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Sochi 2014

Olympic viewing: Off-ice issues, terror threats, LGBT rights jump to forefront

Thursday, February 6, 2014
Pavel Golovkin, APThe Olympic Cauldron, left, is lit during a test between the Bolshoy Ice Dome, top, and the Iceberg Skating Palace, foreground, early Thursday morning, Feb. 6, 2014, in Sochi, Russia, prior to the start of the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Pavel Golovkin, AP
The Olympic Cauldron, left, is lit during a test between the Bolshoy Ice Dome, top, and the Iceberg Skating Palace, foreground, early Thursday morning, Feb. 6, 2014, in Sochi, Russia, prior to the start of the 2014 Winter Olympics.

A day before athletes begin filing in to Sochi’s Fisht Stadium for Friday’s opening ceremony, NBC is already being tested on how it will cover the two biggest non-sports issues of the Winter Olympics.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has warned that terrorists flying in to Russia may try to smuggle explosives inside toothpaste tubes, spotlighting the ongoing security fears. And a prominent gay and lesbian rights organization said it would be watching NBC and its cable partners — every hour of every day — to see how much they talk about a widely criticized Russian law restricting gay-rights activities.

The terrorism warning was the lead story on the “CBS Evening News” on Wednesday and the second biggest story after the winter weather on NBC’s “Nightly News.”

The “Today” show on Thursday illustrated the balance NBC is seeking between news and pumping up interest in an event that parent company Comcast Corp. paid $775 million for the rights to broadcast. The onscreen headline on the story anchor Matt Lauer introduced from Sochi read, “Let the Games Begin!” The smaller sub-headline read, “Competition starts amid new terror warning.”

“It’s now time for the athlete to start worrying about winning,” reporter Keir Simmons said.

Primarily because of the security concerns, more Americans said it was a bad decision to hold the games in Russia rather than a good one, by a 44 percent to 32 percent margin, according to a poll released Thursday by the Pew Research Center. That opinion increased with age: 55 percent of Americans aged 50 and over say Russia was a lousy choice. Pew surveyed 1,003 adults by telephone between Jan. 30 and Feb. 2, with a 3.6 percent margin of error.

The Washington-based Human Rights Campaign, a civil rights organization for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders, said it will track NBC’s coverage of Russia’s law prohibiting gay “propaganda” to minors and the general issue of how gays are treated in the Olympic host country.

“It’s reasonable to expect that they should be inclusive of the shadow that clouds these Olympic games,” said Fred Sainz, an HRC spokesman.

Sainz said he hopes that NBC would devote at least one lengthy report on the issue of how gays are treated in Russia and that it should be mentioned at least once every night during more than two weeks of prime-time coverage.

He acknowledged that’s a lot of time for programs primarily focused on athletic competition, but said, “they have a lot of time to fill.”

NBC Olympics host Bob Costas mentioned both issues in the first night’s introduction, saying the games promise pageantry “but also take place against a backdrop of questions about policy differences, security, cost overruns and human rights issues, including Russia’s anti-gay propaganda law.”

Within the first hour, Costas had a discussion with Russian commentator Vladimir Pozner and New Yorker editor David Remnick, where he asked about the propaganda law. Pozner described Russia as a “homophobic country” and said Russian gays are “in a very difficult situation.” He predicted, however, that Russian authorities would work to make sure there were no incidents while the country is on the international stage.

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25 more reader comments:

  1. wow

    Posted on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 5:43am
  2. I really hope that the shit hole that Russia has become recently comes out in the open now.

    Posted on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 5:45am
  3. I love the Olympics, but I am not watching this year because of Gay Rights Issues and what they are doing with the stray dogs being killed instead of put them in shelters. This apparently is a common practice murdering dogs in Russia. I just in good faith cannot watch being a gay woman and an animal lover! I hope it brings to light how horrible of a country they really are. Looking forward to RIO!!!!!

