Thursday's NBC Winter Olympics highlights
As I like to do during the NFL season with the pregame shows highlights, I will try to do the same with NBC's press releases from its Winter Olympics coverage.
Here are the highlights from Thursday.
Bob Costas’ open: “The day before the Opening Ceremony of the XXII Olympic Winter Games, competition got off to an early start today. With 12 new events added to the Olympic program, the schedule was expanded and so began on this Thursday in Sochi, Russia.
“Tonight, we begin our coverage of an Olympics that should produce large doses of excitement and pageantry, but which also take place against a backdrop of questions about policy differences, security, cost overruns and human rights issues, including Russia’s anti-gay propaganda law. All, at times, will be part of the discussion during our Olympic coverage.
“Competition is at the heart of the Olympics and nearly 3,000 athletes from 88 countries have come to compete in Sochi. That makes this the biggest Winter Games ever. That includes the largest American team ever, and also a Russian contingent that is the largest of any Winter Olympic team in history.
“The athletes will formally be welcomed tomorrow night at Fisht Olympic Stadium with an Opening Ceremony intended to provide an especially dramatic and arresting start to the Games.”
Costas on wearing glasses: “Bear with me for a moment as I spare my friends in the press office countless inquiries. I have no choice but to go all ‘[Mr.] Peabody & Sherman’ on you for the next couple of nights since I woke up this morning with my left eye swollen shut and just about as red as the old Soviet flag. According to the NBC doctors here, it’s some kind of minor infection, which should resolve itself by the weekend.”
Costas on U.S. skier Bode Miller, who will compete in the men’s downhill Sunday at 7 p.m. on NBC: “They had the first of three scheduled training runs this morning and the skier with the fastest time was Bode Miller. It marked a promising return to the same course where Miller injured his left knee two years ago in his only previous trip to Sochi…He’s been rounding into very good form lately, and after today he is truly looking like a strong contender for Sunday’s race…Now in his fifth Olympics at age 36, Miller is the most-decorated skier in U.S. history with five career medals. If he wins another here, he will be the oldest alpine skiing medalist for any nation ever.”
Announcer Tom Hammond on Russian figure skater Yevgeny Plushenko, who performed the men’s short program in the debut of the figure skating team event: “If the Sochi Olympics are at least partly about improving Russia’s image to the rest of the world, then a steady stream of medals will be part of that equation. That puts the spotlight and the pressure squarely on this man, Yevgeny Plushenko, one of Russia’s most revered sports heroes with rock star status in this country. Already with an Olympic gold and two silvers, he is the most successful single skater in Russian history with a swagger that goes with it.”
Analyst and 1984 Olympic gold medalist Scott Hamilton on Plushenko: “[Plushenko] just changes the air in the building. He steps on the ice and takes command. He knows exactly who he is.”
Analyst Sandra Bezic on Canadian figure skater Patrick Chan, who did not have a clean landing: “This next jump is a triple axel, it’s not always his friend.”
Hamilton on Chan, a medal favorite whose performance was ranked third in the men’s short program for the team figure skating competition: “It might be a good one to get out of his system for the singles event. In practice, he does brilliant things and then he gets a little bit sloppy, and this performance got a little bit sloppy in parts.”
Hamilton on figure skating and Japanese figure skater Yuzuru Hanyu: “Can’t forget that [figure] skating really is a sport for showoffs.”
Analyst Todd Richards on the inaugural women’s snowboard slopestyle event: “These women, they’re hitting the big side of these jumps. They’re no joke.”
Analyst Todd Richards on slopestyle riding: “The judges want to see creativity of line as well as being technical.”
Analyst Todd Richards on snowboarder Jenny Jones from Great Britain, who trains on dry slopes and qualified for the women’s snowboard slopestyle semifinal: “It is like training on a welcome mat at your house. It’s unbelievable that these riders can actually learn tricks on that because I can imagine how painful it would be [to fall].”
Analyst Todd Richards on American snowboarder Jamie Anderson, who qualified for the women’s snowboard slopestyle final after a single run: “Quite possibly the most dominant force on women’s snowboard slopestyle competition.”
HIGHLIGHTS FROM BOB COSTAS’ DISCUSSION WITH DAVID REMNICK & VLADIMIR POZNER
Costas on Russian President Vladimir Putin: “The Sochi Olympics have been an object of fascination and controversy for months now. At the center of every question is the country’s president, Vladimir Putin. He was the central force behind bringing these Games here and was also involved in just about every detail of their planning and presentation. It’s a pivotal and controversial juncture in his ongoing effort to lead his country back to prominence.
“Putin has been a fixture on the international stage for almost 15 years as either president or prime minister. That’s far longer than any other leader among the world’s most influential nations. Just in the past year, Putin brokered a deal to allow Syria to avoid a U.S. military strike by giving up its chemical weapons and helped bring Iran to the negotiating table over its nuclear intentions. He has repeatedly showcased his confidence to take on the West, particularly the United States, offering asylum to National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, enticing Ukraine to back out of a deal to join the European Union, and passing laws viewed as repressive to members of the gay community and their supporters. He even wrote an op-ed in The New York Times published last September 11 explaining his view of the situation in Syria and chastising President Obama for calling America ‘exceptional.’ A month later, Forbes magazine named Putin ‘The World’s Most Powerful Person,’ knocking Obama down to No.2.”
Olympic correspondent and Pulitzer-prize winning editor of The New Yorker David Remnick on Putin: “What Vladimir Putin wants to do is reassert Russia on the world stage and the Olympics is the greatest pop culture stage that there is. It doesn’t happen very often. If it goes well – if there is no terrorism, no violence and things work – for him it’s a great success, by his domestic terms. On the world stage though, remember, he is an autocrat. He is no a democrat. He has no interest in LGBT issues or human rights, all the things that are being discussed. He doesn’t care that you care that much. What you may think is a downside is not of great concern to him, unless there’s an incident of some kind.”
Olympic correspondent and Russian-American journalist Vladimir Pozner on Putin: “I think [Putin] cares much more about how people in this country [Russia] feel about the Olympics and how they go, than how people outside this country feel about that. So if there is nothing bad -- like a terrorist attack -- if these are successful Games, the majority of people in Russia are going to be happy with that.”
Pozner on Putin’s popularity in Russia: “When he came to power in the year 2000, Russia was falling apart. The United States looked on Russia as a second-rate country; don’t really have to pay any attention. He has brought Russia back. You cannot ignore Russia anymore because of what it’s become. In the old days, in the Soviet days, people would say, ‘They may not like us, but when we sneeze, they all catch a cold.’ Well, Russia’s back. He’s done that. The Russians are very proud people. They feel that they’re a great nation and that’s really why they like him. He’s shown the world that Russia is there.”
Pozner on effect of the anti-gay propaganda law on athletes and visitors: “I think zero. No effect at all. I don’t see anything happening at all. In fact, I think the powers that be are going to be super careful to see that nothing happens to any gay athlete or guest during the Olympics... Gay Russians have a very tough time.”
Pozner on the pressure on Russian Olympic athletes: “For the Russians, if the hockey team wins, it doesn’t matter what happens with everything else. If it loses, it doesn’t matter what happens with everything else. Hockey is it.”