After covering 9 Olympic games, top NBC host Lester Holt reveals why America needs the Olympics right now

NBC News/Joe ScarniciThis is NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt’s ninth time covering the Olympics.
  • NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt has reported on The Olympics since the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games.
  • Holt says the games transcend politics and bring people together.

NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt continued his run of Olympic coverage with reporting at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games last week, his ninth opportunity to cover the games.

Holt, who began covering The Olympics at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games, feels the event acts as a unifying force for participants and viewers.

“Through nine Olympics I’ve been in Olympics when the US was in conflict in the middle east, and there is something about the Olympics that kind of transcends politics,” Holt told Business Insider. “Frankly one of the reasons I look forward to it is it gives us a little bit of a break, not that we don’t cover politics, but it gives us a chance to focus on something that is truly unifying.”

The ability for the Olympics to bring people together seems important, especially at a time when American politics is more divided than ever.

Still, the games aren’t completely devoid of politics. Over the weekend there was political intrigue surrounding Vice President Mike Pence and Kim Jong Un’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, during the opening ceremony.

The two sat in the same box but didn’t shake hands or acknowledge each other. Pence didn’t have to sit in the same box, but reportedly wanted to make a political point, exhibiting solidarity with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

And American figure skater Adam Rippon, who is the first openly gay athlete on the US Winter Olympics team, vocally turned down a meeting with Pence, criticising his record on LGBTQ rights.

But Holt says overall the feeling on the ground is noticeably less political during the games, and it offers reporters the opportunity to focus on the athletes that make the games possible.

“It’s a really nice distraction,” Holt said. “But more than a distraction, it’s great to see young athletes, and not just American athletes but kids from around the world, who work their butts off year in and year out and they get this shot every four years and if they’re lucky they come away with a medal and people remember their names,” he said. “It’s just fun to be a part of.”

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