When the opening ceremony of the 2014 Sochi Olympics aired in the U.S. on NBC Friday evening, it had an audience of 31.7 million people — but NBC's editing room removed a significant portion of the ceremony, and viewers at home missed an emphatic antidiscrimination statement from International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach.
Taking advantage of the substantial tape delay between when the opening ceremony took place in Russia and when it aired in the U.S., NBC altered Bach's speech to remove several paragraphs that seemed to address the host nation's so-called gay propaganda law.
The website Deadspin published a transcript of Bach's full remarks, indicating in bold those parts NBC chose to remove before airing the ceremony in the U.S. In the excised section, Bach emphasized the possibility of competitors "to live together under one roof in harmony, with tolerance and without any form of discrimination for whatever reason." There were several outraged reactions from Twitter users to the editing of the speech, such as "$s more important than people?" and "Dear @nbc, the audacity of your idiocy knows no bounds."
On Saturday, GLAAD vice president of communications Rich Ferraro declined to comment on this specific instance of editing, the Associated Press reports. Ferraro pointed instead to other ways in which NBC has highlighted the treatment of LGBT people in Russia since the law passed and suggested that the network continue to do so.
An NBC spokesperson told TheWrap that Bach's comments "were edited for time, as were other speeches, but his message got across very clearly to viewers."
This is not the first time NBC has come under fire for editing Olympics coverage so as to remove political or controversial content. Two years ago NBC edited the 2012 Olympics opening ceremony to cut an emotional tribute to the 52 victims of the July 7, 2005, terrorist attacks in London.
The full transcript, with the excised portions in bold, appears below.
Good evening, dear Athletes. Mr president of the Russian Federation, Mr Secretary General of the United Nations, Good evening Olympic friends and fans around the world! Welcome to the 22nd Olympic Winter Games! Tonight, we are writing a new page in Olympic history.
What has been achieved in seven years is a remarkable achievement. I would like it thank, in again, the president of the Russian Federation and his Government. The Sochi organising committee. The Russian Olympic committee. And the IOC members in Russia.
Thank you to all the workers for your great contribution under sometimes difficult circumstances. Thank you to all the people of Sochi and the Krasnodar region. Thank you for your patience, thank you for your understanding during these years of transformation.
Now you are living in an Olympic Region. I am sure you will enjoy the benefits for many, many years to come. Thousands of volunteers have welcomed us with the well-known warm Russian hospitality. Many thanks to all the wonderful volunteers. Bolshoi spasiba, valantyoram! Thank you very much to everyone. Russia and the Russians have set the stage for you, the best winter athletes on our planet. From this moment on you are not only the best athletes, you are Olympic Athletes. You will inspire us with your outstanding sports performances. You have come here for sports. You have come here with your Olympic dream. The International Olympic Committee wants your Olympic Dream to come true. This is why we are investing almost all of our revenues in the development of sports. The universal Olympic rules apply to each and every athlete — no matter where you come from or what your background is. You are living together in the Olympic Village. You will celebrate victory with dignity and accept defeat with dignity. You are bringing the Olympic Values to life. In this way, the Olympic Games, wherever they take place, set an example for a peaceful society. Olympic Sport unites people. This is the Olympic Message the athletes spread to the host country and to the whole world. Yes, it is possible to strive even for the greatest victory with respect for the dignity of your competitors. Yes, Yes, it is possible — even as competitors — to live together under one roof in harmony, with tolerance and without any form of discrimination for whatever reason. Yes, it is possible — even as competitors — to listen, to understand and to give an example for a peaceful society.
Olympic Games are always about building bridges to bring people together. Olympic Games are never about erecting walls to keep people apart. Olympic Games are a sports festival embracing human diversity in great unity. Therefore, I say to the political leaders of the world — thank you for supporting your athletes. They are the best ambassadors of your country. Please respect their Olympic Message of goodwill, of tolerance, of excellence and of peace. Have the courage to address your disagreements in a peaceful, direct political dialogue and not on the backs of the athletes.
To all sports officials and sports fans I say — join and support our fight for fair play, the athletes deserve it. To you — my fellow Olympic Athletes — I say, respect the rules, play fair, be clean, respect your fellow athletes in and out of competition.
We all wish you joy in your Olympic effort and a wonderful Olympic experience. To all of you — Athletes, Officials, Fans and Spectators around our globe — I say, enjoy the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games! And now I have the honour of inviting the president of the Russian Federation, Mister Vladimir Putin, to declare open the 22nd Olympic Winter Games.