A firestorm of reactions and protests were ignited after commentators from American broadcaster NBC, as well as Australia’s Seven Network, introduced the national team from the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia as the home of Alexander the Great during live coverage of the Rio 2016 opening ceremonies.
Thousands took to Twitter and Facebook to share their sentiments, forcing the Australian television host Andrew Gaze to issue an apology and blame the script he was reading.
In the United States, AHEPA, the American Hellenic Institute, the Hellenic American Leadership Council and California’s American Hellenic Council each issued their own press releases, statements and calls to action.
AHI’s Nick Larigakis said NBC “stoked tensions” between Greece and FYROM.
“The essence of the Olympic Spirit is for nations to come together devoid of political tension,” Larigakis said in an official statement, adding that “In one fell swoop, NBC, a neutral third party, stoked tension by ignoring the IOC’s proper recognition of FYROM thereby evoking a sensitive issue with, of all nations, Greece, which founded the Olympic Games.”
Larigakis added that NBC’s irresponsible actions only serve to embolden and advance FYROM’s long-term policy of extreme nationalism and provocation against Greece.
“NBC promulgated FYROM’s propaganda whereby FYROM makes claims to portions of Greek territory and usurps Greek national identity and culture,” Larigakis said.
The American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA), the largest secular organization representing Greek Americans issued a condemning statement of NBC, calling their coverage “botched” history and stating that it was “unacceptable and irresponsible of NBC to convey such egregious historical inaccuracies to a global audience.”
AHEPA Dismayed as NBC Olympics Botches History
AHEPA is dismayed profoundly by the egregious misappropriation… https://t.co/zZK9FMERrM
— Order of AHEPA (@OrderOfAHEPA) August 8, 2016
AHEPA encouraged its members to use Twitter to target numerous NBC Twitter accounts, including the network’s Olympics research department, while sharing the historic evidence of 374 classical scholars who sent a letter about the subject to President Barack Obama back in 2009, asking him to undo the Bush Administration’s official recognition of the Slavic nation as the “Republic of Macedonia.”
The Hellenic American Leadership Council’s managing director Georgia Logothetis sent an email to the group’s online activists calling it “the mistake heard around the world” and noting that “words matter and facts matter,” and sharing a letter writing campaign started by the organization that is targeting NBC and asking the network for an on-air correction.
The American Hellenic Council, a California-based advocacy organization, also encouraged its members to contact officials at NBC and created an automated form email campaign that allows individuals to send automated emails to commentators and producers at the American network.
Australian advocates also targeted their Seven Network over its similar coverage. Twitter was abuzz after that network’s host, Andrew Gaze, shared the same erroneous information about Alexander the Great’s lineage during the parade of nations in the opening ceremonies.
The response by Australians was quick, leading Gaze to issue a Twitter apology and blame the script he was reading.
Numerous organizations in Australia issued official complaints to the broadcaster, including the Pan-Macedonian Association of Melbourne and Victoria.