In Depth

Oprah Tapes Olympian Season Premiere

Oprah Winfrey taped her season-opening show Wednesday morning in Chicago accompanied by 175 medal-winning Olympic athletes.

The Oprah Winfrey Show

In front of an audience of more than 6,000, in what could be the largest audience ever for an episode of “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” Ms. Winfrey opened the program with the Olympic fanfare viewers heard so often last month. Chicago is one of the cities bidding to be the host of the 2016 Olympics and Ms. Winfrey noted that Mayor Richard Dailey was attending one of her shows for the first time.

With the crowd chanting “USA, USA, USA,” Ms. Winfrey announced that “there are thousands of proud Americans here for three reasons: gold, silver and bronze.” Then the Olympic team moved to the huge red, white and blue stage, passing through the audience, giving high fives along the way.

With such a huge group, Ms. Winfrey did segments on medal winning individuals and teams, leading off with swimmer Michael Phelps, winner of a record eight golds.

Mr. Phelps told Ms. Winfrey the magnitude of his accomplishments was just starting to sink in, and that he hadn’t been home yet and missed his bulldog.

The Oprah Winfrey Show

She asked if the Olympics were stressful, but he said, “I had fun. You can ask the swimming team… We had a blast.”

Ms. Winfrey said the person she most wanted to talk to was Mr. Phelps’ mother, who was in the audience.

As the segment ended, Ms. Winfrey brought up the rest of the U.S. swim team to the front of the stage.

Ms. Winfrey followed that by talking with gymnasts Shawn Johnson and Nastia Liukin.

The next segment featured the gold-medal winning men’s basketball team, headed by Kobe Bryant.

Ms. Winfrey asked the team how it felt to have crowds of people who didn’t even speak English chanting their names.

“That’s a Kobe question,” cracked teammate Jason Kidd.

Also singled out for up-close and personal interviews were swimmer Dara Torres, women’s beach volleyball winners Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh, the members of the 4X400 women’s relay team, and softball pitcher Jenny Finch.

Ms. Oprah plugged some of the companies that helped the show come together: United Airlines, which transported the athletes from 60 cities to Chicago; Hilton Hotels, where the athletes stayed, and Bank of America, which helped underwrite the project.

The show concluded with “American Idol” winner David Cook singing “Time of Your Life,” and the athletes, many wearing sweat suits autographed by Ms. Winfrey, streaming back out into the crowd.

The show is scheduled to air Monday.

(Editor: Baumann)