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Radio News Bulletin
America's perspective on the Olympics
31 July 2012, 8:00 AM | Source: Matthew Hall, SBS
It was at this point that Bob Costas shifted in his seat a little. Costas is the Olympics anchor for NBC, a kind of American Eddie McGuire if you’re inclined to replace McGuire’s Aussie Rules passion with Costas’ ubiquitous helming of baseball, basketball, and American football broadcasts.
As Israel’s athletes began to wheel around London’s Olympic stadium, Costas shuffled a little more in his seat and began a speech perhaps a little more prepared than most of the other quips of trivia he would deliver during the broadcast…
“These games mark the 40th anniversary of the 1972 tragedy in Munich, when 11 Israeli coaches and athletes were murdered by Palestinian terrorists. There have been calls from a number of quarters for the IOC to acknowledge that, with a moment of silence at some point in tonight's ceremony. The IOC denied that request, noting it had honored the victims on other occasions. And, in fact, this week [IOC president} Jacques Rogge led a moment of silence before about 100 people in the athlete's village. Still, for many, tonight, with the world watching, is the true time and place to remember those who were lost, and how and why they died…”
Costas then held a personal 12 seconds of on-air silence which for a network like NBC that will rake in over $1 billion in advertising revenue for its Games coverage, is a very expensive time frame.
There was some irony then that NBC (which broadcast Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony on delay to hold out for a Friday night prime time audience) cut from its coverage a section of the ceremony that may or may not have been dedicated to victims of the 2005 London bombings.
This is not to particularly criticise NBC’s broadcast of events. After all, any network that has two channels dedicated solely to Olympic football and basketball gets my vote but it does highlight how different countries frame their own coverage of a single event.
Watching NBC from New York, I can say that Australia is represented at these Olympics but only with swimmers who come last in races that their American counterparts usually win. That’s about it. In contrast, I can tell you everything you need to know about the American gymnastic teams (but will refrain) that received almost saturation coverage at home. In Australia, it’s unlikely you know those guys exist.
Listening to Costas on Friday also gave an insight on how the rest of the world is viewed from America. Of course, there was Israel but when it came to Australia there was confusion over the presence of the Union flag so predominant on Australia’s own.
Costas ignored Lauren Jackson, the subject of so much conjecture in Australia, but told America that Australia is a former British penal colony, which is why Britain’s flag is still so ever-present.
That is what 40 million Americans learned about Australia. It could have been worse. Denmark, we were told, is the most successful non-Asian nation at badminton.
How’s that for international perspective?