Olympics are world’s games, not America’s

Perhaps the only thing worse than the shameless commercialization of the Olympics has been NBC’s overt nationalism. In this Olympic year, the ideals of pure competition and international spectacle have been moved aside in favor of self-congratulation and national ego.
Judging by the television coverage of the centennial games in Atlanta, thousands of foreign competitors are mere incidentals — underlings for superior Americans to conquer. NBC’s tag line, “America’s Games” has done a disservice to the unique stature of the Olympics: The network’s coverage has been limited to events in which Americans excel.
There’s no question there are some exciting happenings coming out of the American camp, like the U.S. women gymnasts’ first gold medal-winning team performance. But at the height of Tuesday’s team competition, NBC showed only U.S. routines — except, of course, when a Russian or Romanian gymnast faltered. The announcers reveled in U.S. successes and beat their chests over foreign mistakes.
Why? Is it reasonable to believe that American viewers are only interested in seeing Americans who have reached the pinnacle of athletic achievement, an Olympic medal? We hope not, for if anything should be made clear by watching hours of Olympic coverage, it’s that the dedication to excellence that these athletes exemplify is not limited to U.S. borders.
There are wonderful stories and characters to be found, regardless of the country of origin, and they deserve more attention. Still, it wasn’t until Day 3, when swimmer Tom Dolan won the United States’ first gold medal of the games, that television viewers were shown a medal ceremony. NBC chooses instead to air fluffy, overwrought features about American athletes who overcame seemingly insurmountable odds to reach the Olympics.
Apparently, ideals like sportsmanship and goodwill lose their luster on the worldwide stage. Instead, we are treated to announcers who openly cheer for the United States, even though NBC Sports President Dick Ebersol promised in May, “There will be no on-air rooting for American athletes … there will be no ‘we’ and ‘us’ against the world.” Nevertheless, it seems some missed the memo. Announcers at several venues can be heard screeching, gasping and shouting their way through events. If that’s not rooting, what is? NBC needs to give the patriotism a rest.
Although the Olympics are again being held in the United States, NBC has to realize there’s more to the games than American athletes competing. The spirit of comradery — being among the world’s best — is what makes the Olympics special. Frankly, we have seen enough of the big-name American athletes who dominate the headlines. Every so often, it would be nice to hear a national anthem other than our own.