A few short weeks before the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games are to start, ESPN said Thursday that it will not send any reporters to China over COVID-19 fears and will cover the events remotely. Photo by Roman Pilipey/EPA-EFE
Jan. 20 (UPI) -- ESPN announced Thursday that it will not be sending any reporters to the Beijing Olympic Winter Games over concerns of COVID-19 and related restrictions.
The sports network will instead cover the Games remotely "with a robust plan that will roll out prior to the beginning of competition next month," it said in a statement.
"The safety of our employees is of utmost importance to us," said Norby Williamson, ESPN's executive vice president. "With the pandemic continuing to be a global threat, and with COVID-related on-site restrictions in place for the Olympics that would make coverage very challenging, we felt that keeping our people home was the best decision for us."
The network had planned to send four reporters to China, but they will now join a larger team dedicated to reporting on the events via the measures organizers have implemented to make information and interviews available online.
ESPN made its announcement a day after NBC Sports told USA Today that it will not send its announcing teams to the games.
"The announce teams for these Olympics, including figure skating, will be calling events from our Stamford, [Conn.], facility due to COVID concerns," Greg Hughes, the senior vice president of communications with NBC sports told the news organization in a phone interview.
Hughes added that they will still have "a large presence" in Beijing for the games, including the network's Olympic Host, Mike Tirico, who will be there from the opening ceremony on Feb. 4 but return to Los Angeles to host the Super Bowl of Feb. 13.
"Our plans are evolving by the day as they are for most media companies covering the Olympics, he said.