Olympic coverage denies international athletes the spotlight

When I turn on NBC to watch the Olympics, I see the same reporters who have been covering the Olympics for decades. I listen to interview after interview about United States athletes and hear about their childhoods, how they began their sport, their upbringing, their education and their family. I watch the United States figure skaters, the United States hockey team, the United States gymnasts, swim team and so on. Rarely do American audiences see non-American athletes featured on NBC’s coverage of the Olympics.

Yet, the Olympics are an international affair. It’s a chance for individuals across the globe to experience the athletic talent of participants around the world. If NBC, the main provider of Olympic coverage, is so USA-centric, how is this supposed to happen? How can we expect to be exposed to international athletes when all we are shown are United States athletes?

Yes, there is something to be said about the fact that NBC is broadcasting for an American audience, and it is possible to watch the programs featuring international athletes online. It’s becoming increasingly simple to quickly YouTube search international athletes and watch global games online. However, there’s no point in deliberately avoiding international athletes and focusing on the same American competitors year after year. Athletes from countries other than the United States have worked equally as hard to get to such a superhuman level of athleticism, and we should be showcasing their talents as well. In fact, I would venture to say that American viewers would be equally as interested in international athletes as they are American teams.

I am of the opinion that the Olympics are more than about country pride and athleticism. It’s about pushing asides current differences in political, social and economic beliefs and encouraging young athletes to strive for a larger goal. It’s amazing to think that this tradition of uniting nations through sports has been occurring for hundreds of years, and that should be celebrated. Because of this, news outlets covering the Olympics need to start focusing on countries outside of the United States. If it’s a matter of pure entertainment and they want to avoid the international, global aspect of the Olympics then we might as well watch national sports. The Olympics have lost their meaning and become pure pomp and circumstance. Here we have an opportunity to set aside differences across countries and continents, but we are missing the chance to showcase these connections.

One issue is that news outlets such as NBC have superb ratings when it comes to the Olympics, so why should they change? Why should they alter their methods if their current strategies are getting millions of viewers? It’s simple; they have an immense amount of power when it comes to coverage. If NBC started featuring more non-American athletes and teams, then smaller companies will follow suit. Sometimes, it is necessary to make sacrifices in order for change to happen. NBC has the power and influence to make these changes, yet they continue to make the same mistakes of showcasing only American athletes. As much as I love Simone Biles, Shaun White, Lindsey Vonn and Gabby Douglas, it’s time we learn more about international athletes.

Overall, Olympic coverage has become too USA-centric. We are lucky to have such incredible athletes representing the United States each Olympics and we are proud of their accomplishments, but we’ve heard about them enough. The Olympics are international; our coverage should be too.

Katie Anderson ’20 (anders43@stolaf.edu) is from Saint Paul, Minn. She majors in English and music. 

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