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TV Bites – The 2016 Summer Olympic Games

Buh-Bye NBC!

by Neena Louise

olympicsThis won’t be my usual “NBC vs. CBC: Who Did it Better?” Olympics column. For one thing, it’s just no longer a question: of course CBC did a better job; they always do. For another thing, for the first time since NBC began broadcasting the Summer Olympic games in 1988, I didn’t bother to watch the Olympics on NBC. Not. One. Minute. After the better part of three decades of NBC obnoxiously tape-delaying just about everything – regardless of time zone – I didn’t see the point, given that I’m fortunate enough to live close enough to U.S./Canada border to get CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) signals and their superior live coverage.


Before the Olympics started, NBC swore up and down they’d have “more live coverage than ever,” quoting something insane like 6,000 hours of live coverage. However, most of that was online, for which you would need a cable subscription to watch – something I no longer have. Then, right off the bat, NBC tape-delayed the opening ceremonies by an hour, making all their crowing about live coverage a complete and total joke. Twitter exploded with complaints, but NBC justified it by saying that it wasn’t like it was a competition or anything, so it wasn’t the same thing. Oh, yes it was! And if they found a way to justify tape-delaying the opening ceremonies, what other events would they find a reason to tape-delay? Probably most of them, given their past behavior. Looking at their broadcast schedule, NBC did schedule a great deal more than their usual paltry 4 or 5 hours a day – some even during the day! Even if it was actually live, however, their decision to not air the opening ceremonies live clinched it for me, and I didn’t bother wasting my time with NBC. From the complaints I’ve read online, it was just as crappy as always – with dismal ratings to match – so it seems I didn’t miss a thing.


I stuck with CBC – and its French version, Radio-Canada – for the most part, although I occasionally used a proxy to livestream CBC and BBC. Most events were broadcast live on CBC/Radio-Canada as usual, and you didn’t need a cable subscription to watch live online. This is probably because CBC is partially funded by taxpayers (although the amount is a pittance), so the need for a cable subscription to watch online would’ve caused a public outcry. Furthermore, CBC and Radio-Canada often broadcast different events at the same time, enabling me to flip between the two. Although my French is rudimentary at best, it didn’t matter; all the info blocks were in English and I didn’t need the commentary to know what was going on. Accessing BBC’s live streams returned the dire warning “You must have a TV license to watch online” (a requirement for anyone with a television in the U.K.), but clicking “Watch Now” took you to the livestream without an issue.


That’s not to say CBC was perfect, however. Their coverage slipped some since their last Summer Olympic broadcast in 2008 and it took a few pages from NBC’s “How Not to Cover the Olympics” book. There were too many commercials (I counted 10 in a row one afternoon) and too many insipid bios. Then there was the incessant babble by the anchors. Blah, blah, blah, BLAH…they just never shut up and I kept wondering when they were going to go back to, you know, showing Olympic events. Even if there weren’t any live competitions, they could have at least aired some that had gone on during the day that hadn’t been broadcast instead of the interminable talk. The most frustrating episode of excessive inane blathering was after the Men’s 100m sprint. They were still yammering on about it 40 minutes later – about a 10-second race! I finally gave up hope of seeing anything else and turned the channel. Thankfully, Radio-Canada wasn’t so verbose and I could watch actual competitions on it while its English counterpart was going on and on about nothing.


So, no NBC vs. CBC this time, but here are some highlights, just the same:


Opening Ceremonies

Although the budget was something like a tenth of the 2012 Ceremonies, I found the clever use of light and digital projection much more enjoyable and engaging than the over-the-top prop-heavy Ceremonies of the past. My eyes glazed over during the climate change crap, but I came alive when the 11,000 seeds the athletes had planted were paraded into the middle of the arena, explosions of confetti and cool fireworks surrounding them – the Olympic ring fireworks being especially cool. The Parade of Nations was long, of course, and the neon-pink bikes that preceded the countries’ athletes reminded me of a Barbie doll toy. However, the roar of the crowd that welcomed the refugee athletes was very touching and made up for the silliness of the bikes. The cauldron was extremely interesting. The cauldron itself was just that – a simple cauldron – but the whirling sculpture that surrounded it made it the most interesting Olympic flame I’ve ever seen. Overall, the Ceremonies were clever and interesting and it just goes to prove you don’t need tiresome spectacular stupendousness in order to open an Olympics properly.


