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Do cries of too much red, white and blue at NBC merit justice?

Britain's Daly Thompson, 1984 decathlon champion, sent a message to ABC about its coverage of the Games in Los Angeles with a T-shirt that read: "Thanks, America, for a Great Games" on the front and "Pity about the television coverage" on the back.

Rumor has it the T-shirts have been mass produced and are selling like hot cakes in Atlanta.

Thompson's criticism was born of a belief by many that ABC's coverage focused too much on American success. With the United States again hosting the Olympics, comments about the coverage being overly patriotic have come up again.

Cries of jingoism have been heard from many, but do they ring true?

"Our announcers are not rooting," NBC Sports president Dick Ebersol said Friday. "The word "we' has been heard once on our air, and that person has been dealt with accordingly. Are we presenting as many events as possible with Americans in them? You're damn tooting. We do live in the United States."

Ebersol points to ratings as proof the network is doing well.

Only the final episode of Cheers (27.4 rating, 42 share) brought NBC higher Thursday ratings than the Olympic broadcast (26.8, 48). The network estimates 132-million viewers saw all or part of Thursday's broadcast.

"If so many people are upset, why are they watching in these incredible numbers?" Ebersol said.

It is indeed, a good point. This is largely an American audience and Americans want to see U.S. athletes do well. Of course, if that is all the U.S. audience is interested in, names like Nadia Comaneci would mean little in this country.

Irish swimmer Michelle Smith may have been another international personality to capture the affection of Americans after winning three gold medals, but Smith has been so unfairly vilified it will be hard for her to be remembered fondly. NBC was not alone, but certainly played a role in casting doubt on Smith.

Jim Gray, Tampa Bay's favorite Olympic swimming reporter, bullied Smith on Monday after she won her second gold medal with questions about unfounded rumors of performance-enhancing drugs. Difficult questions should be asked, but it helps when the questions are based on facts instead of guilt by association (Smith's husband was banned for steroid use) or the sour grapes of competitors.

To the network's credit, Bob Costas noted Wednesday that Smith has been tested 11 times in the past 12 months, including three times by swimming's international governing body. Finally, NBC aired Smith's medal ceremony and Americans got a rare moment to hear a national anthem that was not the Star-Spangled Banner. It was a good night to be in an Irish pub.

Yet a trademark of past broadcasts was the medal ceremony, whether Americans or other international stars were on top of the platform. I think I still can recognize the Soviet Union anthem.

I have no idea what the Ukraine national anthem sounds like even though Lilia Podkopayeva won the individual all-around title and became the so-called queen of gymnastics. Strangely, NBC opted for a montage of highlights set to the tune of Amazing Grace instead of Podkopayeva's medal presentation.

On Friday, the shot-put medal ceremony included Americans Randy Barnes (gold) and John Godina (silver) and Ukrainian bronze medalist Oleksandr Bagach, but NBC framed its shots so you could only see Barnes and Godina. Does Bagach not represent the Olympic idea? Did he not work as hard as Barnes and Godina?

It's these kind of miscues that prompt the questions. NBC has an array of profiles on international standouts, but some of its content choices make you wonder what kind of message the network is trying to deliver.

It's not completely fair to say NBC is focusing too much on Americans, but with nine days remaining it would not hurt for NBC to broaden its scope. Track will offer more international standouts, and we want to embrace those triumphs.

We are not ugly Americans, are we?

BOXING CONTROVERSY: The U.S. boxing team's disappointment with NBC's lack of coverage reached a new high Friday when coach Al Mitchell said NBC is not airing boxing because of the team's racial makeup _ not because it turns off women and children.

"If you look at our team, it's all Hispanic and black," Mitchell said."Deep in my heart I know that if we had just one outstanding white kid, it would be a different story."

For the record, NBC President Dick Ebersol has said NBC's sporadic airing of boxing _ it has shown a total of three bouts _ is because of poor ratings and image. Ebersol has said when NBC switches to boxing, 75 percent of women watching turn to something else.

Mitchell scoffed at Ebersol's reasoning Friday, saying it was women more than men who were calling him to ask why they aren't seeing any of the boxers.

_ Information from other news organizations was used in this report.

A different view of archery

NBC and Atlanta Olympics Broadcasting are introducing new camera equipment that let them televise the Olympics in ways never before shown.

Target-cam

The camera is a small, wide-angle unit with pinhole optics mounted inside the bull's-eye of the archery target that shows the arrow as it approaches.

The camera head is protected from the arrow by a spring-loaded mechanism that allows the camera head and lens to retract. If an arrow touches the impact-sensative area, the mechanism releases, instantaneously pulling the camera away from the arrow. The pinhole lens is plastic and can easily be replaced if the arrow hits it.

Sources: Atlanta Olympics Broadcasting, M3 Media Consultants Inc.

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