THE EVENT: The 1,500-meter race, final contest in the decathlon, summer Olympics, 1980.
As the cameras roll, Bruce Jenner, gold medalist from the 1976 Olympic decathalon, and NBC sportscaster Dick Enberg describe the drama and excitement of the world's premier track and field event. As befits professional sports announcers and Olympic athletes, their tones are crisp and correct, yet they convey the high drama of the occasion.
THE SETTING: A studio at Hollywood and Vine in Los Angeles several weeks ago.
As the lights fade and the cameras stop, Enberg turns to Jenner and says, "This is it, Bruce. This is our Olympics. This is our trip to Moscow."
Enberg and Jenner were being filmed in one of the final scenes of "The Golden Moment, an Olympic Love Story," a recently aired NBC-TV movie about the 1980 Moscow Olympics, in which they play themselves.
As both were painfully aware, that was as close to the Olympics as either would get this year.
After paying $87 million for exclusive U.S. television rights to the 1980 Summer Games and logging hundreds of thousands of man-hours in preparation for the contests, NBC sports has swallowed hard and gone along with the president's boycott.
Insurance and tax breaks will cut the financial loss to $22 milliion, but the psychological wounds to the NBC sports operation may never heal.
"It's a little like having a 3 1/2-year gestation period and then having someone come along and take away the baby," says Enberg.
Along with Jenner, fellow NBC sportscaster Bryant Gumbel, O. J. Simpson and former Olympic swimmer Donna DeVerona, Enberg was to have hosted the Games for NBC. By his own estimate that would have put him on the television screens of 100 million American homes for 17 days running in July and August.
Such exposure, says Don Ohlmeyer, NBC-TV sports executive producer, could have been a major step in NBC's longstanding effort to close the gap with arch-rival ABC-TV sports, long considered the dominant networking in television sportscasting.
"The Olympics would have been a real opportunity to show what we can do, and I had no doubt about our ability to pull it off," says Ohlmeyer, who was hired away from ABC sports three years ago to plan and prepare NBC's coverage of the Moscow Olympics.
"If you're in the sports television business, the Olympics are the epitome. That's the big casino."
Adds Enberg, "We were building our confidence that we could do the Moscow Games better than ABC, and I think we could have.
"But now the public will never know."
As planned by NBC, the Moscow Games of 1980 were to have been the biggest extravaganza in the history of television.
With 150 hours of prime time coverage planned, NBC's Olympic production was to have been almost double the 76 hours ABC devoted to the Games four years ago. Commercial time was sold at an average cost of $130,000 a minute, and the network expected to gross $200 million from its coverage of the Games.
It would have taken an army of 660 NBC staffers in Moscow to get the show on the air, and training began almost at the moment of Ohlmeyer's arrival.
"I've spent the last three years getting ready to do the Olympics," says Ohlymeyer, who at 34 is a veteran of four winter and summer Olympics with ABC.
"NBC sports is a hell of a lot stronger now than it was three years ago. That's a residual value we'll have for years to come. But it is obviously a tremendous professional disappointment."
To recruit its Olympic army, NBC combed the nation, seeking the best at every level, engineers, technicians, camermen.
"The cameramen and technicians who were assigned to Moscow were assigned because they were the best," Ohlmeyer says. "The Olympics can be a great ctalyst for people's careers. They certainly were a catalyst for mine. I wouldn't be where I am today if it were not for the attention I got from working on the Olympics."
Cancellation of coverage, Ohlmeyer observes, "is going to be a very difficult thing to recover from emotionally at NBC sports. For three years, the Moscow Olympics gave everybody at NBC sports a concrete goal to work for."
Says Jack Bennett, 54, a veteran of 30 years with NBC and the network's manager oftechnical operations for the Olympics, "I've done everything else -- Super Bowls, championship games . . . but the Olympics are the chance of a lifetime. A lot of hard work went into it and a lot of expense. And there are a lot of disappointed
As manager of technical operations for the Games, Bennett made five trips to Moscow and would have spent four months there beginning about now to direct the engineering logistics of NBC's coverage.
Come the end of July when the Moscow Games begin, Bennett figures he'll go on a week's vacation.
Blacking out the Olympics won't meand the end of NBC sports. But it is going to make things difficult, particularly since ABC sports has already nailed down the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics for $225 million, concedes Ohlmeyer.
"We still have the World Series, and we have the Super Bowl. We have a lot of very big events. It would have been nice to have more. What's important for our people is to continue to push themselves to do the best they can without that concrete goal to work for. That's going to be a difficult adjustment for NBC sports."
After 10 years with ABC, where he says the spending policy on sports coverage was more liberal, Ohlmeyer finds himself chafing a bit under what he finds a more hard-nosed financial posture at NBC.
"We don't have any shows that lose money," he says. "There are no loss leaders at NBC sports. There are things at NBC that I would like to accomplish that may not be impossible be cause of the corporate attitude."
The network will launch a weekly series in the fall based on a special called Sunday Games, which previewed earlier in the spring.
Ohlmeyer calls it "sports for the common man," and it has included such contests as a tug of war between the longshoremen and teamsters on the docks of Hoboken and a bouncer's contest for distance and accuracy in throwing disorderly drunks out of taverns.
Then, of course, there was the movie about the Olympics, a four-hour special produced by Ohlmeyer. An NBC press release described the film as "the dramatic story of the exciting athletic competition at the Olympic Games and the poignant romance that drevelops between a U.S. decathon champion and a pretty Russian gymnast."
"It was always a fantasy," says Ohlmeyer. "Now it is a fantasy of what might have been."