Sunday, February 12, 2006

Olympics Mini-Blog

Like a spoiled child who refuses to give up his turn, NBC is once again providing exclusive television coverage of the Winter Olympic Games in Turin, Italy. I'll do my best to tell you what they're doing wrong (and occasionally right).

UPDATE: One thing they're doing right: if you miss any events you can watch them on-line the next day at

Their coverage opens Friday night with a production piece featuring majestic mountain ranges and beautiful cityscapes, all brought to me in spectacular high-definition. I'm actually getting in the Olympic spirit.

Wait, what? All of a sudden I'm watching downhill skiing practice runs. Still in HD and I'm glad of that, but what is going on? Can I get some program notes or something? This is embarrassingly poor directing, and on NBC's opening night, no less.

Okay, now we're at the opening ceremonies. Back on track. A bunch of theatrical stuff happens, some of it mildly interesting. At one point a troupe of acrobats start doing a wire act. Bob Costas helpfully informs us that they will eventually come together to form a dove, the symbol of peace. Way to ruin the suspense, Bob! I'm trying to enjoy this fruity Italian pageant. Now you might as well tell me who will be lighting the torch so I can go to sleep.

(It was Stefania Belmondo, Italy's most decorated Winter Olympian. Whatever.)

Here are some random observations from the rest of the weekend:

Cross Country Skiing

Well, we're off to a roaring start. After all that talk of enhanced coverage and heightened drama, I'm being shown a bunch of people slog through a course on cross country skis. They might as well set up cameras in the aerobics room of the training gym and keep a running commentary of who's burning the most calories. Actually, the crowd is really into this race, hooting and hollering. I guess it takes all kinds.


One of the competitors was quoted as saying he wasn't sure if he was fit enough to win a medal this year. Fit enough to lie flat on a sled while he hurtles down an ice chute at almost 90 mph. Apparently I've spent the last ten years training for the luge without even knowing it.

Women's Hockey

When you start watching a sport featuring unfamiliar teams, one of the first things you do without thinking about it is identify which team is which and match the color of their uniforms with the computer-generated scoreboard in the corner of the screen. Right now you're thinking, "gosh, that's so painfully obvious why is he taking the time to explain this to me?" Well, here's why. At first glance, based only on the color of the uniforms I assume the team in red is Russia, and by process of elimination the team in white must be Canada. But when I look at the scoreboard, Canada is shown in red, and Russia is white and blue. But then the white team scored and I see that my initial assumption was correct. Canada is in white. Upon further inspection, when the Canadian players raise their arms they reveal a tiny swatch of red fabric, and vice versa the Russians. Now, there were other visual cues such as the maple leaf on the Canadians' uniform, and I really wasn't confused for more than a second or two. But this is just one more example of willful stupidity, first on the part of the uniform designers, and then on the part of NBC. I hate that.

This one's not NBC's fault, but can we please start counting down instead of up? Honestly, I can understand driving on the left, writing from right to left, and lots of other practices that seem completely alien to me as an American. But I can't accept a point of view where it makes sense to count up, rather than counting down the time remaining in the game. Might as well be watching hockey on Pluto.

Canada won 12-0. Is Russia that bad, or is Canada that good?

Freestyle Skiing

I'm watching the women's mogul skiing and I'm really impressed because they're tearing through those moguls and pulling off some pretty amazing jumps. I couldn't even dream of pulling of aerial maneuvers like that. Seriously, if I even dreamed about it, in my dream I would die. But then I watch the men's moguls and they make the women look like, well, kinda like me in my dream. I don't really have a point here. I understand there is a biological reason why they have separate events for men and women. But the disparity in this sport is particularly striking.

Alpine Skiing

Hey, did you hear Bode Miller's in the Olympics? I swear I've seen more Bode Miller practice runs than any other event so far. How about we get a camera crew to follow him into Turin at night for 'training.' Now that would be entertaining television.

1 comment:

Oge said...

Sweet entry. I've been watching a lot of Olympics too. My $.02:

1) That opening 5 minute bit was the best piece of TV production I've seen in years. I watched it 5 times and was depressed when my Tivo erased it to make room for other shows.

2) Tivo + Olympics = Awesome. In my life, total primetime spent covering figure-skating has been about 90 seconds (but, boy, do they skate fast these days). Also, I have no idea who "The official soft drink/beer/fast food restaurant/corn chip/tampon/etc of the 2006 Winter Olympics" is. Basically, take out ads and figure skating and you've compressed a 2.5 hour show into about 45 minutes.

3) That snowboarding stuff was great, but don't you get the impression we'll be looking back about 25 years from now and won't be able to believe how crazy the stunts have become?

4) Right at the beginning of the first broadcast, I was bracing myself for Bob Costas, when that pudgy grey-haired guy came on. I was stoked! Then he pitched it oveer to Bobby at the opening ceremonies. DOH!