Friday, July 27, 2012

The Olympics and Politics

Jim McKay, speaking the harrowing words of 1972 in Munich.
The Games of the XXX Olympiad are getting underway in London as we speak.  The opening ceremonies will air in tape delay tonight on NBC (a place I once desperately wanted to work).  I get the business sense of doing that, but I feel like showing them live would have been appropriate.  Just my take.

But as always, the Olympic games find ways to let politics drop in and muck things up.

If you need a history lesson, here's a quick one: the Games were held in 1972 in Munich.  Palestinians known as "Black September" stormed the quarters of the Israeli team and took hostages, demanding the release of prisoners.  After negotiation and debate, the drama that played out over September 15 and 16 ended with the deaths of six Israeli athletes and five coaches, as well as a West German police officer.

The broadcasts were carried on ABC, with Jim McKay, Howard Cosell, Chris Schenkel and an armada of talented voices in the old golden blazers of the Alphabet Network.  Watch this quick piece on the late Jim McKay, and wait for the end when he speaks those chilling words: "They're all gone."

The London Games mark the 40th anniversary of the Munich massacre, and many people think it is only right for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to recognize it.  Regardless of race, religion and such, I think it is the proper thing to do.  ELEVEN Olympic participants died in Munich.  They were there for the Olympics. As such, it is incumbent on IOC boss Jacques Rogge to pause for a minute to allow those losses to be remembered.

Why does this seem so simple, and yet so complex?

Rogge will tell you that he already had a moment of silence for them - at the Athletes' Village - earlier this week.

Enter Bob Costas.  The NBC host will not let the moment pass during tonight's broadcast, as he had said he will rip the IOC for their petty attitude regarding this, and will have NBC observe its own moment of silence.  To that, I say bravo. 

In a world that comes off as so blatantly politically correct, this move would be right to draw that kind of criticism.  But in a world that can often come off as cruel and cold, it seems right. 

This isn't about pandering.

This is about the athletes.  As usual, Jacques Rogge is playing the all-too-familiar role of the villain.

Let there be pause.

Then bring on Paul McCartney!

Then let the games begin.

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