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NBC vs. CTV: Off the Podium


2010 Winter Olympic Games


by Neena Louise

Though I'm not usually much of a sports fan, the Olympics are a must-see and I've always felt fortunate to live in an area that can receive both American and Canadian Olympic broadcasts. The Canadian broadcast has always been infinitely better with their copious live coverage, putting NBC in the "only if nothing else is on" category. Not this year.

For the first time in my Olympic-watching history, CTV was covering the games for Canada, not CBC. I watched NBC and CTV about equally throughout the Games and I saw little difference between the two broadcasts. It seems CTV is aspiring to be NBC (I fail to understand why, given NBC's abysmal performance this year). Both networks had too many commercials; both had a lot of "blah, blah, blah"; both had a lot of schlocky bios (though CTV had a lot more); both had too many taped events. In other words: both sucked. Not big-time-sucked like some years, but definitely subpar. Since both networks were the same, I thought it would be great that I would be able to flip back and forth between the two to watch different events. It would have been great if they had actually been airing different events! Even though there were other competitions going on, both networks often covered the exact same thing at the exact same time. Thank goodness for cable. Though CTV was still better than NBC for covering more live events outside primetime, it was still not nearly the level of live coverage to which I've become accustomed from the Canadians. They ought to bring back CBC for future Olympics.

That being said, these Games were thoroughly enjoyable. Sports I'd rarely watched before sucked me in; sports I usually watched seemed even more exciting and engaging; new sports I'd never seen before were fascinating. Despite all the complaints and concerns about the weather conditions in Vancouver ("Vancouver doesn't get much snow...I don't know why they were chosen for the Olympics", CNN sniffed), Olympic records were broken and countries not known for winning Winter Olympic medals won them. All-in-all, a successful Games.

Some Olympic highlights

Opening Ceremonies
Both NBC and CTV did a fairly good job on their live coverage of the Opening Ceremonies. I was delighted to discover that NBC was a few seconds behind CTV's broadcast, allowing me to flip between the two to see how each broadcaster covered the ceremonies. Their styles were radically different. While NBC kept up a running commentary, CTV had no commentary at all
for the first 10 minutes or so. NBC explained what was going on and who the performers were, while CTV seemed to assume viewers just knew. CTV kept their commercials to the barest minimum, while NBC had the bad grace to go to commercial during the first part of the First Nations segment (and at too many other times during the ceremonies). During the Parade of Nations, both broadcasters had shameful moments. While I couldn't help snickering at the lone athlete from Ghana, CTV commentators merrily laughing their heads off for the world to hear was disgraceful. CTV also tried to find "a Canadian connection" to every single country - no matter how tenuous - invoking much eye-rolling. Meanwhile, NBC went on (and on) about Iceland's World Sauna contest or some such and just had to mention Iceland had never won a medal with a name like that. NBC also showed incredulity that India with "a billion plus people" only had 3 athletes. Yeah, because India just has so much snow. Idiots. And, as usual, NBC felt compelled to mock the athletes' attire. The most impressive thing, though, was CTV airing a music video that used footage from the opening ceremonies mere minutes after they ended. Too bad the tune was sickeningly corny and was repeated incessantly throughout the Olympics. After hearing the same awful tune 5,493,282 times, I hope I never, ever hear it again. Ever.

Best Examples of Good Sportsmanship

1. Just two days after her mother's sudden and unexpected death, Canadian figure skater Joannie Rochette competed in the short program. Two days after that, she won a bronze medal. I don't know how she managed to perform at all, let alone medal. However, it's such a shame that the press just went on and on and on and on about it. They turned a personal tragedy and bittersweet moment into "yeah, whatever" and, in the process, didn't give the other skaters their due.

2. In a training run for the cross country Women's Individual Sprint, Petra Majdic (Slovenia) flew off the course into a ravine, hitting some rocks. In extreme pain, Majdic managed to capture a bronze medal. It was only after the race that it was discovered she had competed with four broken ribs and a collapsed lung. Impressive.

Best Example of Bad Sportsmanship
Australia's Dale Begg-Smith's reaction at winning a silver medal in men's moguls. Weird and creepy at the best of times, Begg-Smith just stood there, plank-faced, after winning a silver medal. Born and spending his formative years in Vancouver, the Canadians not only seem relieved he's no longer associated with their country, but also that he now appears to despise it. Probably didn't help his anti-Canadianism after he lost the gold medal to a Canadian, but the creepy blank look was disrespectful to his country, the host country, the sport, the other competitors, the fans and even the Games themselves.


Controversy That Wasn't a Controversy
After winning the gold medal, Canada's women's hockey team had a little celebratory party on the (empty) ice surface, complete with champagne, beer and cigars. I kept hearing how "outrageous" and "disrespectful" it was. Oh, come on! The fans were gone, the press had left, so what was the big hairy deal? Maybe they shouldn't have taken goofy pictures of themselves, but who wouldn't
want to party on something as awesome as an Olympic ice rink? Under the same (well, any) circumstances, I sure would!

Lamest Event

Biathlon. Well, ok, not lame...just strange. Skiing and shooting don't seem to go together, except in action movies (True Lies anyone?).

Best Commentator

Chad Salmela (NBC, cross country skiing events). Competitors battling for 7th and 8th place garnered just as much unabashed and infectious enthusiasm from Salmela as those battling for gold and silver medals. I've always found watching cross country skiing boring, but this time around I saw more of it than ever before. I'm glad I did. Watching Marit Bjørgen (Norway) win 5 medals and Petter Northug (Norway) win 4 medals was more exciting than I would've thought possible.

Worst Commentator
Bob Costas (NBC anchor). Dork. 'Nuff said.

Best Feature
"Superbodies" on CTV. This was a recurring segment in which a physiologist explained what an athlete's body goes through when competing in different sports. With its CSI
-like look-inside-the-body graphics and thorough - yet understandable - explanations, it was very entertaining.

Sport I Never Thought I'd be Caught Dead Watching (never mind enjoying)
Men's 30km Pursuit Cross Country Ski. I expected this to be a total snore and was ready with the remote to flip past it. I was totally sucked into it instead.

Best Moment

Alexandre Bilodeau winning Canada's first gold medal on home turf. Canada's failure to win a gold medal when it has been the host country to the Olympics was oft repeated on both NBC and CTV. Bilodeau's gold in men's moguls ended that and started a trend: Canada wound up winning 14 gold medals - more than any other country in Winter Olympic history.

Best Website
NBC. Both NBC and CTV should be flogged for partnering with the Evil Empire that is Microsoft, making their sites unnecessarily bloated and cluttered. NBC takes the prize, though, for being better organized, for not requiring a plug-in just to view the broadcast schedule, for being a lot faster and for having - miracle of all miracles - a "contact us" link for the first time ever

A thunk on the head...
... to both NBC and CTV for broadcasting Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili's fatal crash over and over again. CTV claimed "[the footage] is disturbing, but we have to show it to tell the story." No they didn't.




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