It took more than three weeks, but Kerry Stokes AC, Seven Network Chairman, finally responded to the furore caused by the Channel’s coverage of the 2016 Rio Olympics Opening Ceremony, during which presenters Andrew Gaze and Bruce McAvaney referred to FYROM as being the home of Alexander the Great and King Phillip.
Greece can proudly claim Alexander the Great as one of their own. We apologise. It was not our network’s intention to disappoint our viewers. I do hope you will accept our sincere apologies for the miscommunication. – Kerry Stokes, Seven Network Chairman
In a letter addressed to the Greek Embassy in Australia, the head of the network notes: “Greece can proudly claim Alexander the Great as one of their own. We apologise. It was not our network’s intention to disappoint our viewers. I do hope you will accept our sincere apologies for the miscommunication”.
The response comes almost a month after the incident took place, during which period most major Greek Australian organisations issued statements condemning the comments made during the national delegations’ parade, describing King Philip II of Macedonia as FYROM’s first Olympian champion.
Most notably, the Greek Community of Melbourne and the Pan-Macedonian Association sent letters to the network, followed by a joint statement.
“To simply say in a throw-away line that FYROM’s first gold medal at the games was won by King Philip of Macedon (Alexander the Great’s Father) is wrong on so many levels and offensive to every Hellene and philhellene who know their history and understands the importance of identity and cultural lineage”, read the letter sent to Kerry Stokes by GCM President, Bill Papastergiadis, echoing the sentiment of the Greek Australians, flooding the network with letters and calls of outrage.
Andrew Gaze had immediately responded to these expressions of outrage on Twitter, saying that “If it is incorrect or wasn’t communicated correctly, I sincerely apologise,” sharing a photo of the script. Kerry Stokes’ apology fails to explain how the claim found its way to the presenters’ script.
More importantly, there’s still no explanation as to how the same statements came to be voiced, simultaneously, by the presenters of the event for NBC, in the United States.
The American network has yet to respond to the letters addressed by the leaders of the Greek American community, not least among them Members of Congress Gus Bilirakis and Carolyn Maloney, who on 18 August wrote to Stephen Burke, CEO of NBC Universal, urging the network to issue an on-air correction during the closing ceremony.