The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s plans for Rio Olympics coverage have received a late-in-the-game shakeup. Veteran broadcaster Steve Armitage, who was set to take part in his 16th Games as a broadcaster and call swimming and diving, has had to back away from that role thanks to a recent diagnosis of chronic heart failure. Elliotte Friedman will replace him for both events, working with analysts Byron MacDonald (swimming) and Blythe Hartley (diving), as well as reporters Andrew Chang and David Amber. Here’s more from the CBC:
“I am not going to Rio for the Games because I have no other choice,” Armitage said in a press release. “If I thought I could ‘wing it’ or fake it, I would be there.”
“To use a bad pun, I’d be there in a heartbeat, but the doctors suggest strongly that I would be putting myself at risk,” he said.
Armitage has been honoured with three Gemini Awards, the Foster Hewitt Award and was inducted into the British Columbia Sports Hall of Fame.
“While we are disappointed that he will not be part of our broadcast team in Rio, Steve’s health comes first and we are in full support of his decision to remain at home,” Greg Stremlaw, CBC Sports’ executive director and general manager and chef de mission for CBC/Radio-Canada’s coverage of Rio, said in a press release.
“Steve’s are big shoes to fill, but we have the utmost confidence in Elliotte’s ability to step in to provide our audiences with the world-class coverage for which he and our Olympic Games broadcasts are known.”
An Olympics without the 72-year-old Armitage will be a very unfamiliar one for Canadian viewers, as he’s covered so many of the Games and so many events in the past. He’s long been a face of CBC’s other coverage too, including working on Hockey Night in Canada and CFL broadcasts for nearly 30 years, and while he was laid off as a full-timer due to CBC budget cuts in 2014 (and declined the opportunity to keep his job by bumping out younger workers), it was great to see them bring him back for the Olympics and list him as one of their featured commentators. Friedman has tough shoes to fill, and not much time to prepare, but he’s a talented broadcaster who should be able to get the job done. Many Canadian viewers will certainly miss Armitage’s familiar voice, though. Here’s wishing him all the best with his health.