If you watched the Olympics at all this winter, you would
be forgiven for thinking that the Fourth of July holiday had arrived six
months early. This year's Games were wrapped in the flag, at least through
the prism of NBC's coverage. Even more so than in past Olympics, accomplishments
of American athletes automatically earned airtime, even when the American
athlete didn't medal, or was surpassed by other countries.
We heard over and over that an American bobsled team broke
a decades-long drought in medals for us in that sport-certainly something
to celebrate. But we had to strain our ears to learn that in that contest
the German team took the gold, and that the Americans came behind, with
silver and copper.
The Olympics, however, are not, and should not be. Yes, there is an official everything for the Games, from official soft drink to official toilet bowl cleaner. This year, though, NBC seemed to think that the Games also had an official country: the United States. Even in the opening ceremonies, Bob Costas couldn't stifle his jingoism long enough to let Iran's athletes cross the screen without noting that President Bush had included their country in the "axis of evil." It was a comment that had no place in a sporting event meant to encourage peace and cooperation among nations. Costas, and NBC, should have apologized for it. The rest of their coverage should not have followed that example.