#30MostSwimfluential: Dick Ebersol

CHICAGO - DECEMBER 8: Inductee Dick Ebersol addresses the audience during a ceremony December 8, 2005 to induct the 2006 class into the US Olympic Hall of Fame held at the Harris Theatre in Chicago, Ilinois. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Photo Courtesy: Getty Images North America

Who is Dick Ebersol?

  • Dropped out of Yale in 1968 to work for ABC’s Wide World of Sports, becoming their first ever Olympic researcher
  • Began as chief aide to sports chief Roone Arledge from 1967-1974. “So much of shaping how I have done events — produced, promoted, and marketed events — all came from Roone,” Ebersol said.
  • At 28, he became the VP of late night programming at NBC. Hired Lorne Michaels and together they launched “Saturday Night Live” in 1974.
  • Served as president of NBC Sports for 25 years
  • Winner of three primetime Emmy Awards, nominated six times
  • Negotiated dozens of landmark rights agreements, garnering NBC coverage of the NFL, NBA, MLB, the USGA Championships, Notre Dame football, and every Olympic Games since 2000
  • The Olympic Games that Ebersol has produced account for eight of the 10 most-watched television events in U.S. history
  • Legendary storyteller, known for passion, creativity and execution
  • Inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame in 2005
  • Inducted into the TV Hall of Fame in 2011

How has he influenced the swimming community?

Count your goosebumps while watching every memorable broadcast of the Olympic Games and you will know the magnitude of Ebersol’s influence. The 2008 Beijing Olympics was the most-watched TV event in U.S. history (215 million TV spectators), until the 2012 London Games topped Beijing’s audience with 219 million riveted viewers. These historic numbers are largely thanks to Ebersol’s passion for storytelling. Michael Phelps’ quest for 8 gold medals was documented with vignettes, giving the viewers a glimpse into the superstar’s life. Swimming became keenly interesting to much of the world who may have never watched a race prior to hearing one swimmer’s drive to achieve the unthinkable. The drama of the Olympics was unfurled when Ebersol took the reins at NBC Sports. Ebersol saw what gave Olympic medals meaning were the stories which led up to the podium.

*USA Swimming and Speedo invited the swimming community to help celebrate their 30 years of partnership by voting for the “30 Most Influential People in Swimming Over the Past 30 Years.” Votes were cast through social media with the hashtag #30MostSwimfluential and the final vote came from a panel of 10 judges selected by USA Swimming and Speedo. All 30 nominees have had a powerful impact on the swimming community. Many are recognizable names, but some have remained unsung heroes of the sport. Swimming World will profile each swimfluential person over the course of the week.