situation.
“I’ll drink to that!” she replied with a laugh before they both emptied their glasses.