The president of the American Latvian Association is urging supporters to join the organization in protesting the failure of the U.S. television network NBC to fully show the Latvian team during the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics.
In a Feb. 19 e-mail to ALA members and supporters, Juris Mežinskis said protest letters to the network also should point out what he called NBC’s ignorance of Latvia’s history.
Mežinskis, in a letter to NBC Chairman Dick Ebersol, said it was “mildly irritating” when the network in its live telecast of the Feb. 12 opening ceremony cut away to a commercial before the Latvian team was due to enter Olympic Stadium in Vancouver. Shots of the teams from Kyrgyzstan, Latvia and Lebanon were briefly shown when the network returned to live coverage.
But the ALA president used stronger language to criticize the network’s color commentary during the Feb. 16 men’s ice hockey match between Latvia and Russia.
“During the Russia-Latvia hockey game, it was more disturbing to have the commentator try to put Latvia in perspective by describing it as a ‘former Soviet republic,’” Mežinskis wrote. He added that according to the U.S. government, Latvia was an occupied country during World War II and the Americans never recognized its incorporation into the Soviet Union.
“Describing Latvia as a former Soviet republic carries a certain message of civility and legality which is misleading the TV audience,” Mežinskis wrote. “Latvia will have several more hockey games and other competitions where your ‘color commentators’ can either describe Latvia from the occupier’s point of view or that of the Latvian people.”
NBC officials could not be immediately reached for comment.
This was not the first time the Latvian team has not been shown during the live NBC broadcast of an Olympics opening ceremony. However, during the Salt Lake City games in 2002, Latvian fans and NBC affiliate KSL-TV convinced network officials to show the team live.
NBC has exclusive broadcast rights for the Winter Olympics in the U.S. In other countries, including Canada, the Latvian team was shown entering Olympic Stadium without commercial interruption.
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