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FROM OUR FILES: A true pro at the Olympics: TV host Jim McKay

The sportscaster, who died on June 7, covered international sports in over 40 countries for ABC's 'Wide World of Sports,' as well as 12 Olympic Games, in which he tried to convey an overview and 'personality' of each Olympics for viewers.

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This 1980 file photo originally from ABC-TV shows Jim McKay. The veteran and eloquent sportscaster who was thrust into the role of telling Americans about the tragedy at the 1972 Munich Olympics died Saturday.

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Eric Heiden, Linda Fratianne, Ingemar Stenmark, et al. may be the starts on the ice and snow, but the most familiar face by far during the current Winter Olympic telecasts is that of the man who is telling us all about it - Jim McKay.

It's no contest, really, for while the others come and go, McKay is the one constant presence on the screen as host for 51 1/2 hours of coverage spread over 13 days of competitions.

Also, of course, while most of the athletic stars change every four years, McKay has become "Mr. Olympics" to millions of Americans who can hardly envision the quadrennial spectacle without his low key but always expert and knowledgable commentary.

We may have had a World Series without the Yankees last year, and it looks as though we're going to have a Miss America pageant without Bert Parks next fall, but an Olympics year without Jim McKay? Never! There hasn't been one, at any rate, all through the 1960s and '70s - and he's there again for these first games of the '80s.

McKay's professionalism and unpretensiousness (not qualities one necessarily associates automatically with TV announcers) come through in person just as they do on the screen. It becomes quickly apparent while talking to the veteran ABC commentator, in fact, that his success is no accident.

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