Roone Arledge revolutionized the sports broadcasting industry and the Olympic Games were no exception. Arledge produced all 10 of ABC’s Olympic Games broadcasts, beginning with the Innsbruck 1964 Winter Olympic Games.
Four years later, at the Mexico City 1968 Olympic Games, Arledge began to transform televised sports from weekend afternoon program to primetime viewing. From early on, Arledge focused coverage not just on televising a specific event, but also on telling stories and personalizing athletes’ stories.
Four years after that, at the Munich 1972 Olympic Games, Arledge made the decision to stay with the live broadcast for 17 consecutive hours when Arab terrorists stormed the Olympic Village and killed 11 Israeli athletes. ABC, Arledge and broadcaster Jim McKay received 29 Emmy Awards for their sports and news coverage of that Olympic Games.
Following the Innsbruck 1976 Olympic Winter Games and the Montreal 1976 Olympic Games, which helped make ABC the nation’s top-rated network, Arledge also became head of ABC’s news division, leading both the network’s sports and news efforts for a decade.
Arledge died of cancer in 2002. He was 71.
“Roone Arledge was a bold and original pioneer who had an enormous impact on the entire television industry, first transforming sports coverage and then going on to set new standards for television news,” said Michael Eisner, chairman and CEO of the Disney company, which owns ABC and ESPN. “His leadership, his instincts and his forethought were extraordinary, and we will all miss him, but can take some solace in knowing that the man may be gone, but his legacy will live forever.”