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Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sport...This is ABC's Wide World of Sports!
The thrill of victory... and the agony of defeat...
The human drama of athletic competition...
—Jim McKay's intro to Wide World Of Sports
ABC's Wide World Of Sports was a sports anthology series that ran from 1961 to 1998. Originally tapped to be a filler for the 1961 summer season, it became an unexpected hit, spawning multiple imitators and several notable spin-offs. The goal of the show was to showcase sports from around the globe. It originally ran for ninety minutes on Saturday afternoons, and featured two or three sports per show. These included many types not normally seen on American television, such as hurling, rodeo, curling, jai-alai, firefighter's competitions, surfing, logger sports, demolition derby and badminton. NASCAR Grand National/Winston Cup racing was a Wide World of Sports staple until the late 1980s. Traditional Olympic sports such as figure skating, skiing, gymnastics, and track and field competitions were also regular features of the show. The broadcast was hosted for most of its history by Jim McKay.
Wide World of Sports helped to put ABC Sports (and its producer, Roone Arledge) on the map in the '60s, paving the way for the network's later success in such ventures as Monday Night Football. The show's popularity led to other networks rolling out similarly-formatted programs, including CBS's Sports Spectacular and NBC's Sportsworld. None of the imitations ever achieved Wide World's ratings or iconic status, however.
In the late '90s, the rise of ESPN--which was established by ABC essentially as 24-hour Wide World--and other cable outlets removed much of Wide World's appeal, leading to its eventual cancellation in 1998. The brand occasionally shows back up for special broadcasts (as was the case for the 2008 Belmont Stakes, which used the Wide World title as a tribute to the recently deceased Jim McKay). In February 2010, Disney and ESPN opened the Wide World Of Sports Complex at Disney World, a multi-sport complex for both amateur sports and special events.
Has nothing to do with the Nine Network's branding of its sports coverage.
Wide World Of Sports contained examples of:
- Epic Fail -- Slovenian ski jumper Vinko Bogataj. For over 20 years his spectacular fall in a 1970 Ski-Flying World Championship competition underlay Jim McKay's "the agony of defeat" in the opening montage.
- Hey, It's That Guy! -- watching older episodes is like watching a who's who of sportscasters.
- Highly-Conspicuous Uniform -- Those yellow blazers.
- Long Runner -- Every year, after football was done, for 37 years.
- Memetic Mutation: "The agony of defeat" lives to this day.
- Opening Narration -- see top of article
- Shout-Out -- Colin Cowherd of ESPN Radio uses the "Spanning The Globe" audio clip to introduce his rapid-fire update segment of the same name.
- Spin-Off -- The American Sportsman, The Pro Bowler Tour, and The Superstars were all spawned from Wide World.
- And the CTV network had its own version.
- Spiritual Successor -- ESPN. Also The Rival, which surpassed WWOS leading to its cancellation.