The Media Misses the Real Olympics

Reporters need the courage to tell the truth -- or go home.
by Jim Fair | Source:

I expect many of you, like me, have spent the past 10 days passionately viewing sports you see only once every four years.

To be honest, I have never attended a swim meet, gymnastics competition or beach volleyball tournament.  But I’ve seen a lot of these events in the past week.  Some of it has been exciting, like Michael Phelps winning enough gold medals to stock Fort Knox.

But I can’t get past this little lingering twitch in the back of my mind that there is something wrong with the way the media has covered these Olympics, something a little too perfect.

It struck me yesterday as the women’s marathon was drawing to its conclusion.  A remarkable runner from Romania, Constantina Tomescu-Dita, made a break from the pack with 10 miles to go in the race and nobody ever caught her.  She was more than a minute ahead as she came down the road to the stadium.  There should have been thousands of people lining the route, cheering her on.

But she ran alone, the crowds kept far from the road for “security” reasons.  There have, in the past, been assorted nuts that have wandered onto a marathon course and caused problems.  Given the nature of the culture and government, I doubt this is a big problem in China.

Having run a few marathons (about an hour slower than Constantine) I can personally attest that it helps to have a people cheering you on at the end.  And I have to think that security could be maintained without having the crowds more than a javelin-throw away.

Of course, there was the little problem of the girl who won the singing contest for the opening ceremonies not being cute enough for prime-time, a scandal that didn’t last long on prime-time television. 

And there was the remarkable scene of China’s various ethnic groups being portrayed by majority Han individuals.  This is the moral equivalent of white Americans portraying blacks in dark makeup.  It wouldn’t occur to Americans to do this and if it did, the media would (justifiably) expose the shame.  The Chinese version was a non-story.

My guess is that the media (most specifically NBC) have been cautioned not to be too critical or have the feed halted.  And there probably isn’t a media mogul brave enough to show the real story and risk that happening.

I, for one, would feel a lot better about the whole thing if I tuned in and there was a blank screen, with an American announcer saying, “I’m sorry, the Chinese government has halted our transmission of the Olympics because we decided to cover the persecution of religion, forced abortion and virtual slave labor that abounds in China.  And we think eating seahorses is just plain weird.”

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