Right Field

Costas Gets Political at the Olympics

NBC’s Thursday night coverage of the Olympics featured Bob Costas interviewing journalists David Remnick and Vladimir Pozner where the hot-button topic of LGBT rights in Russia was front-and-center. Here are some of the excerpts from that interview. In summary, Putin is much more concerned about terrorists disrupting the games than he is of public-opinion on his views on the LGBT community:

♦Olympic correspondent and Pulitzer-prize winning editor of The New Yorker David Remnick on Putin: “What Vladimir Putin wants to do is reassert Russia on the world stage and the Olympics is the greatest pop culture stage that there is.  It doesn’t happen very often.  If it goes well – if there is no terrorism, no violence and things work – for him it’s a great success, by his domestic terms.  On the world stage though, remember, he is an autocrat. He is no a democrat. He has no interest in LGBT issues or human rights, all the things that are being discussed.  He doesn’t care that you care that much.  What you may think is a downside is not of great concern to him, unless there’s an incident of some kind.”

♦Olympic correspondent and Russian-American journalist Vladimir Pozner on Putin: “I think [Putin] cares much more about how people in this country [Russia] feel about the Olympics and how they go, than how people outside this country feel about that. So if there is nothing bad — like a terrorist attack — if these are successful Games, the majority of people in Russia are going to be happy with that.”

♦Pozner on effect of the anti-gay propaganda law on athletes and visitors: “I think zero. No effect at all. I don’t see anything happening at all.  In fact, I think the powers that be are going to be super careful to see that nothing happens to any gay athlete or guest during the Olympics… Gay Russians have a very tough time.”

And here’s a Costas monologue of sorts on Vladimir Putin where it looks like NBC will go out of its way to paint Putin in the best possible light. Emphasis mine: 

Costas on Russian President Vladimir Putin: “The Sochi Olympics have been an object of fascination and controversy for months now. At the center of every question is the country’s president, Vladimir Putin. He was the central force behind bringing these Games here and was also involved in just about every detail of their planning and presentation. It’s a pivotal and controversial juncture in his ongoing effort to lead his country back to prominence.

“Putin has been a fixture on the international stage for almost 15 years as either president or prime minister. That’s far longer than any other leader among the world’s most influential nations. Just in the past year, Putin brokered a deal to allow Syria to avoid a U.S. military strike by giving up its chemical weapons and helped bring Iran to the negotiating table over its nuclear intentions. He has repeatedly showcased his confidence to take on the West, particularly the United States, offering asylum to National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, enticing Ukraine to back out of a deal to join the European Union, and passing laws viewed as repressive to members of the gay community and their supporters. He even wrote an op-ed in The New York Times published last September 11 explaining his view of the situation in Syria and chastising President Obama for calling America ‘exceptional.’ A month later, Forbes magazine named Putin ‘The World’s Most Powerful Person,’ knocking Obama down to No.2.”

Costas’s portrayal of Putin as peacemaker in Syria and Iran is far too generous. As for Ukraine, maybe Costas should turn on the TV and see for himself Putin’s style of enticement.

If Costas thinks this cupcake coverage of Russia and Putin is going to cut it over the next few weeks, he’s sadly mistaken. Maybe some of the hundreds of sports journalists in Sochi can stop complaining about their hotel rooms long enough to do some real reporting on what’s going on inside of Russia.

The political coverage continues tonight when NBC will air Costas interviewing President Obama. Stay tuned. 

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