For more than two weeks, the world has been reminded that there is no sporting event like the Olympic Games. Often overhyped, they still represent a remarkable coming together of the world's top athletes. The awe with which even professionals speak of winning a gold medal testifies to the Olympics' lure.
The Atlanta Games were as filled with drama as any. Kerry Strug's vault over injury, Michael Johnson's sprint into the history books, Michelle Smith's first-ever women's gold medals for Ireland, and Canadian Donovan Bailey's world-record dash are images that will last for years.
American viewers unfortunately never saw many other images of the Games because NBC chose not to show them. According to the Peacock Network's version, entire Olympic sports didn't even exist, especially if an American didn't medal. Those events NBC did show were frequently so abbreviated that the feel of the sport was lost. Too many events were shown on tape that could have been broadcast live.
Many have noted the overemphasis on US athletes. NBC telegraphed its slant weeks earlier with its "America's Games" advertising. The Olympics are the world's games: Fine athletes from other countries deserve as much attention and applause as the Americans. In years past, viewers have been able to see medal ceremonies and hear national anthems even when US athletes did not win the gold. NBC wouldn't even show us the other flags.
An answer in the future might be a return to the 1992 "triple cast" format in which a selection of events was shown on broadcast TV, while those wanting more could turn to cable. Fewer profiles and more sport, please.
Kudos, however, to NBC's Bob Costas, whose intelligent presentations were a pleasure to watch.