Ebersol: Quake shows China's 'openness'

NBC Olympics chairman speaks out on Summer Games

NEW YORK -- NBC Sports & Olympics chairman Dick Ebersol said Wednesday that the Olympics and the recent Sichuan earthquake have already brought an openness to the country.

Ebersol said the quake, which has killed tens of thousands, has revealed how the country has shown "an incredible openness" in the coverage of the disaster and building safety and other issues.

"These are not things we would have read about or seen much about even in this country 10 years ago," Ebersol said of the stories coming out of the earthquake region. "Reporters would not have had this kind of access."

Ebersol said that when the IOC gave the Summer Olympics to China in 2001, he came away with the feeling that it would eventually become a major change for China.

"I knew it would be a rocky road to get there and there would be lots of protests and opposition movements, but I really believe, as I have seen happen so many times, every country (that has had the Olympics), particularly those who are not democracies, they were changing events for those societies."

Ebersol's comments came in a question-and-answer period during a news conference about an unrelated topic. But it was one of the first times in recent months that NBC Sports and NBC Universal have made public comments about the August Summer Games, which have been mired in controversy over human rights issues and Darfur and Tibet. NBC has maintained radio silence during the controversies of this year, while some in the company have been nervous about the situation as NBC and parent company GE have a lot of money at stake with the games.

"You have to say that once again, the Olympics has opened up another region of the world. Have they opened up as much as some would like? Obviously not, but it is part of a process that only seems to come with the Olympics moving on to a new area. The Olympics always brings exposure to both the good and bad of a country," Ebersol said.

NBC has yet to announce the schedules, announcers and NBC Uni networks involved in the Olympics telecasts, which will include NBC and Telemundo and several NBC Uni cable channels plus extensive interactive and mobile units. Ebersol said that the network would make an announcement of that in June.