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 TV Bites with Neena Louise

The Winter Olympics: U.S. vs Canada

by Neena Louise

The Winter Olympic Games are over and I have to say they were the weirdest Winter Olympics I've ever witnessed. There were surprising losses (Canada's loss in hockey) and surprising winners (Italy's gold in speed skating). The oddest, however, were the accidents and spinouts. You'd expect to see accidents and injuries in skiing and the luge, but ice dancing?!?! Who'd a thunk it? In general, it was the most entertaining Winter Olympics I think I've ever watched. Too bad about the dreadful broadcast coverage during the first week, however.

I've always crowed about how lucky I am to live in an area that receives CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) because, unlike NBC, for every Olympic Games (winter and summer) they have live coverage all night and all day long and taped coverage only when necessary. For the first week, however, it seems all CBC covered live during the day was hockey and curling. Curling and hockey. Then more curling. Then some hockey. Sure, other events were broadcast (especially if a Canadian was competing), but only for a few moments (often from tape) stuck in between the hockey. Or curling. I know hockey is important, popular and plays a prominent role in the Olympics, but c'mon! This wasn't the Hockey and Curling Games, it was the Olympics. I've never cared for hockey myself and curling is a very boring game to watch (even people I know that love to curl can't stand to watch it). Two hours of grown men chasing a little black sphere up and down the ice or people sliding big rocks with handles towards a target just doesn't do it for me. Over on NBC, the few hours of taped Olympic coverage per day seemed to focus on figure skating. When there was no figure skating - you guessed it - they aired hockey in between their commercials. Unlike previous years, no single channel had a stranglehold on Olympic coverage, so there was no excuse for airing the same hockey game at the same time on all five channels available to me (which happened more than once). When you also consider that many other networks were airing repeats in order not to lose ratings to the Olympics, February Sweeps looked like anything but.

Thankfully, after the first week, both NBC and CBC got a clue and started airing other events and moved a lot of the hockey and curling games to their cable channels (CNBC in the U.S.; TSN in Canada). Both NBC and CBC began covering multiple events (live on CBC, of course) and had very enthusiastic commentators - whether their respective country was competing or not. I saw more medal ceremonies than I'd ever seen before - and they weren't always just the ceremonies that had U.S. or Canadian athletes. The main difference I noticed between the American and Canadian coverage was the commentators' attitude. On CBC, they were respectful and focused their comments on the positive - which country had won medals; which had high hopes; how some countries had improved their amateur sports programs, etc. NBC, on the other hand, was overwhelmingly negative - repeating every country's scandals, wars and disputes and how it affects Americans. I found NBC's comments distasteful, inappropriate and shameful. I guess it's true what they say about Canadians being overly polite.

Despite this, I enjoyed these Olympics more than the 2002 games: the broadcasting was better (few shlocky bios for one thing) and the events were more engaging (due in no small part to the commentators). It will be interesting to see what the broadcasting will be like come 2010 when the Winter Olympics will be held in Vancouver. Will NBC actually cover anything live and not trash anyone? Will CBC cover something other than hockey or curling and not crow incessantly about the games being held in Canada? Stay tuned.


Some Olympic highlights:

Opening Ceremony Coverage
CBC's live coverage of the opening ceremony was typically Canadian. The commentators were enthusiastic, polite and gave every country's contingent their due without mocking them - not even the lone Ethiopian athlete (which I couldn't help snickering at). NBC couldn't seem to stop reminding everyone of the politics and scandals of each and every country and mocking everything and everyone. The most ridiculous exchange I heard was about Iceland. One commentator sarcastically said "you'd think with a name like Iceland..." (implying they should win a lot of medals), then went on to say what an important American tourist destination Iceland is. Moron.

Worst Anchor
Bob Costas - NBC Olympic Primetime. Why oh why is Costas still anchoring the Olympics? He's an idiotic drama queen and doesn't have the respect for the Olympics that they deserve. Toss him. Now.

Best Anchor
Brian Williams - CBC Primetime. Bob Costas could take lessons from Williams on how to cover important international sporting events like the Olympics.

Most Lame Olympic Event
Biathlon. Skiing and shooting? Who thought that one up?

Sport I Never Thought I'd be Caught Dead Watching (never mind enjoying)
Ice Dancing Short Program. I've never watched ice dancing ever before, but when I kept hearing of all the falls and injuries, I tuned it. I know it's wrong, but I couldn't help finding it funny.

Best Example of Poor Sportsmanship
Finland's alpine skier Kalle Palander breaking his ski poles in fury after missing a gate and being disqualified. Big baby.

Best Example of Good Sportsmanship
Norwegian coach Bjornar Haakensmoen handing a ski pole to Canada's cross country skier Sara Renner after hers broke in the middle of the race, then being bewildered by Canada's ensuing appreciation after Canada ended up winning the silver medal in the event.

Best Moment
Medal ceremony of the men's 1,500 M speed skating. Italy's gold medalist Enrico Fabris had the Italians waving a veritable ocean of Italian flags, singing the anthem.

Best Website
Though both CBC's and NBC's websites were very good, CBC takes the edge by being slightly easier to navigate and a little faster.

A Thunk on the Head
To CBC for their focus on hockey and curling. To NBC for once again interrupting their regularly-scheduled commercials to cover the Olympics.

We would love to know what you think, sound off on the TV message boards and let us know what you think!


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