Dear Bob Costas (and Matt Lauer): Lay Off Albania!

Albania: Proud winners of zero Olympic medals.
Perhaps they will score one in 2012.

There I was casually taking in the Parade Of Nations during the opening night of the London 2012 Olympic games. I was enjoying watching the athletes from different countries stroll through London’s Olympic Stadium and beam with pride at being able to represent their homeland, and deservedly so after the years of hard training that they have undoubtedly put in. Then, as members of the Albanian entourage walked across the screen, NBC anchor Bob Costas noted, “This is a good opportunity for us to remind you of something we’ve said in the past: the vast majority of athletes that come to these games will not win a medal. At least they will get to say, ‘I marched in the opening ceremony behind the flag of my people.'” By association their list of non-winners (and non-winning countries, of which there are actually dozens) included Albania. (Isn’t it bad enough we waged war on them in Wag the Dog? Okay, I digress.) I looked it up, and no, Albania has not won any medals. Now I want them to win one.

Mr. Costas (and take note, co-anchor Matt Lauer), this was simply the opening night ceremony. Nobody cares how many medals anyone has won. As broadcasting representatives for the nation that usually clean ups at the Olympics, it’s incredibly arrogant and condescending to make statements about all the people who won’t beat your team. This is the kind of myopic worldview that pisses off people in other countries and makes them think that many of us have an attitude. (It’s not the first time I have noticed it either. Even when discussing Afghanistan before Albania, Costas mentioned only the US and UK security forces there, nothing about the actual country or its people.) While I root for my country during the Olympics, I also root for whomever I think is the best in whichever sport they are competing in. After all, shouldn’t the best athlete win? Are we not supposed to be united in sport through the Olympics? Isn’t it awesome just to appreciate greatness when you see it? And with regards to winning medals, the beauty of sport is important too, not just the ceremony afterward. Sometimes rooting for the underdog can also be fun and keeps things interesting.

Try to remember that as you keep broadcasting over the next two weeks, Bob. I hate it when the stereotype of the Ugly American keeps being perpetuated.

3 Responses

  1. Jeff

    Bryan I think NBC agrees with you. They were pointing out that just BEING in the Olympics is reason enough to be proud of an athlete, that it’s NOT all about the medals.

    Unfortunately this is a competition and there will be winners and losers and the big question at the end of the day will be ‘who won?’

    I remember a few years ago there was a swimmer who finished many many many minutes behind the others in the pool and they celebrated their effort. I also recall seeing cross country skiers from countries without snow that were featured and applauded.

    • Bryan Reesman

      I just thought it was unnecessary to mention right at the start of the parade and at the appearance of a country that has never won any medals. A lot of people find these anchors a bit snarky. Why not talk about the country instead?

  2. Ed

    Who at NBC hired these monkeys? Who trained these monkeys? Couldn’t you have given them some kind of guidelines before putting them in the same room with a microphone?

    It’s time for all Americans who are in the world limelight to wake up, be professional, reflect common courtesy and represent the quiet core of this country that does exactly that every day. If there isn’t already, this should be a rule in journalism: keep your smug, snide, self-elevating comments to yourself.


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