Rep. Maloney Appeals to NBC to Correct the Record on Greek-Macedonian History Reported During Olympic Opening Ceremonies

Aug 18, 2016  | Press Release 

Today, Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY-12) and her Congressional Caucus on Hellenic Issues Co-Chair Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL-12) sent a letter to NBCUniversal CEO Stephen B. Burke expressing concerns raised by comments made about Macedonian history during NBC’s coverage of the Opening Ceremonies of the XXXI Olympiad on Friday, August 5, 2016. The letter can be seen here and the full text is below.

In the letter, the members note that “NBC commentators inaccurately associated Philip II of Macedon and Alexander the Great to the nation of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) by mentioning these two figures of Greek history during the presentation of the team from FYROM. In doing so, the broadcast strongly implied that these Greek figures descended from FYROM, when in fact, they are Greek.”

The two co-chairs go on to explain that “by not strictly using the name FYROM during the Opening Ceremony, the commentators undermined the position of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which recognizes FYROM as the nation’s interim name.” 

Rep. Maloney plans to reintroduce a resolution, when Congress comes back into session in September, urging the FYROM to work within the framework of the United Nations process and in good faith with Greece to achieve longstanding United States and United Nations policy goals of resolving the name dispute. The resolution also encourages the United States to work with its NATO allies to uphold previous decisions at NATO Summits, with regard to the enlargement issue. A version of this resolution has beenintroduced since 1993.

Congresswoman Maloney represents one of the largest Hellenic communities in the United States and outside of Greece and Cyprus.

The full text of the letter is below.

Dear Mr. Burke:

We are writing to express our concerns and the concerns of our constituents sparked by comments made about Macedonian history during NBC’s coverage of the Opening Ceremonies of the Games of the XXXI Olympiad on Friday, August 5, 2016. 

During the evening telecast, NBC commentators inaccurately associated Philip II of Macedon and Alexander the Great to the nation of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) by mentioning these two figures of Greek history during the presentation of the team from FYROM. In doing so, the broadcast strongly implied that these Greek figures descended from FYROM, when in fact, they are Greek. Furthermore, by not strictly using the name FYROM during the Opening Ceremony, the commentators undermined the position of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which recognizes FYROM as the nation’s interim name.

Philip II and Alexander the Great were, as your commentators noted, from the ancient city-state of Macedonia, which was Hellenic – a historical fact confirmed by historians and classicist scholars. Even an unintended implication of separation between the history of ancient Macedonia and the history of Greece has inadvertently inserted the Olympic Games into a sensitive geopolitical issue which could strain relations with Greece, our steadfast ally, and the Greek American community. 

As co-chairs of the Congressional Caucus on Hellenic Issues, we have long advocated for a permanent name for FYROM that respects and represents history. Historically inaccurate and incendiary commentary on an international stage is an impediment to resolving the dispute. We urge NBC to issue an on-air correction during the Closing Ceremony.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

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