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."

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.




Shame on the Greeks. The empty seats at the Olympics ["Lagging Ticket Sales Mean Venues Are Full of Empty Seats," front page, Aug. 16] are an embarrassment. Even marquee events in Athens, such as women's gymnastics, have stadiums that are just a quarter full.

I have attended two Olympic Games at which American audiences filled every venue, for both popular events and unfamiliar sports with no chance of American medals. I will never forget the thousands gathered in the bitter cold dawn to watch the biathlon at the Salt Lake City Games.

The International Olympic Committee should remember the thousands of empty seats in Athens before it decides to award future Games to countries with weak economies and limited spending power. New York deserves particular attention for the 2012 Summer Olympics.




For a decade, Congress and the Federal Communications Commission have been working to encourage the rapid deployment of high-definition television to the American public. In recent months, retailers and set manufacturers have advertised extensively to encourage the public to purchase HDTV sets to watch the Olympics in high definition.

But while NBC broadcast the Opening Ceremonies Friday night, folks such as myself who had invested in HD sets tuned in to WRC-TV, Channel 4, and saw ice skating.

For a long time, many broadcasters have been accused of foot-dragging and being behind the times in the HD rollout. WRC apparently confirmed that.




Our Olympic team walked into the Opening Ceremonies wearing Roots jerseys, T-shirts and caps. It's been a while since I saw something that embarrassing.

Billions the world over saw our athletes wearing these jerseys, some buttoned, others not, with T-shirts and bellies exposed (not to mention tattoos, neck chains and gum chewing).

Our athletes wear what the U.S. Olympic Committee gives them. But who at the committee decides such apparel is best? Practically every other nation, rich and poor (including Iraq), chose the avenue of respect -- a uniform proper to the occasion: coats and ties, colorful skirts and blazers, or Bermuda shorts and knee socks.

Even France topped our dismal attire, although Canada met our match. Way to go, U.S. Olympic Committee.