NBC Olympics coverage on Russian anti-gay law: 'We will address it if it becomes an issue'
In light of the recent law passed by Russia in late June that makes it illegal to spread "propaganda for non-traditional sexual relations" to minors, under threat of steep fines -- which has led to many instances of anti-gay physical attacks -- many members of the press attending the NBC TCA press tour on Saturday (July 27) were curious as to how the coverage of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games would be handled. Unfortunately, the answers given were mostly non-answers as the Olympics won't take place for another six months.
"Sochi, like every site, comes with political and social issues, some of which has been in the news recently," NBC chairman Mark Lazarus said. "We will address those issues as they are relevant at the time of the games, as it has always been done by NBC's coverage."
When pressed to elaborate on how the network views the widely criticized new law, Lazarus irritated at having to answer "hypothetical" questions about an issue that he views is still evolving. "We will address it at the time because it's still unfolding. The [International Olympic Committee] has addressd it with the Russian government and has assured athletes, fans, and media that there will not be any issues regarding what takes place during the games," Lazarus said. "So we thank the IOC that's watching this very closely and they're monitoring this. We will address it if it becomes an issue. Right now, they have a law that is a law of their land. Governments across the world have different laws. As long as it doesn't affect us or athletes, again, we acknowledge that exists but I don't know what that's going to mean for us or how we're going to cover it."
Lazarus assured members of the press that NBC will not ignore the issue, now and when the games begin. "If it is still their law and is impacting any part of the Olympic games then we will make sure that we acknowledge it and recognize it," Lazarus said. "We as a company obviously believe in equality, opportunity for all. We don't believe the games are in the spirit of the law that they have passed and we're hopeful the Olympic spirit will win out."
Other takeaways from the Olympics panel:
-The most decorated US winter Olympian ever, Apollo Anton Ohno, will be present for the Sochi games, but not as a competing athlete. "I recently announced my retirement and I'm back with the home team, NBC," Ohno said. "I'll be there for Sochi on the other side of the lens this time. I'm very excited to bring my passion and enthusiasm to the world. We have a very strong team leading us to those games."
-There will be three new events: ski slopestyle (men and women), snowboard slopestyle (men and women) and snowboard parallel special slalom (men and women).
The Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games will take place February 7-23, 2014 on NBC.