“Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sports… the thrill of victory… and the agony of defeat… the human drama of athletic competition… This is “ABC’s Wide World of Sports!”
That was Jim McKay’s introduction, and it lasted all the way from the show’s start in 1961 until its cancellation in 1997. One of the most familiar television images of the age was Vinko Bogataj’s disastrous ski jump that perfectly illustrated “the agony of defeat.”
McKay hosted the show from its inception until 1986, and occasionally after that. He presided over an anthology show that featured sports and “sports” not often found on television, such as jai alai, curling, rodeo, demolition derby, and badminton. NASCAR was featured regularly back before its widespread commercial appeal was recognized.
And though we often remember the offbeat programs, Wide World of Sports was also the first American program to broadcast such events as Wimbledon, the Daytona 500, the Indy 500, and the Little League World Series.
Jim McKay won numerous Emmy Awards for his work on the program, and has been inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame and the Television Hall of Fame. Here is his introduction to the program, quoted above, which became part of American pop culture: