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Winter Olympics Coverage: Molto Italiano


Commentator Frank Deford is amused by some of the linguistic inconsistencies in the television coverage of this year's Winter Olympics.

Mr. FRANK DEFORD (Commentator, WSHU, Fairfield, Connecticut):

More and more the Olympics become Eurocentric so I found it very apt that NBC, which is bringing us the Winter Games, decreed that it's only proper to call the Olympic city by its indigenous pronunciation. For those of us who have heard so much about the shroud of Turin, it was surprising to discover that the Games were actually being played in someplace known only as Torino. I think this was supposed to make the tape-delayed show more authentic and romantic. Any moment I've expected Bob Costas to become Roberto Costasa and say Babinio(ph), Americanos, now is the time-a for the bobb-a sledd-a and the down-a hill-a.

Curiously, though, NBC has only Italian-acized Torino. On NBC it is still located in Italy, not Italia and its neighbors, Milano and Florenzi and Napoli are still just plain old Milan, Florence and Naples. Scusi mil(ph).

I do detect, however, a trend here. Every American has always called that country which has a capital named Paris and a big street named the Champs de Lysee, France. In fact, the first naughty poem that every red-blooded American boy learns goes like this: I see London, I see France, I see Julie's underpants. Then we discovered there is this big bicycle race over there and all of the sudden we started called it what the genuine home folks did, the Tour de France. Lance Armstrong won the Tour de France. Lance--France; you go figure.

But even as we try to be sensitive and defer to European pronunciation, the continentals are giving us the back of their hand. Notwithstanding that NBC pays more than $600 million for the 2006 Olympics, last week's selections for the executive board of the Olympic Games--excuse me, le seur Olympique(ph), dropped an American from the roster. Always before, we were virtually guaranteed a seat on the executive board, but now there's one African, two Hispanics, three Asians and nine Europeans.

Moreover the IOC also sustained an earlier vote that kicked baseball and softball out of the games. Now there's much to be said for reducing the gargantuan summer Olympics and baseball has its own World Series, but so too does soccer have its own World Cup. It would have been fair to leave in poor softball and axe soccer instead. Fat chance! Among things American, only the Yankee dollar still earns Olympic gold.

A final point, though. The opening ceremonies were as always a sappy extravaganza that left a too-sweet taste in every mouth, but I took notice when the Italian national anthem was sung a cappella by a mere little 9-year-old girl. It made me think how at all our major sports events now, such as the Super Bowl, the Star Bangled Banner is sung by big celebrities who feel an obligation to put their own fancy stamp on it--a rendition, if you will. Somehow, I don't think that anybody's national anthem needs to be arranged. So that, anyway, they got right in Torino, even as we tend to botch it at our big games.


The comments of Frank Deford, Senior Contributing Writer at Sports Illustrated. He joins us each Wednesday from member station, WSHU in Fairfield, Connecticut. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Frank Deford died on Sunday, May 28, at his home in Florida. Remembrances of Frank's life and work can be found in All Things Considered, Morning Edition, and on