2024 Olympics

The World will watch the 2024 Olympics in Paris; NBC will have to preside over the affair delicately!

 

Solomon

Way before the first pitch of baseball’s 2023 all-star game was thrown, the 2024 Paris Olympic Summer Games shared a slice of the sports news, which means two things: That the negative coverage of the games had begun and that it’s only a matter of time before the sponsors of the world’s most hyped political sports event begin their commercial promotions.

After numerous negative articles about the Paris Olympics in major news outlets concerning the International Olympic Committees (IOC) wants to have Russian and Belarus athletes compete, as well as charges of corruption in the awarding of the games, NBCUniversal finally spoke up, or perhaps its more accurate to say “spoke down,” because the network saw nothing but roses, ice cream and candy in their press announcement. Any mention of the controversies surrounding the games was missing from the press release, but made major headlines in other news organizations coverage. But at least the news release didn’t say “stay with us throughout the Olympics for all the news.

On May 11, NBCUniversal, which will televise the games in the U.S., issued a press release that said, in part, “With 14 months until the Games of the XXXIII Olympiad begin, NBCUniversal announced today that the NBC broadcast network and streaming service Peacock will be the company’s primary platforms for its coverage of the Olympic Games Paris 2024, scheduled for July 26-Aug. 11, 2024.

“Every day, NBC will provide Olympic fans with at least nine hours of daytime coverage of the Summer Games’ most exciting events, including live finals coverage of swimming, gymnastics, track & field, and more. With Paris six hours ahead of the United States’ eastern time zone, the daytime takeover will feature that day’s most popular events live on NBC in the morning and afternoon. Paris 2024 will have more programming hours on the NBC broadcast network than any previous Olympics.” (But as in all matters, more is not necessarily good.)

In the press release, Pete Bevacqua, Chairman, NBC Sports, said, “For those wanting to watch the competition as it happens, Peacock will have everything live, creating the greatest single destination in sports media history. From the spectacular landmarks of Paris to the world’s greatest athletes performing in front of full stadiums and arenas for the first time in six years, viewers can expect one of the most extraordinary Olympics ever….”  (Extraordinary Olympics? That’s hopeful thinking in my opinion.)

Also quoted was Kelly Campbell, President, Peacock and Direct to Consumer, NBCUniversal. “Peacock is bringing the rich history of these incredible Games to our viewers like never before, providing unparalleled and unprecedented access to one of the world’s greatest sporting events.” (Incredible games? Corruptible games would be more accurate.) 

One thing that I cannot deny. The writer of the news release certainly knows that adjectives are a part of American English. Not mentioned in the NBCUniversal release was the controversy regarding allowing Russian and Belarus athletes to compete or the allegations of corruption in the awarding of the games and other matters, which has received major news coverage.

NBCUniversal also commenced a “Save The Date” campaign in which “Musical legend Dolly Parton, the Minions, and WWE superstar Roman Reigns and his special counsel Paul Heyman star in a promotional video in which they are offered unbelievable opportunities next summer only to turn them down because they have already saved the date to watch the Paris Olympics. The campaign also had Savannah Guthrie broadcasting live from Paris on June 7–8 talking to NBC Olympics primetime host Mike Tirico as well as Team USA athletes. (Unbelievable to me that they turned down unbelievable opportunities just to watch television. More believable is that they got paid to do so.)

I’ve always thought that the Olympic Games are the world’s most important athletic event. (Full disclosure: I’ve been a featured speaker at an IOC sports media seminar and have managed or played key roles in Olympic programs, both on the sponsorship side and with organizing committees.

But I’ve also never been blind to the short comings of the movement and never defended its unsavory dealings as do sports marketing sponsors and NBCUniversal does by “just following the athletes.” When choosing Olympians for client promotions, I always insisted that they were above reproach. If research, or my conversations with sports writers, turned up anything unsavory about them, I’d veto them.)

Business people involved with the Olympics are aware that allegations of bribery influencing IOC decisions are as common as doping is among Olympic athletes. But what bothers me the most is when they remain silent and “follow the athletes” even when the games are awarded to totalitarian countries that engender war and are devoid of human rights. That’s the red line for me.

In 1936, despite it being known that the Nazis were persecuting Jews, and other people that they considered undesirable, the IOC with backing of the then called American Olympic Committee agreed that Germany should host the Summer and Winter Olympics. The first concentration, camp, Dachau, was constructed in 1933 by Nazi officials and was used as a model for future camps, and in 1935 Germany annexed  the Saar region and reinstituted compulsory military service in violation of the Versailles Treaty but the American Olympic Committee refused to participate in a boycott of the games held in a totalitarian dictatorship country that had proven by its actions that it was a threat to many of its citizens and world peace.

Even though totalitarian Germany showed its true face before the beginning of the Nazi Olympics, the IOC and the American Olympic Committee, despite protests against America’s participation in the games by some U.S. Olympic high-ranking officeholders, religious leaders of all faiths and elected government officials failed to sway “the politics has no place in the Olympics” crowd.

And ever since the IOC, with the backing of the United States Olympic Committee, has not spoke out when the propaganda-rich games were awarded to autocratic governments.

In 1968 the IOC awarded its game to Mexico, despite the country’s single-party authoritarian government. Twice the IOC awarded its games to Russia in 1980 and again in 2014 and another totalitarian government, Yugoslavia, hosted the games in 1984.  China was given the 2008 Summer Olympics and the 2022 Winter Olympics. “Just show us the money” would be an appropriate IOC motto.

American sponsors of the Olympics, along with American networks, particularly NBCUniversal, and the United States Olympic establishment, also showed no shame in helping put a good face on those countries.
The 2024 Summer Olympics will be played in France, a democratic country. While there will be no dragging of people to concentration camps, there have already been dozens of articles detailing allegations of corruption and the controversy regarding the IOC’s wanting to allow athletes from Russia and Belarus to compete in spite of those countries waging war against Ukraine. There are too many articles to list in this limited space. They are easily found on the web pages of major respected news outlets but do not rate one sentence in the NBCUniversal press release.

It will be interesting to see how NBCUniversal covers these controversies and others that might arise during their televising the games.

My guess is that their coverage will resemble those of NBCUniversal’s past Olympic coverage – seeing no evil, hearing no evil and talking no evil, but hearing the “Cha-Ching” of cash registers.

 

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Arthur Solomon

Arthur Solomon, a former journalist, was a senior VP/senior counselor at Burson-Marsteller, and was responsible for restructuring, managing and playing key roles in some of the most significant national and international sports and non-sports programs. He also traveled internationally as a media adviser to high-ranking government officials. He now is a frequent contributor to public relations publications and consults on public relations projects. He can be reached at arthursolomon4pr (at) juno.com.

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Michael Green
8 months ago

I’ll be sarcastic and say I wonder how long it has been since we did not have an Olympics with corruption or a political firestorm!