So, I'm sitting here, doing something I promised myself not to do --actually watch even so much as a second of the men's basketball games-- and NBC cut away at half-time for an interview with Bob Costas and IOC President Jacques Rogge. If this interview were a sport, Rogge would be on the stand accepting a gold medal, while Costas would already be back at the Olympic village playing video games.
First off, Jim Lampley introduced the segment, while in the background of the shot, Chairman Mao smiled beneficently, which was perfect. The Belgian Rogge then deftly handled Costas' questions and at one point, actually shut him up, which is quite a feat. I'll lay my cards on the table here: I think the Chinese human rights and environmental situations are appalling, but non-Chinese nations often appear to be huge hypocrites if it suits their business or geo-political purposes. See: NBC’s parent company General Electric desperately wanting to open the largest untapped market in the world to their products. Think all those GE commercials that litter the online feeds are a coincedence?
Should China have been awarded the Games? On a strictly human rights basis, obviously not, but the IOC is going to do what the IOC is going to do and member nations can’t retroactively complain when the overall body does something that gets bad PR. Chicago is bidding for the 2016 Summer Games and there’s rumblings that the U.S. shouldn’t get them because of the situation in Iraq. It’s a dangerous game to play, that “holier than thou” thing.
At one point, Costas brought up the case of Joey Cheek and asked why didn’t the IOC vehemently protest. Rogge replied that they did, they requested that China overturn the ruling and they were rebuffed. “It’s a sovereign matter” said Rogge, which as the article linked above indicates, is true: Cheek was a private citizen, not part of the U.S. Olympic traveling party in Beijing.
Rogge then played it perfectly, as befits a man used to dealing with people far more cultured and craftier than a lightweight like Bob Costas: he brought up the case of the Cuban baseball team being denied entry in to the U.S. for the World Championship baseball tournament "because of the row between your countries" and the IOC pleading with the State Department to no avail. “We have to respect these decisions”. Cue the sound of crickets from the chair holding Bob Costas.
Then Costas really blundered: he claimed that “some circles” wanted more “emphatic and direct public statements” from the IOC about situations before and during The Games. Rogge: “Yeah, well, that would probably serve their needs”. Ouch! Rogge then went on to remark that after The Games were awarded to China, he spoke with many people familiar with Chinese culture. “There is one Golden Rule: if one is to obtain something in China, you work with quiet diplomacy, you don’t grandstand, you don’t shout, you don’t lambaste, because it’s not going work”.
Classic moment: at the words “you don’t grandstand, you don’t shout”, the shot cut to Costas, who had this blank look on his face that was priceless, akin to an open-mouthed fish about to be gutted. Shorter Bob Costas: “What is this ‘don’t grandstand, don’t shout, don’t lambaste’ that you speak of? My people and I are not familiar with the words you use”. Brilliant. The interview ended shortly after that and I'm going to try and catch the conclusion of the Costas/Rogge interview tomorrow to see if Bob Costas has removed the tire-tracks off his back.
OMG OMG OMG OMG the U.S. basketball team won their gold, but NBC is now showing the coaches of the U.S. Team after the game and one of my supreme lust objects, Steve Wojciechowski, who is looking FINE, is even more gorgeous than in his Duke days. He's in Beijing as an assistant to U.S. men's basketball coach Mike Kezyzewski. Um, it suddenly got hot in here.....