NBC Sports Group Chairman Mark Lazarus said NBC would provide coverage of Russia's anti-gay laws if the controversial measures surface as an issue during the upcoming Winter Olympics.
Political tensions and cultural differences have long provided a vivid backdrop for the Games, and NBC expects that tradition to continue next year in Sochi, Russia. The Winter Olympics are set to begin Feb. 6.
All host nations, including Russia, "come with political and social issues, and we will address those issues as they are revelant at the time of the Games," Lazarus told a crowd of nearly 200 television writers Saturday at the Television Critics Assn. conference in Beverly Hills.
Lazarus sought to tamp down speculation that Russia's recently enacted anti-gay laws could upstage the athletes or competitions. "Governments across the world have different laws," he said. Lazarus also stopped short of saying NBC would use its huge platform to advocate against the laws.
One of the measures, signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, forbids the adoption of Russian-born children by homosexuals. Another measure allows Russian authorities to detain tourists and foreign nationals who are gay.
NBC, owned by Comcast Corp., is gearing up for its 18 days of wall-to-wall coverage of the Games in February. It plans a documentary about the notorious clash 20 years ago between ice skaters Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan.
NBC's veteran sportscaster Al Michaels said, "there will always be controversy surrounding [the Olympics]. It all seems to work out."
According to Lazarus, the International Olympic Committee has said that gay athletes will be welcome in Russia and encouraged to compete.
"Obviously, as a company, we are for equality and opportunity for all," Lazarus said. "We don't believe in the spirit of the law they have passed, and we are hopeful the Olympic spirit will win out."
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