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Opening Ceremony: The IX Olympic Gripes

By Lisa de Moraes
Wednesday, December 22, 2004; Page C07

As a special holiday treat, the Federal Communications Commission late yesterday posted on its Web site all nine of the complaints it says it has received about NBC's coverage of the Athens Olympics.

In reading the filings, it would appear some of our Games competitors -- a few members of the women's beach volleyball team, to be exact -- are disciples of Vice President Cheney to the extent that in the excitement of competition they used the same word he used in the excitement of a photo shoot on the floor of the U.S. Senate last June.

NBC's coverage of the Athens Olympics opening ceremonies showed a giant head breaking apart to reveal . . . a nude statue. (Dylan Martinez -- Reuters)

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Ironically, technical advances have allowed networks to provide more "ambient sound" at sporting events to help viewers feel more like they're actually there. Grievously, when you're actually there, you are made aware that all athletes appear to have been raised by truck drivers. Anyway, this is clearly a case of too much of a good thing and The TV Column is taking a firm anti-technology position.

"Not only is this a display of bad sportsmanship, it is also a blatant obscenity on national TV," wrote one unhappy viewer (the FCC blacked out the names of the complainants), who also noted that "my children saw an exposed breast during the opening ceremonies."

Non-fans of women's breasts are very well represented among those who communicated with the FCC about NBC's Olympics coverage. But, reassuringly, there is also a good representation among male genitalia skeptics. Some even fall into both the non-breast and non-genitalia camps. One such asked, rhetorically, "How could NBC be allowed to show the male genitalia on national television" during the opening ceremonies.

"I am referring to when the giant white mask that broke apart into a statue of a nude man," the writer explained. (Actually, the writer is referring to the gigantic replica of a Cycladic head, so popular around 2700 B.C., that broke apart to reveal a replica of a Kouros sculpture, all the rage around the 6th century B.C. See photo.)

"First we had to be subjected to the breast of Janet Jackson in the Superbowl an [sic] now an even more gratuitous display of pornography an [sic] indecency during what was suppose [sic] to be another family viewing event," this writer concluded.

The opening ceremonies pretty much got panned by the nine, particularly one who wrote that "to sit there with my kids and watch a guy basically rip off a girls [sic] clothes while appearing to have sex, has nothing to do with Olympic tradition."

We believe this writer is referring to that happy couple seen frolicking -- and losing some clothing as sometimes happens when one frolics -- in the world's largest puddle, during the artsy-craftsy part of the ceremonies.

FYI, that was right around the time that puddle-wading pregnant chick with the glowing belly showed up. We have been told on good authority that she was supposed to represent Leto, aka Latona, the Titans' daughter, who, I'm here to tell you, was one skeevy chick.

It seems Leto had sex with Zeus, husband of Hera, and had a heck of a time finding anyone willing to risk irking Hera by giving her a place to shack up while she gave birth to resulting god-kids Artemis and Apollo. But finally, Leto was given the all-clear to have the children at (a) the edge of some body of water or (b) on some floating island -- experts disagree. Anyway, everything looked hunky dunky until this Niobe person, who was a pal of Leto, bragged that she had 14 children in one sitting -- or 12, or six or seven, depending on who your source is -- to Leto's lousy two, though, in Leto's defense she was in labor for nine solid days.

So, Leto responded by making sure word of this gets to her tots, who proceed, at a surprisingly young age, to kill all of Niobe's children. We blame television.

Back to the FCC's letters. The above-mentioned anti-breast, anti-genitalia writer might note that although sex has nothing to do with the Olympic tradition, male nudity does, but, alas, he/she did not.

Still others inspired to write to the FCC about NBC's Olympics coverage took issue with some of the advertisements, including an ad for "The Exorcist" and another for NBC's animated-but-not-for-children prime-time series "Father of the Pride," which the letter-writer describes as "smut."

The letter-writers go on to complain about ads for drugs that promise to fix male erectile dysfunction -- for up to four hours, after which you'd better contact your doctor -- but, honestly, it's not clear from the letters if those ads even appeared during NBC's Olympics coverage.

Still another letter focused on NBC's profile of swimmer Amanda Beard during the Games, in which she is described as a sex symbol, a notion supported by a slo-mo video of Beard emerging from a pool. The profile was all about how she has morphed from the cute little 14-year-old swimmer, who brought her teddy bear to the starting block at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, to this total hottie who appeared in men's magazines Maxim and FHM right before the Athens Games.

"Instead of celebrating the greatness of mankind as represented by the Olympic spirit, [NBC] showed pictures designed to incite lust and immorality -- roots of many of the social ills facing our nation today," the writer penned.

An NBC spokesman, contacted late yesterday, said, as he had earlier this month when word broke of the FCC's inquiry into NBC's Games coverage: "It's puzzling that we had 203 million viewers who watched over 17 days and more than 1,200 hours, and got no such complaints last summer during the Games."

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