The longtime host of ABC's ''Wide World of Sports'' and Olympics coverage passed away from natural causes on Saturday

(FROM AP) — Jim McKay, who hosted ABC’s Wide World of Sports from 1961 to 1998 and brought the sights and sounds of the Olympics into American homes for decades, died of natural causes on Saturday. He was 86. During a career that spanned nearly 60 years, McKay was one of the greatest witnesses of 20th-century sports history. Most notably, he was the anchor on duty at the 1972 Summer Olympic Games in Munich when news broke of the death of 11 Israeli athletes and coaches amidst a terrorist plot. At that moment, it was McKay who delivered the news to the U.S. television audience: ”They’re all gone.”

But he may be best remembered as the man who introduced Americans to strange and compelling athletic events from all over the globe on his weekly Wide World of Sports show — undoubtedly a precursor to the entertainment-infused programming that characterizes ESPN and other sports outlets today. In presenting ”the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat,” McKay traveled some 4 1/2 million miles and viewed more than 100 different sports in 40 countries.

A true pioneer in his field, McKay was the first sportscaster to win an Emmy award, and he garnered 12 Emmys over the course of a career that included stints covering the Indianapolis 500, the soccer World Cup, and horse racing’s Triple Crown. He considered horse racing to be his favorite sport, but died just hours before Big Brown was set to run for history in the Belmont Stakes. ”He had a remarkable career and a remarkable life,” said Sean McManus, McKay’s son and the president of CBS News and Sports. ”Hardly a day goes by when someone doesn’t come up to me and say how much they admired my father.” (AP via Yahoo!)