Behind the scenes of broadcasting the Tokyo Olympics during a pandemic

Japan 2020


TOKYO (Nexstar) — COVID-19 has changed our world, but the show must go on. Those behind the scenes of the broadcast world have adjusted to continue airing the TODAY Show. 

That includes people like Michael Burns, the lead runner for TODAY. And no, he’s not an Olympic runner.

“When people say you’re going to be a runner at the Olympics, they immediately think like, ‘oh, you’re competing?’ No, we’re not competing. A different type of running,” Burns said.

“Basically, I always say anything that you see that happens on the TODAY Show has to go through our team first, so whether it’s an athlete who we’re going to interview, whether it’s a segment about something cultural in Japan, whether we’re talking about food that some of our talent may have eaten — whatever it might be, we help plan all the logistics around that,” Burns explained.

Get the latest on how our Texans are doing in the Olympics by signing up for push alerts on the KXAN News App and our More Than The Score newsletter. Join us at noon every weekday for our Japan 2020 stream highlighting memorable moments and KXAN’s team in Tokyo.

The Texas State University professor is specifically hired to help cover the Olympic Games. Tokyo 2020 marks his sixth Olympics working on the TODAY Show. This year, the workflow has changed a bit. 

“There’s just an added layer of requirements and logistics that we’ve never had before,” Burns said.

Staff has been cut down due to COVID-19, and because of quarantine rules, they’re highly dependent on locals to help bring the show to life. 

“Our Japanese runners are the only ones that could go anywhere,” Burns said.

But despite the obstacles, Burns says they get the job done, and he feels fortunate to be a part of a historic Games. 

“I know there are some people who maybe thought they should have been canceled and things, but the world unites around sports, and sport does wonders I think for our society and all cultures, and I think it was a time for us to celebrate, and something everybody needed after the last year and a half of what we have all been experiencing,” Burns said.  

We first chatted with Burns three years ago. He was getting ready for the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Games, and he was even allowed to take two students as runners.

But that has also changed. This year, he was not able to take any interns due to the pandemic. 

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