A former NBC Sports broadcaster did not hold back when discussing his feelings about the International Olympic Committee's decision to hold the 2022 Olympics in China.
The 2022 Olympics will be just the latest instance in which a country engaging in human rights abuses has been given the opportunity to host the games.
Joining Brian Stelter Sunday morning on CNN's "Reliable Sources," legendary sportscaster Bob Costas said the IOC deserves that backlash it is receiving for choosing China as the host of the games.
"We should preface this by saying that no one could have anticipated COVID, no matter what the venue is, but the IOC deserves all of the disdain and disgust for going back to China yet again," Costas said, adding that the Olympic Games in recent years – Beijing, China in 2008 and Sochi, Russia in 2014 – have also been held in countries with histories of human rights abuses.
"They're shameless about this stuff," he continued. "And so, this takes place not only amid COVID, as did the Tokyo Games of a year ago. But as you mention, the restrictions on press freedom and the sense that everyone there is being monitored in some way."
Costas further noted the concerns about press freedoms in China, referring to NBC's recent announcement saying that its journalists will not be making the trip to China for the games and will instead cover the events from the NBC Sports hub in Stamford, Connecticut.
"We had that feeling in Beijing in 2008," he said. "If anything, it's been ramped up now. It isn't just NBC. Any network that broadcasts big sports is simultaneously in a position of being quasi-journalistic at best. You're reporting on an event but you're also promoting that event. News organizations like CNN don't pay a rights fee to cover the White House. NBC pays a huge rights fee along with the production cost. They want people to watch it. It's a centerpiece of the entire network strategy."
This comes after a recent report revealing that athletes were urged to bring burner phones to the Olympics in order to avoid Chinese surveillance, and another showing that they were told not to speak out against China during their stay in the communist country for the games.
Asked by Stelter if NBC is likely to address geopolitical subjects during its coverage of the Olympics, Costas said the network will largely avoid such topics unless an issue arises.
"I would anticipate what they'll do is acknowledge the [geopolitical] issues at the beginning, and then address them only if something specific that cannot be ignored happens during the games, which very well may happen," Costas said.
The former broadcaster covered the 2008 and 2014 Olympic Games during his tenure with NBC.
NBC previously announced that geopolitical context will be included in its Olympic coverage but that its primary focus will be on the athletes and sporting events.
"We are going to be focusing on telling the stories of Team USA and covering the competition," Molly Solomon, executive producer and president of NBC Olympics Production, said during a presentation Wednesday. "But the world, as we all know, is a really complicated place right now. And we understand that there's some difficult issues regarding the host nation."