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In fact, it's created a greater awareness of these Games, for reasons that go well beyond a skating oval or a bobsled track.
"Obviously, we have our fingers crossed that nothing happens, if anything. The prospect of a terrorist event, the controversy over the anti-gay laws, in an odd way have increased awareness and interest in these Games," Bob Costas said Tuesday as the network detailed its coverage plans. He will serve as NBC's prime-time host in Sochi. "They don't take the place of the competition, but I think people will be curious about that."
Network executives also said they wouldn't shy away from addressing issues such as last month's two suicide bombings that killed at least 31 people in a southern Russian city. "It remains to be seen how it plays out," said Mark Lazarus, chairman of the NBC Sports Group. "We don't know what's going to happen in Sochi. We will cover anything that takes place during the Games."
As for those who might complain about Russian President Vladimir Putin or politics intruding upon their hockey game, Costas said it doesn't happen. "No one is talking about any issue when it's third-and-goal," he said. "No one is talking about steroids in baseball when the bases are loaded in the bottom of the ninth in the seventh game of the World Series. You pick your spots."
Costas said it was the network's responsibility to put the Games in context. "Framing those issues is part of the backdrop. It's like describing the weather at a ballgame or what the crowd is like. You have to frame the circumstances under which these events are about to take place. Then you return to those issues, if and when they impact the Games."
Costas faced criticism a year ago when he addressed gun ownership after the murder-suicide committed by Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher. In October some took issue with his stance on the ongoing controversy over the use of the name "Redskins."
"It doesn't cause me to be timid," Costas said.
Kerrigan in Sochi: Nancy Kerrigan will serve as a figure skating analyst for the network's multiplatform coverage, including NBC and NBCSN. She will appear on NBCUniversal shows and programs including Today and Access Hollywood.