“The Network of the Olympics”

Travis Vogan

in ABC Sports

Published by University of California Press

Published in print November 2018 | ISBN: 9780520292956
Published online May 2019 | e-ISBN: 9780520966260 | DOI:
“The Network of the Olympics”

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Chapter 3 discusses how ABC adapted Wide World of Sports to cover the Olympics. The show offered year-round promotion for the athletes who would eventually compete in the Olympics, and the high profile event built interest in the show’s weekly installments. Wide World of Sports introduced two of its biggest stars— Muhammad Ali and Howard Cosell—between ABC’s first Olympics, in 1964, and its second, in 1968, when it began to cover the event consistently and bill itself as the “Network of the Olympics.” The duo’s many appearances capitalized on Ali’s polarizing views and Cosell’s similarly divisive defense of the boxer. A key thread in ABC’s coverage of the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City concerned whether the African American athletes—many of whom were inspired by the outspokenness Ali exhibited on Wide World of Sports —would use the games to protest the racism they faced in the country they represented. Tommie Smith and John Carlos’s famous demonstration was ABC’s biggest story of the event, much of which aired during prime time. Wide World of Sports’s creative approach, programming practices, and stars fueled ABC’s investment in and identification with the Olympics.

Keywords: Olympics; Wide World of Sports; globalization; Muhammad Ali; Howard Cosell; politics; racism; gender; Roone Arledge

Chapter.  13621 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Television

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