16 February 2010

What Olympics?

Frustration, anger, high blood-pressure: just a few of the results of NBC’s lack of coverage of the 2010 Winter Olympics. You know it’s going to happen, you know that it has been the same since the start of televised Olympic coverage, yet you hold on to the belief that this time it will be different. Four years ago I told myself that the internet will be so advanced by 2010 that surely I will be able to stream love coverage. And again, my dreams were dashed.

I live in California, the same time zone as Vancouver, yet there is no live coverage. You have to be on the East Coast to get that. Worse is that coverage starts late, with broadcast of high-interest events, like ice skating, at the end of the show in an attempt to force viewers to stay tuned-in. I missed most of the finals of the pairs competition last night because I couldn’t stay up to 11:00 pm to watch it. And what about the kids who really are the ones who should be able to watch and be inspired? The lighting of the Olympic torch at the opening ceremony was broadcast at midnight. When most broadcasts start past the bedtime hour of young children, something is terribly wrong.

But even if you do make the sacrifice to stay up late, you won’t see much of the athletic events. Even though the Games are going on all day, for two weeks, NBC has chosen to use their air time showing you broadcasters learning how to snowboard, boozing it up in nightclubs, or plugging the food in local restaurants.

A little bit of athlete-background might be acceptable, but not at the cost of missing the actual competition. How many times a day do we need to see The Story of Apollo Ohno, or snowboarders signing karaoke? As for coverage of anything other than The Best American Athletes, you’re out of luck. You would think that the USA, and possibly Canada, were the only countries involved. What about the stories of all the others? 2623 athletes and over 80 countries are listed on the official Vancouver 2010 site, yet we will never hear about most of them.

Having lived abroad, I know decent coverage is possible. I remember, with joy, watching Eurosport coverage of all international sporting events and being absolutely gob-smacked that they actually showed non-stop action and covered athletes other than those who had a top 10 ranking. Their announcers were well-spoken, stuck to the program and didn’t segue into inane conversations about the clothes of their colleagues or where they’d had breakfast.

I want good coverage. I want proper announcers. I want to remember the Olympics with fondness, not aggravation. It will never happen unless, of course, I am in some other country than my own next time they come around.