ALA protests NBC’s coverage of Latvia in Winter Olympics

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.

Andris Straumanis is a special correspondent for and a co-founder of Latvians Online. From 2000–2012 he was editor of the website.

5 thoughts on “ALA protests NBC’s coverage of Latvia in Winter Olympics

  1. Piekriitu ALAi kad nedriikst laist garaam lielu vai mazu starptautisku necienu pret Latviju, jo tad neciena turpinaasies, sakaraa ar Olimpijas speelju uzsakumu un hokeja starp-ciinjas komantaaru. Arii buutu piemeeroti kad kaads atmodies “sports-casters” ieveerotu to kad Latvija, ar nepilniem 3 miljarda pilsoniem, tika pienemti 58 ~lai gan paraadijas tikai 53 jeb 54~ Olimpijas sportisti. Manupraat, tas ir, nudien, “newsworthy!”

  2. NBC always does this at the Winter Olympics. I have been watching the Opening Ceremony for decades and only once do I recall actually seeing the Latvian athletes enter the stadium. NBC should go to soccer style adverts during the openings (have ads run on the side of the screen showing live action at the same time).

  3. The last statement isn’t true. When the Canadian coverage (CTV) went to commercial, I would switch to the US (NBC) station. This is good, I thought. Since they appear to be cutting away at different times, I will see the Latvian team march into the stadium on one or the other station. HOWEVER, just as the Latvian team was entering and the flagbearer was announced, BOTH networks went to commercial!!! Almost like it was planned.

  4. In ancient Greece all hostilities were suspended to conduct their special competitions in various physical feats of agility, strength and endurance. Today we are lucky if individual competitors can quit their country’s politics for the duration of the games. And then evil minded fiends have seized upon these festive occasions to create havoc for whatever cause they espouse. How unfortunate it is that hostile money is allowed to officially disrupt the orderly procession of the parade of nations. About all pictures, including TV, have the most interesting parts toward the lower half. It is always in this area that the creeping commentary and fixed identifiers block the view. Why not place them at the top of the screen to display the sponsors names, etc., and have non-stop viewing of the competitors? Dievs Sveetii Latviju!

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