NBC vows it won`t be a PR tool for Putin
New York: The National Broadcasting Co., which paid $775 million to cover the Sochi Olympics, insists it won`t be used by Russian president Vladimir Putin when the 2014 Winter Games begin February 6.
Mark Lazarus, chairman of the NBC Sports Group, said the New York-based broadcasting giant won`t shy away from reporting on human rights issues or threats of terror.
"We don`t know what is going to happen in Sochi. We will cover anything that takes place during the Games," Lazarus told the USA Today newspaper.
Putin has championed these Games as a showcase for the modern post-Soviet face of the country.
But Russia has come under fire in the months leading up to the prestigious event -- often referred to a "Putin`s Games" -- over human rights abuses, especially regarding anti-gay laws.
Terrorists have also threatened to disrupt the event, located 1,627 kilometres (1,011 miles) south of Moscow. Two suicide bombings killed 34 people last month in a southern city close to the coastal resort on the Black Sea.
"Obviously we have our fingers crossed that nothing happens, if anything," NBC television host Bob Costas said.
NBC plans to broadcast 1,500 hours of coverage in Sochi to the 200 million Americans that are expected to watch the event.
The newspaper also reported this week that a private US security firm will watching over the USA skiers and snowboarders and have five aircraft at the ready to evacuate people out of the country if a security emergency occurs.
With the cost of the Games topping $50 billion, Sochi is set to become the most expensive Olympics in history. The total exceeds the cost of all the previous Winter Games combined.
Strongman Putin has sparred no expense and there are reports of widespread corruption with critics alleging that Putin`s cronies pocketed a good chunk of cash.
Americans` interest in the Olympics took a sharp dip this week with the announcement that skier Lindsey Vonn couldn`t overcome a knee injury in time to compete.
Vonn won two of the USA`s record 37 medals at the 2010 Vancouver Games.
USA Today said "Vonn`s absence saps Games of star power."