February 11, 2006

The XX Winter Olympiad: Let the Politics Begin

NBC’s Brian Williams waxes political at the Turino Olympic Opening Ceremonies (Quicktime, 2.1 MB). Click image to begin video.

Last night I sat down with my family to watch the opening ceremonies of the XX Olympic Winter Games. A glass of Chianti and a nice fire. Perfect.

Perfect until Brian Williams, NBC’s Nightly News anchor and co-host of the program began editorializing during the presentation of the Italian flag. Watch the video. We’ll talk in a minute…

Theoretically, the Olympic games were meant to temporarily put aside politics and national jingoism in exchange for loftier ideals of athletic competition. During ancient times a truce (in Greek, an ekecheiria) was called so that athletes and visitors could safely attend the games. Wars were suspended during the events.

Politics certainly were a part of these ancient competitions. And that tradition has never been far from contemporary Olympiads (Munich and Mexico City to name just two examples). But William’s pandering to some vision of his demographic seemed woefully out of place during the celebratory Opening Ceremonies.

In four short sentences he managed to embrace older Italian-Americans (I wonder if younger generations really do remember World War II) and pro-Iraqi War supporters (a dwindling demographic). What was he thinking?

Brian Williams sullied the spirit of the Games with his remarks. Perhaps I shouldn’t expect the Olympics to be a place for lofty ideals, even the hope that on some small level they will rise to the top despite our human foibles.

I was hoping to take a few weeks off from depressing front page news to watch the games. Am I too altruistic? Ok, let the politics begin!

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As you can see from the continuing coverage, it’s still in über-hype mode. Feel like writing to Mr. Williams?

Posted by: Nina on February 12, 2006 1:36 PM

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