Meredith Vieira Is New Primetime Olympics Anchor & This Is Actually Groundbreaking

Call it the world's worst-timed eye infection. After nine years hosting NBC's coverage of the Olympics, Bob Costas' probable bout of pink eye caused him to miss several days of work and marked the first time since 1998 that the anchor didn't host the the network's game coverage. For the past three days, Matt Lauer has filled in as host, but one could only imagine the toll the gig was taking on him, seeing as he was pulling double duty co-anchoring TODAY in the morning and covering the Olympics at night. Now, though, it looks like the problem has been resolved, and in an awesome, barrier-breaking way: starting Friday night, Lauer will be replaced by Meredith Vieira, who will become the first woman to ever anchor NBC's primetime Olympic coverage solo.

"It's an honor to fill in for him,'' Vieira said on TODAY Friday morning. "You think about the Olympics, and you think the athletes and then Bob Costas."

Vieira's new role may only be temporary, but it's still a huge deal for the host and for women in general. Covering the Olympics for a major network is an enormous task, and the person taking on the responsibility automatically becomes one of the most trusted figures on TV, at least for a few weeks. In the past, women like Gayle Gardner and Mary Carillo have hosted or co-hosted NBC's daytime and late night coverage, but until now, no woman has ever anchored the network's primetime Olympic coverage solo.

And if any woman's ready to change that, it's Vieira. The host, who has spent the last several days reporting from Sochi on U.S. athletes to watch, has a history of breaking barriers for women. In 2005, she became only the second woman ever to win a Daytime Emmy Award for Game Show Host, and in 2009, she became the first to win multiple times. Last summer, it was announced that Vieira would launch her own daytime talk show this coming fall, and in December, The Meredith Vieira Show was named "the biggest new syndicated entry for the fall."

There's little question that Vieira is up to the task of Olympic host. Sure, the gig may be short-lived (Costas said he hopes to be back at work by the end of the weekend), but its repercussions for women who may now be influenced by Vieira's visibility are enormous.

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