Monday, March 01, 2010

Olympic Wrap Up - Canadians Just Want to Have Fun


Hi-res images from Los Angeles Times photographers Robert Gauthier and Wally Skalij

It was a fitting final day for the Olympics as NBC continued with their odd programming while the events ended as the script required, with Canada beating the USA in overtime in hockey. No more was necessary for Canada to have a successful Olympics.

Who cares if the closing ceremonies were like a bad LSD trip from the '60's? I thought I was watching an old Macy's Thanksgiving day Parade for a time with the flying moose and beavers or whatever they might be. The speeches or skits were bizarre, "yellow snow".

But one can forgive the Canadians for an over exuberant closing after winning both the women's and men's hockey matches against their big brother to the south. America had a great medal haul, leading the way with 37 medals while Canada led the way with 14 golds.

There were a lot of great sidebar stories, most missed by NBC as it seemed at times the producers for the network were so lost in complexity they forgot what was going on. The most grievous mistake was the placement of Jerry Seinfeld's new NBC series right in the middle of the closing ceremony. That was a serious abuse of broadcasting for self-interest and probably sent a lot of viewers packing. The show that interrupted the Olympics was stupid as usual, but to pre-empt the Olympics for it was near criminal.

Throughout the Olympics I had trouble finding the right NBC outlet for the events and the barrage of commercials, while good for the NBC bottom line, took away a lot of the drama of the events. With three and four networks airing Olympic events it seemed stupid the entire affair could not have been shown in real time as I, like most people, simply went to the Olympic, Vancouver and NBC sites to get the results before the events even aired.

It also seemed like NBC were cheerleaders for Canada a lot of the time. There were a lot of incidents where an in depth follow up seemed warranted but NBC missed the chance. For example, in the closing ceremony athletes were seen carrying in someone but no explanation of who they were carrying. As for the events, obviously curling was the cheapest to broadcast as from beginning to end of the winter Olympics curling matches were on the air.

The last day we saw the entire 50 km cross country race, all 55 participants, when highlights would have been much more interesting. We kept seeing limited views of speed skating and other events and broadcasting them live throughout would have been much more interesting. A lot of good stories of heroes and exceptional performances were shortchanged or missed entirely because of production decisions.

Americans are not just interested in our athletes or those from Canada. Many fascinating stories of courage and overcoming adversity were waiting to be learned from athletes throughout the world but were missed by the broadcasters. With four networks available to them it seemed NBC could have covered a lot more. Certainly they never missed a chance to advertise their own programs but it seemed excessive at times.

Personally I wanted to hear more about the Korean figure skating champion. At 19 and with $8 million in endorsements we learned very little about where she came from, her story and how she wound up being trained in Canada for the event.

In the end the ratings were up for NBC and the athletes performed beyond expectation in many cases and it was a good diversion from the snowstorms that wreaked havoc on the North Atlantic United States. What else could we do but watch the Olympics? I hope you enjoyed the Hi-res images from Los Angeles Times photographers Robert Gauthier and Wally Skalij, they were exceptional.


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