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Images From Athens

Tuesday, August 17, 2004; Page A14

Tom Shales gave NBC too much credit ["On NBC, the Soaring and the Silly," Style, Aug. 14]. I agree that the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympics were visually and technically wonderful and artistically informative.

However, Mr. Shales said the ceremonies were "beautifully captured by NBC cameras."

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Most of what was so beautifully captured, however, was not done by the U.S. broadcaster. Most of what we saw was the generic "world feed" that was meticulously planned, directed and shot by the host broadcaster of these Games, Athens Olympic Broadcasting (AOB). NBC just passed on the signal.

A host broadcaster's main role is to produce and distribute the world feed of all events and ceremonies for distribution to all rights-holding broadcasters throughout the world. True, NBC added its own commentary and cut-away shots using its own cameras (for more U.S.-tailored content, such as footage of American athletes or play-by-play by Katie Couric and Bob Costas). But much of the upcoming footage and up-close coverage of the competitions will also be courtesy of the AOB.


Silver Spring

I was disappointed in Tom Shales's coverage of the Opening Ceremonies. How could he cover advertisements as practically on a par with the exuberant and creative program the ads disrupted?

This was not halftime at the Super Bowl. It was visual poetry.

First, every part of the ritual and pageantry was important to some group of people in this country. Let viewers decide if they want to get up while, say, the Russian or British delegation passed by, but don't cut the teams out.

Worse, though, were the ads during the program. It was like listening to music with a telephone constantly ringing. Here was the host country trying to tell a story in its own words, images and time. And here were the banal ads, interrupting constantly.

Beautiful images of history, myth, science and aesthetics were juxtaposed with loud voices hawking "cravable" salads or an American Idol bopping down the street, giving away Coke products.

I was mystified by the "usually patient" young woman watching with Mr. Shales who said, "Thank God for the commercials." Far from feeling relief when ads aired, the people I watched with were exasperated.


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