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Watching The Olympics From California

A Couch With A View

The wonderful thing about living in America is that life's little television mysteries are solved. Why do TV cops eat doughnuts? Well, the nearest thing you'll find to a good old meat pie is something called a pot pie and the only place you'll find it is in the freezer compartment at your supermarket. Sausage roll? Forget it!

Why did "Murphy Brown" have a character with the unlikely name of "Corky"? Could it have been because one of the hosts of ABC's Sunday morning political analysis show "This Week" is called Cokie? This week of course the Olympics began in Sydney and the backdrop world map between Cokie and her co-presenter features Australia center stage. To the east of it lies - a great empty ocean. Kid yourselves not, New Zealand is not getting a mention in US Olympic coverage.

No, I take that back. I watched the opening ceremony walk-in of nations and NBC's reporter Katie Couric pointed out, as the pictures of NZ's athletes hit the screen, that behind her the crowd was giving just muted applause for them. Perhaps used to having the number 1 spot in the television coverage pecking order, she had failed to realize that two countries ago a huge roar had gone around the stadium and I knew then, without seeing a matching picture, that NZ was in the house.

I don't have cable TV and I don't have internet access - both of which provide far wider coverage - but neither do most Americans, and their perception of the games is largely NBC's broadcast television perception of the games. I receive NBC through its current Bay Area affiliate, San Francisco's KRON, and its been paying Australia enormous attention - as a travel destination, as a nation that tried to wipe out an entire race and is now attempting reconciliation (without John Howard having to apologize), and as a country that is sports-mad and "green".

Yes, green. Perhaps it's because the Bay Area was one of the birthplaces of Earth Day 30 years ago and the KRON reporters who've gone to Sydney know the story will appeal to local viewers, but there was a lengthy item in this morning's news on the recycling efforts and worm wee by-products that are coming out of the Olympic Village. And you know, I thought, "Good on you, Aussies!" Just as I did when I saw the opening ceremony honoring women of all ages and providing the world with an image as potent as that first image of the earth from space which cemented in all our minds the fragility of our existence here.

But I also know that behind the broadcast of that image of Cathy Freeman holding up the torch against the backdrop of a waterfall was a lot of Kiwi technical expertise, and that behind the confidence with which Australia's indigenous people are striding onto the world stage is the support of another indigenous people who have tirelessly re-educated the later colonists to those islands apparently not worthy of ABC's paintbrush, let alone its attention - Aotearoa/New Zealand.

So to the sporting representatives of a tiny nation that's always prepared to discuss and find resolution to the big, tough issues, I say: "Kia kaha, Kiwi!! And have fun doing it."

Lea Barker
California
Sunday 17 September, US Eastern Time


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