Norwegian Cross Country Skier Marit Bjørgen collected her 11th Winter Olympic medal on Saturday, making her the most decorated female Winter Olympian in history. But is that good enough for her to get significant coverage on NBC’s primetime Olympic broadcast?
Bjørgen has been largely invisible on NBC’s primetime Olympic broadcast in the past, where her achievements have received scant attention. Her name was not mentioned once during the 2006 Torino primetime Olympic broadcasts, when she won a silver medal (her second medal overall). When she was the most decorated Olympian of the 2010 Vancouver Games, with five medals, her name was mentioned just twice in primetime. Bjørgen tied the record for most medals won by a female Winter Olympian via a three podium performance at the 2014 Sochi Games, but once again, her name was not mentioned in primetime.
Women’s cross country skiing received no primetime coverage in 1998 (covered by CBS), 2002, and 2006. During the 2010 Vancouver Games, women’s cross country skiing received a fleeting mention, totaling one second of coverage. During the 2014 Sochi Games, women’s cross country skiing received less than one second of coverage.
The paucity of primetime television coverage is partially related to Team USA’s lack of success in the event. Bill Koch’s silver medal performance at the 1976 Innsbruck Games marked the only time a member of the United States team won a medal in the sport.
Nonetheless, heading into tonight’s broadcast, the question remains: Will Marit Bjørgen finally receive the primetime coverage her accomplishments would seemingly warrant? Or will she remain an invisible record setter?
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Olympic Television: Broadcasting the Biggest Show on Earth contains a detailed 20-year examination of how male and female athletes have been covered within primetime Olympic broadcasts. The book also has analyses of how race/ethnicity and nationality impact Olympic coverage, interviews with NBC personnel about the content and production of Olympic broadcasts, and an overview of Olympic television history. Published by Routledge, it is available in hardcover, paperback and ebook formats at Amazon.com, the Routledge website, The Bookstore Plus, and other outlets.