Best Example of Good Sportsmanship

The bromance between sprinters Usain Bolt (Jamaica) and Andre De Grasse (Canada). Frequently running in adjoining lanes, their mutual respect and camaraderie was very endearing. During the 200m semi-final, De Grasse gave Bolt a run for his money by speeding up halfway through, both with giant grins on their faces. Even though Bolt was not particularly happy about it, later saying it “wasn’t cool” for De Grasse to speed up on him in a semi-final, it was still cute.


Best Examples of Poor Sportsmanship

  1. Egyptian Islam El Shehaby refusing to shake hands with Israeli winner Or Sasson in Men’s 100kg Judo. Whether sour grapes or a political statement of not wanting to be seen making nice with an Israeli, it was just plain rude. However, the ensuing IOC Disciplinary Commission’s reprimand that resulted in El Shehaby being sent home was overkill. Yes, it was an egregious breach of etiquette, but it’s not like it’s part of the official rules to shake hands or bow. Since when can you be sanctioned for being rude? If that was the case, a good many other athletes in Rio could’ve been sanctioned. For example:


  1. American swimmer Michael Phelps being an obnoxious idiot after winning the gold in the 200m Butterfly. His “come on” to the audience to get more applause and his “I’m number one!” fingers were shameful and only made him look pathetically needy. Yes, he’s currently one of the best swimmers in the world, but he’s sorely lacking in the humility department. As my father used to say, “If you’re good at what you do, you don’t have to tell anyone. They’ll know.”


Lamest Event

Beach Volleyball. I loathe this “sport”. It’s just a jiggle show of a pastime, not an Olympic event and it has no place in the Olympics. Period. Thankfully, most of the semi-final and medal matches took place late at night, so we weren’t tortured with it all day every day as has been typical in past Olympics.


Sport I Never Thought I’d be Caught Dead Watching (never mind enjoying)

Water Polo. I’ve never watched water polo before – Olympic or otherwise. Whenever it was on in previous Olympics, I just turned the channel. I surprised myself by not only watching, but really getting into the preliminary Serbia vs. Hungary game. It was the very first Olympic event I watched – early on a Saturday morning, no less.


Best Moments

  1. Ethiopian runner Etenesh Diro finishing the Women’s 3,000m Steeplechase heat with one shoe. Diro took a tumble about halfway through the race and lost her shoe. At first she tried to put it back on, but then simply flung it and her sock off the track and continued with one shoe and one bare foot. When she crossed the finish line, she sank to the ground, holding her bare foot (which had to be incredibly sore), sobbing, as many of the other racers rushed up trying to console her. Despite this, she managed a place in the final.


  1. British brothers Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee winning gold and silver in the Men’s Triathlon. 2012 gold medal winner Alistair, leading by a wide margin as he approached the finish line, slowed to walk, allowing his younger brother Jonathan to close the gap. They finished within seconds of each other, then collapsed to the ground beside each other. It was very sweet.


  1. Brazilian Rafaela Silva, winning the gold in Women’s 57kg Judo. When Silva took the gold – the first of the Games – she immediately ran over and launched herself into the gathering of her family in the audience, sobbing openly. You just couldn’t help but be happy for her – especially when you consider she grew up in the favela (slum) Cidade de Deus (City of God).


Worst Moment

Dutch cyclist Anniemiek van Vleuten crashing in the Women’s Road Race. Leading the race, van Vleuten skidded on the wet road, slammed into the ground, then lay motionless with her neck bent at an awkwar
d angle. Probably the most gnarly and scary cycling crash I’ve ever seen. I actually thought she broke her neck and might be dead. Turned out she suffered a concussion and some fractures, but will recover, and was more disappointed that the “best race of my career” was cut short than her injuries.


A Thunk on the Head…

…to CBC for cutting away from medal ceremonies after the medals were awarded, but before the winners’ national anthems were played. There was absolutely no reason for it, since it wasn’t like they cut away to a live event. They cut away once to show some annoying former Olympian freaking out while watching the race that had just taken place (seriously??); other times to go to commercial or to the anchors for yet even more of their inane babbling. I was outraged by the disrespect to the gold medal [non-Canadian] winners. How would they have felt if another country’s broadcaster did that when a Canadian won the gold? After the second time, I fired o
ff an email to CBC, expressing my dismay at their lack of respect, suggesting that if they were going to air a live medal ceremony, air all of it, or don’t bother airing it at all. Much to my surprise, they replied very quickly, although it was with what seemed like a boilerplate “we value your opinion” sort of response. Clearly they didn’t, since the deplorable practice continued throughout the rest of the Games except for when the Canadians won a gold. For shame, CBC!



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