NBC Skipped One of the Best Parts of the Opening Ceremonies

I don’t know about you, but every couple of years I watch the opening ceremonies of the Olympics, trying to get through the rather drawn-out and sometimes boring affair interspersed with way too many commercials and inane ‘up close and personal’ interviews. Last night we got to hear about the nicknames of a couple of gymnasts and about whether or not Michael Phelps is afraid of Ryan Lochte. But what we DIDN’T see was a moving tribute that many think was in honor of victims of the 7/7 London bombings that happened just days after the city was awarded the 2012 games.

According to DeadSpin:

The major transitional element of today’s London Olympics opening ceremony was a downtempo performance of adoptive sporting anthem “Abide With Me” by Scottish singer Emeli Sandé. The song and accompanying dance were a tribute to the victims of the 7/7 terror attacks in London that claimed 52 victims days after the 2012 Summer Olympic hosts were named. (It’s also been suggested the performance was a memorial to the war dead.)

Regardless, it was a rather significant and emotional moment in the opening ceremony, coming just before the parade of nations—and it wasn’t aired in the United States. Instead, viewers were treated to a lengthy and meaningless Ryan Seacrest interview of Michael Phelps. NBC regularly excises small portions of the opening ceremony to make room for commercials, but we’ve never heard of them censoring out an entire performance—especially to air an inane interview. We’ve asked NBC why they didn’t air the tribute, and if they get back to us we’ll let you know what they say. In the meantime, enjoy the performance everyone else in the world saw.

It notes that there are conflicting reports that it wasn’t really a tribute for the terrorist attacks, but it refutes that based on the performance as well as the number of sites describing it as a tribute … as well as the official BBC announcement:

Ladies and gentlemen, please pause silent for our memorial wall for friends and family who can’t be here tonight. The excitement of that moment in Singapore seven years ago when England won the games was tempered the next day with sorrow from the events of July 7th that year. A wall of remembrance for those no longer here to share in this event.

Also of note was that an initiative to get the 40th anniversary of the 1972 assassination of 11 Israeli athletes and coaches by Palestinians honored by a moment of silence was denied, but NBC’s Bob Costas chimed in about it in a way that greatly increased my respect for him:

Costas called that decision insensitive during an interview this month and indicated he would call for his own moment of silence when Israeli athletes marched into the Olympic Stadium on Friday.

As the athletes marched in Friday, Costas said that IOC President Jacques Rogge led a moment of silence for the late Israelis this week before about 100 people at 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 said.

After a five-second pause, NBC cut to a commercial.

Good on Costas for paying honor, and shame on NBC for chopping out a reminder of the very real and present dangers of global terrorism – something not reserved for US memorials.

Head to DeadSpin to watch the video in full.

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3 replies

  1. A lot of people make fun of Costas, but I think he is very knowledgable, a genuine fan of sports (and baseball especially), and a class act. I miss Jim McKay too, but we could do far, far worse.

  2. It is rather hypocritical of the London organizing committee to say no to a tribute of athletes killed at an Olympics then do this tribute.

  3. NBC makes it really easy to criticize them. I understand the whole deal of tape delaying for prime time (though the number and repetition of ads I do not understand), but NBC has reacted badly to criticism. I have had many issues with the iPad Live Video app in the last couple of days, and NBC suggests it is my fault, and they have no issues to fix.

    This opening ceremonies decision is unfortunate. Imagine American reactions if the BBC decided not to show 9/11 tributes during the Salt Lake City opening ceremony? This is the first chance that the British have hosted a games since 7/7, and it would have been classy to show the tribute rather than a totally useless interview (though the ceremony was tape delayed anyway; the could easily have shown both.)