Costas: NBC in tough spot covering Beijing Games amid China controversies

Bob Costas said issues of democracy versus autocracy were there at '08 Beijing Games and he tried best he could to address itGETTY IMAGES

In covering the Beijing Games, NBC likely "will acknowledge the issues" around China's authoritarian government "at the beginning and then address them if only something specific that cannot be ignored happens during the course of the Games,” according to Bob Costas during an appearance on CNN's "Reliable Sources." Costas said that in addition to COVID precautions, there are “restrictions on press freedom and the sense that everyone there is being monitored.” It “isn’t just NBC," but any network carrying big sports events is doing "quasi-journalism at best." Costas: "You’re reporting a news event … but you’re also promoting the event.” NBC “pays a huge rights fee” for the Games, which are a "centerpiece of the entire network’s strategy." Costas, the former NBC broadcaster who covered 11 Olympiads from '92-'16, said issues of democracy versus autocracy were “there in 2008” in Beijing, and “I tried the best I could to address it, it was there in Sochi in 2014 and I did address it -- we did -- pretty directly." Costas, on whether athletes will speak out against China during the Games: “The IOC makes it a policy that they don’t approve of political statements during an Olympics. That genie is going to be out of the bottle to a certain extent. It has to be.” Costas said NBC will be “able to a decent enough job from Stamford” in broadcasting the Games remotely, but the “announcers and the producers will not have the feel of the event” (“Reliable Sources,” CNN, 1/23).

NOT SHYING AWAY: The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER's Georg Szalai wrote Discovery will not "shy away from human rights issues in China" when airing its coverage of the Olympics in European markets. Eurosport President Andrew Georgiou said this is a “massively important issue." Georgiou: “It is not a topic that we are going to shy away from, we are going to address it.” He added that Discovery is “really focused on social justice issues,” even though the focus will "'undoubtedly' be on sports and the great athletic performances" (, 1/24).

SKI SPOT: Former U.S. skier Lindsey Vonn said it was “disappointing” she will not be able to travel to Beijing as a skiing analyst for NBC. Vonn: “You want to be there, you want to see the conditions and be able to accurately report on what's going on, so people at home watching can understand more. ... But unfortunately, this is the new time that we’re living in (with) COVID and politics, and there's just so much going on right now. I trust NBC to make the right decisions. I think as much as we want to see firsthand what's going on on-site, I think everyone's safety needs to come first” (“Back on the Record,” HBO, 1/21).

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