Costas on leaving Olympics: 'I did a dozen of them, that's enough'

When you watch the Olympics over the next two weeks, you'll notice something missing. For the first time in a quarter-century, Bob Costas won't be in the anchor chair for NBC's prime time coverage. We traveled to New York to talk about why he'd leave a job that was watched by millions.

NEW YORK – He's been the face of NBC's Olympic coverage for a quarter century but Bob Costas is passing the torch.

"Is it a little weird for you right now with the Olympics starting and you're not going to be there?" we asked him.

"No, it's not weird at all because I planned it for a long time," Costas told us.

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Veteran sportscaster Mike Tirico, who attended Syracuse University on a Bob Costas scholarship will now fill the chair.

"It was entirely my decision," says Costas. "I think they have an able successor in Mike Tirico and everything runs it course. I did a dozen of them, that's enough."

Whether it was Beijing or Barcelona, he was the conductor setting the tempo for Olympic viewers and when he began he prepared like a college student studying for finals.

"My one bit of useful advice to Mike was, learn what you don't have to know because when I first began doing it, I thought I had to know everything," said Costas with a smile.

When flipping through the pages of his Olympic memories, there is one that's bookmarked.

It was 1996 when Muhammed Ali lit the Olympic flame after getting the torch from swimmer Janet Evans.

"They had staged this in such a way that Ali literally stepped out of the shadows," recalled Costas. "And when he received that torch from her even then his arm and body trembling from the Parkinsons.

There was a couple of seconds of silence and almost an audible gasp. A sound you almost never hear in a stadium. Until the place erupted in tremendous and sustained applause."

Costas may be stepping away from the Olympics but he's not fading away from broadcasting.

In fact, this summer he'll be focusing on his first love, baseball. A love he passed on to his son.

Keith Costas, who grew up in St. Louis is now a producer with the Major League Baseball Network in New York.

"Tell me about a memorable about a memorable baseball trip you may have taken with your dad when you were a kid?" we inquired.

"First time to the Hall of Fame when I was 7 years old, 1993," he remembered.

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And they'll both be back this summer. A few weeks ago, Bob Costas became a member of a very exclusive club when he was elected to the Hall of Fame as a broadcaster.

"To have his name in the same hall as Mickey Mantle who he grew up idolizing or Ozzie Smith who we got to watch and cover in St. Louis, I know how much that means to him," says Keith.

For Costas, the broadcasters he heard as a kid were inseparable from the game and now his plaque will hang alongside legends like Vin Scully and Jack Buck.

"I'm somewhere on that same roster. Even if I'm not in the starting lineup, I'm on the same team as those guys. So in that sense, what more could you ask for."

Bob Costas was a fixture around town since coming here to broadcast the Spirits of St. Louis on KMOX in 1974. He said St. Louis is still his true hometown which may be fitting as he leaves the Olympics behind. St. Louis after all, is a baseball town.

"You know, there's some people outside St. Louis who sneer at it because it's been said over and over again. It's the best baseball town in America. Well too bad if you don't like it. It's true," said Costas.

For more on Bob Costas career and the event that helped build the Bob Costas Cancer Center at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children's hospital, watch our special "An Evening with Bob Costas."