You'll Never Guess What Time Lester Holt Has to Wake Up During the 2020 Tokyo Olympics

As viewers watch Lester Holt deliver the headlines from the Olympics in Tokyo, we don't see everything that goes into a broadcast with a 13-hour time difference. He breaks it down with E! News here.

By Samantha Schnurr, Spencer Lubitz Jul 29, 2021 4:14 PMTags
Watch: 2020 Tokyo Olympics Opening Ceremony: Must-See Moments

Quarantine rules, a 13-hour time difference and putting on an entire broadcast before breakfast? All in a day's work for Lester Holt

While viewers in the United States get to sit back and watch NBC Nightly News, they don't hear the seriously early alarm Holt faces each day to ensure the show goes on as he anchors from the Tokyo Olympics.

As Holt revealed to E! News in an exclusive interview, "I'm up at 2:45 a.m. local time." From there, it's time for the veteran journalist to catch up on what's unfolded since falling asleep thousands of miles away from 30 Rockefeller Plaza. 

"I immediately go on the computer," he said, "and read all the stories that could have been transpiring during the day in the States." Next, it's time for an editorial meeting to review the rundown of that day's broadcast before Holt gets to writing. After a break to record promos for affiliate stations about what's coming up in the show, he wraps up writing and then it's showtime. Did we mention that's all before 8 a.m. in Tokyo? "Then it's time for breakfast at the buffet," Holt noted.

With a full day ahead of him, Holt meets up with his team to game plan what stories they're going to cover that day. Of course, there's no telling how things will unfold, particularly at the Olympics. "Yesterday, we went to the pool and we got a chance to sit down with Michael Phelps in the evening," Holt said. "That was almost 8 p.m. when we sat down with him talking about mental health issues." Afterward, it was time to, as he said, "call it a day." 

Athletes Who Defied Gravity at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, don't forget to tack on the extra quarantine rules for journalists, which include only being allowed to leave the hotel for 15 minutes of personal time a day. "As a journalist, I can say we've been able to do everything we need to do to cover the games. We can still go to venues. We can interview athletes," he told E! News. "The difficult part is when you're in the beginning of your quarantine, you can't really go outside the Olympic bubble, so while I can go to swimming or Judo or surfing, we can't freelance and explore neighborhoods and go to cultural sites and that sort of stuff for stories."

NBC's workaround? "We stationed people here in advance, so they could get through their 14-day quarantine," Holt explained, "so we have people who are able to tell those kinds of stories while I'm still under quarantine right now."

NBC News

Challenges aside, the privilege of covering the historic event is not lost on Holt. 

"It's a very, very long day," he acknowledged, "but when you do these kinds of assignments, though, you kind of check your personal life at the door, which is fine.  You come here to work and to report. I consider it a great perk of the job to be able to cover these Olympic Games every two years, so I'm all in. The work is hard and the hours are long, but it's really neat to be able to be a part of it."

NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt airs at 6:30 p.m. ET or check your local listing. Nightly News Kids Edition is available on NBCNews.com, Peacock, YouTube and other digital platforms.

(E! and NBC are both part of the NBCUniversal family.)

Check out E! News' 2022 Beijing Olympics homepage for news, photos and more.