SOCHI, Russia (AP) — Bob Costas returned as host for NBC's prime-time Olympic coverage Monday night, if still not exactly clear-eyed, at least with a sharpened sense of respect for the colleagues and crew who covered for him during a six-day absence.
Costas joked at the show's opening that he was "sitting in" for Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira, who had subbed for him while he was out with an eye infection. He thanked the two, and viewers for expressing concern.
"My apologies to everyone for the unavoidable but uncomfortable circumstance of a broadcaster's ill-timed affliction getting in the way, even for just a moment, from what we all came here for," Costas said.
Hours before his return, he told The Associated Press that his infection has to run its course of 2-to-3 weeks, the entire Olympics. "It's the all-time perfect bad timing, but what can you do? It's a curve ball and you've got to go with it," Costas chuckled during an interview, "even though I couldn't spot the rotation on a curve ball right now."
The broadcaster who began his Olympic work as a late-night host at the 1988 Seoul Games looked relaxed at the NBC compound in a navy polo shirt and cardigan sweater. Traces of his bout with viral conjunctivitis were still visible — the infection began in his left eye and spread quickly to the right — and both are still reddened.
"I'm better than I was," he said, "but not as good as I'd like to be."
Costas nursed a cup of Starbucks coffee and propped his feet up on the desk as he discussed his unwanted week off.
He rated himself a 2 on a scale of 1-10. At one point, he thought there was about a 10 percent chance he wouldn't make it back for the games.
Costas interviewed President Obama on Feb. 6, the night before the opening ceremonies. He awakened the next morning "and my left eye was like a slit, and I'm thinking, 'What the hell?'" Costas recalled. "But I'm also thinking maybe I put a few eye drops in and it resolves itself. But as soon as the doctor got a look at it, he realized something was wrong."
Costas worked that night trying to cover up the redness by wearing glasses that made him look like a hipster. Drawing barbs from TV critics and snickers on social media, he finally sidelined himself after five nights of Olympic coverage when his blurred vision and sensitivity to light made working impossible.