    Posted on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 5:53am
  4. So according to that Russian commentator, the Russian government’s stance is “Don’t worry everyone, just watch the Olympics. We’ll try our best to not show our police force beating gays to death in the street while the cameras are rolling.”

    Posted on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 5:53am
  5. western media needs to snoop everywhere.

    Replied on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 6:00am
  6. Or culling stray dogs and cats and throwing them into dumpsters...just wait until the Worlds eyes are turned away when the olympics are over....nothing will change...it will in fact get worse...

    Replied on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 2:52pm
  7. I don’t expect much to happen in the way of anti-gay activity during the next couple of weeks but my biggest concern is for Russian LGBT after the Olympics and the eyes of the world is no longer focused on Russia.

    Posted on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 5:54am
  8. POOR choice (Russia) to have the Olympic games .

    Posted on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 5:57am
  9. We should pressure NBC and media in general to play the videos that show the hate attracts .

    Posted on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 5:59am
  10. I’m having the Olympics in my rusty tool shed for 2018.
    Guaranteed 100 times better than Sochi.

    Posted on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 6:11am
  11. The Olympic flame is sustained by fracking water.

    Posted on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 6:20am
  12. It is normal that when we are close to the end of life, the circle of our social life shrinks day after day. After saying good-bye to the friends we normally would see during the important holidays, we need to focus on family and maybe a couple of best friends, then family only. The final few days, we only see children and lover, then the last day, the only person we can remember is lover. Being with lover at the final day of life should be a basic human right, but it is not a right for gay people now in most places in the world.

    當一個人的生命快到終點時, 社交圈會越來越小, 從開始的親朋好友, 縮小到只有家人, 然後連兄弟姊妹都不想看到, 只要自己的父母﹑小孩和另一半在身邊。直到最後, 會連小孩子們都忘記了,只要自己的另一半。很遺憾的, 目前世界上多數的同志在臨終前, 自己的愛人不能在身邊。

    – 流浪的彩虹王子 Rainbow Prince

    Posted on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 6:26am
  13. That comment about Russia doing everything it could to ensure no issues…? Yeah, here’s the translation:

    “We will beat the gays away from cameras, and make certain cleaning crews get all the blood before anybody sees.”

    Posted on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 7:24am
  14. I am very worried for the LGBTQ community in Russia after the Olympics ends. They need to be able be safe.

    Posted on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 7:59am
  15. No country that does not have basic human rights should ever host the Olympics. Shame on the committee for choosing Russia. Putin blew his chance big time

    Posted on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 8:01am
  16. Can

    Posted on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 8:28am
  17. Can’t wait for those darn games to be over so every body can go home and be safe ..

    Posted on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 8:29am
  18. The gay Russians can’t go home and be safe !

    Posted on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 10:02am
  19. I hope the entire thing is an unmitigated disaster from start to finish and all those taking part and earning money from it get NOTHING, it’s all they deserve for holding it in such a barbaric inhumane shithole

    Posted on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 11:52am
  20. We won’t be watching so we don’t care about any of it. They could make the GLBT community in Russia royalty, they could triple their security, they could find homes for all of the stray dogs, they could bring in safe fresh water that isn’t yellow, they could do a lot of things but, they didn’t do anything except the exact opposite of what they needed to do. They were not capable of pulling off the games without a serious hitch and Russia should have been the LAST choice as a place to have them. What a freakin’ nightmare they have turned into. I support our athletes and hope for them to be successful and bring home a lot of medals… I just hope they understand that a lot of us will not be watching or paying attention. Sorry. I do pray for all of them to return home safe and sound.

    Posted on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 1:16pm
  21. Hey, I made this for a class and thought u might be able to use it https://www.behance.net/gallery/Putin-Out/14332451

    Posted on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 1:30pm
  22. what a sad place to be, the HATER country

    Posted on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 2:00pm
  23. These Olympics are a total joke and a sham!

    Posted on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 2:50pm
  24. I love when Karma shows up! <3 her!

    Posted on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 4:00pm
  25. Posted on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 4:05pm