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July 30, 2012
 

The Opening Ceremony That NBC Didn’t Show

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Written by: Michael Starkey
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Photo courtesy of Flickr/Nick J. Webb

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BC is getting a lot of heat for their handling of an Opening Ceremony performance commemorating London’s July 7, 2005 terrorist attack. To be sure, it was a snub of the singer — a black woman little known in the U.S., yet hugely popular in the U.K. But the omission of her performance had much bigger ramifications.  The 2005 attack killed 52, and it occurred the day after London was selected as the host of the 2012 Olympics.  Many in the U.K. are outraged that the tribute wasn’t shown in the U.S.

Black Scottish singer Emeli Sande sang “Abide with Me” as fifty dancers plus two others took center stage, representing the victims of the bombing.  The tribute has been called the centerpiece of the opening ceremony.  What did NBC show instead?  It was a Ryan Seacrest interview of Michael Phelps.  To add insult to injury, NBC blocked online streaming of the ceremony when it was happening live, completely depriving American viewers of seeing the tribute either live or during the broadcast.

As we reported previously, Sande was also snubbed at the 2012 Brit Awards, the U.K.’s equivalent to the Grammys. She won the Critics’ Choice Award, similar to the Best New Artist category in the U.S.  But unlike past winners of the award, Sande was not given the opportunity to accept award on stage or give her acceptance speech.  Instead the award show inexplicably cut to an interview of the previous year’s winner, a singer who is one of the attention getting white British soul and R&B singers.  Sande was visibly hurt by the snub, which one could easily chalk up to racism with the award organizers thinking that the white singer had more audience appeal.

NBC’s decision could have significant ramifications for Sande’s young career. Sande’s debut album, Our Version of Events, went to #1 in the U.K., but it only reached #28 in the U.S.  The olympics opening ceremony was a huge  opportunity for her to reach a large American audience. But I wouldn’t call NBC’s decision racist.  I’ll just call it stupid.  Any hurt this might have caused Sande was the least of it.

In the U.K., the 7/7 attacks have a standing similar to 9/11 in the U.S.  Here we have bumper stickers and banners proclaiming “never forget.”  We start and continue wars as misplaced vengeance.  Our politicians bring up 9/11 at every opportunity to justify increasingly invasive security measures.  But we can’t even show a few minute long tribute to victims in another country.  We Americans are much too sheltered and shielded from what happens in the rest of the world.  Most Americans probably don’t remember the London 7/7 bombings.  I guess “never forget” only applies to us.



About the Author

Michael Starkey
Michael Starkey
Michael Starkey is an engineer 9-5, but in his spare time he writes about music and cultural history. His work includes "'Mercy, Mercy Me, The Ecology': Environmental Themes in Black Music" and "Hidden from Sight: African Americans and the Wilderness", presented at the annual conference of American Society of Environmental History, in 2006 and 2007 respectively. He is currently working on a book based on his master's thesis, "Wilderness, Race, and African Americans: An Environmental History from Slavery to Jim Crow." Michael lives and work in New York, NY. He currently resides in East Harlem with his wife and splits his work time between offices in Queens and Manhattan. He enjoys bicycling, listening to music, and playing soccer.



 
 

 
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