If you followed NBC’s coverage of the Sochi Olympic Games, you would have barely realized there was a popular uprising against tyranny in neighboring Ukraine.
Had Bob “Pink Eye” Costas and crew been around for the 1936 Berlin Games, they would have presented them as “Springtime for Hitler and Germany.”
I could forgive NBC for barely mentioning the murder of protesting civilians in Kiev if the Games had been staged in Norway, but the slushy $50 billion spectacle in Sochi was being hosted by Vladimir Putin.
Bob Costas managed to make an indirect, passing reference to the bloodshed on the next to last night of coverage. A classic case of too little, too late.
Putin was the architect of the unrest in Ukraine. Since he assumed power in Russia, Putin has been bullying and extorting the nation that emerged in 1991 after 70 years of Soviet oppression. The last straw was interfering with Ukraine’s desire to align with the EU instead of a Russian-controlled economic bloc, an hegemony that would virtually set the calendar back to the Soviet era.
His lap dog in Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovitch, condoned – if not ordered – the slaughter of demonstrators in Kiev by cowardly sniper fire. He has since taken refuge in the city of Kharkiv, on the border of Russia in eastern Ukraine, a section of the country sympathetic to Moscow.
Putin never showed an ounce of concern for the violence he helped foster as he made the rounds at Sochi. It was Mother Russia uber alles. Ukraine’s unwillingness to play along with Russia’s economic and strategic game plan was making him look weak at a time when instability in that part of the world, and even in the heartland of his own country, could undo his influence.
Dictators never like to appear weak. Although Putin is not a Joe Stalin, he is at least a mini-me version of Uncle Joe.
Russian allies Syria and Iran would probably feel a little uneasy, too, if average, everyday people were not afraid to challenge their benefactor.
NBC’s whitewash of the Ukrainian Revolution during the Games is the testament of the power of money. Were the suits afraid Putin would pull the plug if their broadcast team sought opinions from the spectators or athletes? Or was it fear that the IOC would blacklist the network?
This much I am sure of – the old Jim McKay-led ABC team would have at least made some fuss about the crisis and Putin’s hand in it.
McKay was the ABC anchor for the tragic 1972 Munich Games. He did not flinch from his responsibility as a journalist. He reported the murder of the Israeli athletes and the failed attempt to rescue them like a news professional in the tradition of Walter Cronkite and Ted Koppel.
But the 1972 slaughter occurred at Munich, not hundreds of miles away, so how can one compare the coverage of the two Olympiads?
While not a drop of blood was spilled at Sochi, save some cuts and bruises suffered by members of Pussy Riot, the man pulling Yanukovitch’s strings was ever-present for NBC’s cameras.
Matt and Bob pretended it was just another Today show.
Remember that the next time you tune into an NBC broadcast.