Veteran TV host Brian Williams has never shied away from the tough stuff when he feels it's necessary. In 1987, after the Canadian Junior Hockey team engaged in a brawl with the Soviets at the World Championship, Williams called it a black eye for Canadian hockey, incurring the wrath of one Donald S. Cherry as well as a good portion of the nation's hockey loyalists.
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Again, Friday, during a telecast of the opening ceremonies for the London 2012 Olympic Games, Williams spoke his mind, letting the International Olympic Committee have it. During the traditional march of the participating athletes, what had been an upbeat affair took on a serious tone as the team from Israel made its way into the stadium.
It was then that Williams teed off (rightfully, I believe) on the IOC, saying:
"As Israel prepares to enter, my position is well known. It is one that I have taken at previous Olympics. It is wrong that the IOC refuses to have a minute's silence for Israeli athletes that were slaughtered in Munich."
Williams, of course, was referring to the murder of 11 Israeli athletes during the 1972 Olympics.
"It is a much bigger issue this year, as it's the 40th anniversary of Munich. Members of the Canadian government, yesterday, our Governor General, all calling for a moment's silence. Dr Rogge (Jacques Rogge, President of the IOC) says the ceremony is not the place to remember a tragic event, but, uh, it's tragic, however, it's one of the most significant and world changing events in Olympic history. It absolutely should have been done here. The IOC worries about politics. This event is political by its very nature."
His sentiment is shared by many and they must have felt proud of him for saying it during the IOC's big party to begin the Olympic Games. However, as with any issue, there will be detractors who disagree with his opinion, or in his decision to express it during the show.
When Williams was done, his co-host, Lisa LaFlamme, didn't endorse or decry his comments, but added to the narrative by telling viewers of one of the widows of a victim of the terrible 1972 massacre, who spoke out on Thursday about just this issue of honour and Remembrance.
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Immediately following that, Williams finished the conversation by saying:
"And remember, they died as Olympians."
It was a jarring and powerful moment of broadcasting, wedged in juxtaposition to the light and entertaining fare that preceded and followed it.
Williams just recently received an Order Of Canada. He wears that pin in even more deserving fashion after today's broadcast. Not every broadcaster is afforded the luxury of saying exactly what they feel, often having to answer to a hierarchy of corporate bosses. Williams has earned the right to do so, and to his credit, does not take the responsibility lightly, nor does he shrink from wielding that power.
Let the Games begin, with what needed to be said being said.