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The 2004 Olympic Games: No Perfect Scores Here

by Neena Louise

Now that the Olympics are over, I have to give NBC their due. Their coverage was vastly improved from the deplorable Sydney coverage in 2000, during which most events were nearly 24 hours old by the time they were broadcast - and only in primetime. Not great coverage, mind you, but vastly improved. NBC not only saw fit to cover many events live (atypically preempting regular programming at times), they also had more than a measly 4 or 5 hours of coverage. NBC still has a way to go, however, and I still feel truly blessed that I live in an area that I can receive CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation). Though the Canadians had another disappointing Olympics - winning just 12 medals vs. the U.S.'s 103 - CBC's programming was pretty much 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Though both NBC and CBC had pros and cons, CBC still wins for Best Olympic Broadcaster because of the extensive live coverage - especially coverage of less popular events you'd never ever see on NBC, live or not.

There were two things I found extremely irritating: One was NBC bouncing back and forth, back and forth between events during primetime. NBC tended to "save up" the more popular events and chose not to run them live during their afternoon broadcast, but kept them for the primetime broadcast. Since all events during the primetime broadcast were from tape, there was no reason not to cover an entire event before going on to the next. CBC managed this very nicely: They ran live events - both popular and not-so-popular - during the day (with the inevitable jumping around between venues) then reran them in primetime without cutting away. I can only figure that NBC was trying to give the illusion that it was live. I guess because viewers are so stupid they don't understand that 8 pm EDT is 3 a.m. Athens time...

The other source of irritation was that it was never made clear (on any of the 5 stations covering the Olympics that were available to me) whether what was being aired was live or taped. Occasionally a "live" logo would momentarily appear on the screen, but if you missed it, you'd have to guess (well, except in primetime when it obviously wouldn't be live). None of the networks seem to realize that in this technological age, it's easy to find out who won what (whoever was handling CBC's website did an amazing job of posting winners the minute the competition was over), so why not make it clear whether what was being broadcast was live or not? The networks looked stupid when their teaser promos would dramatically ask "Will s/he win the gold?" when the event was already over, the outcome decided and, in my case, already viewed. If it's live coverage you want (and it is), it's best to know in advance, or at the very least, at the time of broadcast. Though wanting in this regard, all stations did an adequate job of covering these Olympics.


Some Olympic Highlights:

Opening Ceremony Coverage
These were the most dramatic (and, at times, truly spectacular) Opening Ceremonies I've ever seen. I watched them live on CBC in the afternoon, then again on NBC in primetime. CBC had the good sense to keep the chatter to a minimum and covered everything, rarely going to very quick commercial breaks. I was awestruck by some of the effects. NBC never shut their big fat yaps, went to commercial every 7-10 minutes and cut large chunks from the opening ceremonies. I was anything but awestruck. During the Parade of Nations, CBC commentators went on and on about the various scandals, wars and humiliating defeats some of the participating countries have endured, then called up obscure Canadian athletes on cell phones (torturing us with horrible audio), ignoring the incoming countries. I found it very disrespectful. NBC, on the other hand, couldn't seem to stop mocking the athletes' attire. This was not only disrespectful, but offensive. Both NBC and CBC mentioned that 86 of the participating countries had never won a medal and the Parade of Nations was their one shining moment. The tacky gossip and catty remarks that both networks proffered made me believe that they really didn't care.

Biggest Snub
NBC for completely ignoring the Canadians' performances during the women's synchronized diving qualification rounds, despite the fact that the Canadians were top-ranked (and medaled in the finals).

Biggest Snub Payback
CBC for completely ignoring the Americans' performances during the women's team gymnastics qualification rounds, despite the fact that the Americans were top-ranked (and medaled in the finals).

Best Commentators
CBC's swimming events callers. I don't even really care for swimming races, but the commentators' enthusiasm was very infectious.

Worst Commentators
Terry Liebel - CBC Olympic Morning. Not only does she look like a children's show host, her commentary was lame, corny and stupid. When she wasn't tripping all over her words, that is. She's supposedly a seasoned sports journalist. It didn't show.

Bob Costas - NBC Olympic Primetime. He's such a complete idiot, I don't know why he keeps anchoring Olympic coverage. He'd be better off on a tabloid show.

Most Lame Olympic Event
Beach Volleyball. Puh-leeze! Just because an activity is popular doesn't mean it belongs in the Olympics. So what's next? Olympic Hide-and-Go-Seek? Lawn Darts? Croquet? Not only is beach volleyball inappropriate in the Olympics and boring as hell, both CBC and NBC had extensive coverage of every single game - preliminary to medal. Well, the women's games anyway; I didn't see much of the men's. Gee, I wonder if that had anything to do with the bikinis the women wear? When asked about their attire, American gold medalist Kerri Walsh responded "There's no question there is a sexy aspect to our sport. But people change their minds when they come and see us play." Uh-huh. You just keep telling yourself that...

Saddest Sight
All those empty seats. Saddest of all was the virtually empty Panathinaiko Stadium during the archery competitions. There's been much speculation and nasty comments made about why so few tickets were sold. Fact is, Greece is a very small country (just 10 million), the people are not rich, and the Olympics were held during the time when Greeks traditionally go on vacation. Sad as the empty seats were, it doesn't mean the Greeks didn't care; there just weren't enough of them to fill all the venues. They did a fine job as host, so give them a break.

Biggest Snorefests
CBC, and all those blah, blah, blah, BLAH sessions with athletes, coaches and has-beens. A short interview might have been nice; the lengthy yammer was stultifying.

Best Feature
CBC's "Outta This World". This was a short recurring feature that had the gold-medal-winning-country's commentators calling the final moments of various events - in their native language, of course. I couldn't understand a word, but I found it most entertaining.

Sport I never thought I'd be caught dead watching (never mind enjoying)
Women's Singles Badminton. I still can't believe I was completely sucked into the Netherlands vs. China gold medal game. I've never even watched badminton before, never mind watched it with keen interest at 8 a.m.

Best Example of Poor Sportsmanship
The U.S. basketball team obnoxiously calling a time-out with seconds left in the quarter-final game with Spain (which the U.S. was unquestionably going to win). I watched this live on CBC and when the commentator said that it was things like that that made the rest of the world hate the U.S., I was actually ashamed. The crowd (U.S. and Spanish supporters alike) loudly booed when the game was over. I shamelessly gloated when the U.S. lost the semi-final to Argentina and was hoping they'd lose the bronze medal game as well - it would've served 'em right. Something to keep in mind boys: this was the Olympics, not the NBA, and you were representing our country, not your team.

Best Example of Good Sportsmanship
Russian gymnast Alexei Nemov pleading for quiet from the crowd-turned-angry-mob when their prolonged, noisy objection to his score prevented the next competitor (American Paul Hamm) from starting his routine.

Best Moment
Marathoner Vanderlei De Lima of Brazil crossing the finish line at Panathinaiko Stadium. In the lead with only 3 miles to go, De Lima was grabbed by a man I've heard described as a "defrocked Irish priest", and shoved off the road into a group of spectators. After being batted around, De Lima was freed by the spectators, collected himself, resumed the race and managed to capture the bronze - with grace and a huge grin. No one ever deserved a medal more.

A Thunk on the Head
To CBC and NBC, for interrupting their regularly-scheduled commercials to cover the Olympics. Especially CBC who seemed to have only 3 different ads that ran over and over and over again...I'd like to slaughter "The Little Blue Cow" and eat it for dinner. 
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