An NBC Olympics executive said Thursday that the network has not made a request to interview China’s Peng Shuai after the tennis star at the center of speculation over her well-being attended the Beijing Winter Games.
Peng has been at the center of a swirl of controversy since she accused former Chinese Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli of rape last year in a now-deleted social media post. Fans across the world expressed concern when Peng disappeared for nearly a month.
She reappeared recently, however, for a series of seemingly choreographed appearances at the Beijing Olympics. The latest was Tuesday, as she sat with IOC President Thomas Bach watching American-born skier Eileen Gu, who is competing for China, as she came out on top at the Women’s Freeski Big Air final. She also gave an interview to French outlet L’Équipe with a Beijing Olympics official monitoring the conversation.
NBC Olympics president and executive producer Molly Solomon today called political context provided by NBC Sports during the pageantry and propaganda of the Opening Ceremony “incredibly important” but said that NBC, arguably the foreign media outlet with the most leverage in China at the moment, didn’t feel the time was right for an interview with Peng especially given the Chinese State supervision.
“I don’t know that now is the right time for that,” Solomon told reporters today. “We have not made that request because she’s gone back into the bubble” — Peng is now isolating for 14 days. Solomon said the right time for such a request would be “later,” but noted, “we followed her as she toured all the events this weekend with the IOC president.”
The tennis star’s interview with L’Équipe came as Chinese Olympic Committee Chief of Staff Wang Kan was watching just feet away.
“This post has given rise to a huge misunderstanding from the outside world,” Peng told L’Équipe about the original claims against the high-ranking Chinese government official. “I hope that we no longer distort the meaning of this post. And I also hope that we don’t add more hype on this. I never said anyone sexually assaulted me.”
The WTA, which has been outspoken in its concern for Peng, later released a statement expressing continued concern: “It’s always good to see Peng Shuai, whether in an interview or attending the Olympic Games. However, her recent in-person interview does not alleviate any of our concerns about her initial post from November 2nd.
“We continue to hold firm on our position.”
“It’s always good to see Peng Shuai, whether in an interview or attending the Olympic Games.
However, her recent in-person interview does not alleviate any of our concerns about her initial post from November 2nd.
We continue to hold firm on our position."
— wta (@WTA) February 7, 2022
On Tuesday, Peng sat just feet from cameras, including those of NBC, providing China with the argument that it has not sequestered her.
After winning gold on Tuesday, Gu said of Peng, “I’m really grateful that she’s happy and healthy and out there doing her things again.”
Retired professional tennis player Peng Shuai attends the freestyle skiing womens big air final during the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games at Big Air Shougang. Photo by Sandy Hooper, USA TODAY pic.twitter.com/iPM2WMvPqT
— USA TODAY Sports (@usatodaysports) February 8, 2022
Wanted to speak to Peng Shuai as she was leaving Big Air today, accompanied by what appeared to be a Games volunteer before getting into a car.
IOC president Thomas Bach says she has now left the Olympic bubble. pic.twitter.com/WDA0R25mGO
— James Gray (@jamesgraysport) February 8, 2022
Must Read Stories
Subscribe to Deadline Breaking News Alerts and keep your inbox happy.