With Bob Costas sidelined with an infection that has reddened both his eyes and blurred his vision, “Today” show anchor Matt Lauer filled in Tuesday on NBC’s prime-time Olympics coverage.
Lauer, opening the broadcast, said Costas “looked a little like a loser in a prize fight.” Costas has been wearing glasses since the start of the Sochi Olympics because of an infection in his left eye, and on Monday it spread to his other eye. It quickly became the topic of conversation on social media and sports talk radio.
Costas said he simply couldn’t do the job because his eyes had become blurry, watery and sensitive to light. “I’m walking around, I might as well be playing ‘Marco Polo,’” he said in a telephone call to the “Today” show Tuesday. “I have no idea where I am.”
He said it’s a viral infection that has to run its course, and he hopes things improve enough in the next few days so he can return to the broadcast.
“If it was just discomfort, I’d be there,” he said.
No one besides Costas has anchored a prime-time summer or winter Olympic broadcast in the U.S. since 1998, when CBS had the rights to broadcast the games.
Not only does he want to get better, but Costas joked in a statement from NBC that “the last thing I want is to go through the rest of my life owing Matt Lauer a bunch of favors.”
Lauer said he was happy to keep Costas’ seat warm.
“Although I might Purell it before I sit in it,” he said.