Yesterday I had dinner with a friend, who showed me the video of the missing dance from the Olympic Opening Ceremony. Choreographer Akram Khan’s powerful tribute to the victims of the 7/7/2005 terrorist attack in London was replaced by an interview with Michael Phelps — and not a particularly interesting one, either. I could find no comment on NBC’s website.
Rather than speculate on the reasons for their decision, I want to comment on the effect of the omission. The ceremony was carefully balanced — solemnity, playfulness, history, popular culture, and capped with the powerful ceremonial lighting of the cauldron and raising the Olympic flag.
Danny Boyle, who directed the ceremony, created an expansive human tapestry, with many collaborators and volunteers. Omitting the tribute, with it’s grace, gentle pageantry, and healing power, skewed the whole experience, changed the balance. Watch the video yourself — see what you think.
If we understand the media as leaders in knowledge production, and consider the global power of the Olympic Games, NBC’s decision shows a dangerous tendency to whitewash, prettify, and Americanize our experience. A global theme like terrorism, beautifully framed as it was on Friday night, deserves global attention.
Instead of the possibility of healing and collective celebration of survival, we got a banal interview that could have aired any time. Instead of experiencing another country’s aesthetic vision of an experience Americans fear and mourn, we were spoon-fed, quick-stepped, spectacular spectaculared!
I was disappointed by much of the ceremony, the odd camera cuts and the jarring images that veered from close-up to vista. Now I think maybe I didn’t experience the ceremony at all — just a cut and paste summary that took the heart out of the whole experience.
Where is the leadership that would have made a better decision? From what are the so-called media leaders “protecting” us — or are they protecting their sponsors? Good leadership embraces nuances and complexities, because good leaders trust the people they serve . Good reporting does the same thing.