Zero ESPN employees will be going to China to cover the Winter Olympics, beginning in a matter of weeks.
In a statement, ESPN’s Norby Williamson cited the pandemic and pandemic-related restrictions in Beijing as the reasoning.
“The safety of our employees is of utmost importance to us,” said Norby Williamson, ESPN Executive Vice President, Event and Studio Production & Executive Editor. “With the pandemic continuing to be a global threat, and with the 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.”
While this seems like a huge blow, the release notes that only four reporters were lined up to cover the Games in China, down from five from last summer in Tokyo.
ESPN still plans on covering the Olympics remotely in the capacity they can as a non-rightsholder, and this decision isn’t all that surprising after NBC’s decision to keep all of their event broadcasters at home rather than sending them to Beijing.