April 24, 2011 by
Wide World of Sports made its debut on April 29, 1961.
Sometimes things happen that at the time seem innocent enough, but in hind sight have a far greater impact than could ever have been predicted. Such was the case on April 29, 1961 when ABC aired portions of the Drake Relays from Des Moines, Iowa and the Penn Relays from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania under the title “Wide World of Sports.”
Over the next 37 years, Wide World of Sports “spanned the globe” to showcase the many unique sporting events that people participated in across the world. In an age when most people hadn’t traveled even outside their own state or geographic region, Wide World of Sports gave viewers a weekly trip to an exotic or previously unexplored location.
At a time when these places were generally unavailable for most Americans to travel to, Wide World of Sports showed sporting events from places such as Moscow, China and Cuba.
It also introduced us to sports, individuals and events that eventually became a common part of the American sports landscape.
Today, the Indianapolis 500, Wimbledon, the Daytona 500, the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championships and the Little League World Series all are stand alone sports programs that attract millions of viewers and weeks of coverage. However, all received their first significant national television exposure as part of Wide World of Sports.
As did other events such as barrel jumping, platform (and cliff) diving, professional bowling, demolition derby, gymnastics and body building. The Superstars program, which ran for 10 years, started as a feature on Wide World of Sports.
Such well known sports figures as Muhammad Ali, Evil Knievel, Pele, the Harlem Globetrotters, and Arnold Schwarzenegger owe a portion of their fame to regular appearances on Wide World of Sports. Read the rest of this entry →