Why Must Olympic Coverage Be So Awful?

London 2012 Olympics - original logoI tried. I really tried to watch the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympic Games with an open mind, not dwell on my memories of the last time I tried to watch the Olympics on TV and gave up in exasperation after the commentators ruined event after event with their constant criticism and banal remarks.

Nope, this time around I was going to be open minded and enjoy the coverage. After all, London’s my birth city, and I’ve always had a special spot in my heart for one of the most wonderful cities in the world.

But NBC couldn’t deliver.

Even during the opening ceremony, beautifully and engagingly choreographed by brilliant film director Danny Boyle, the commentators had to tell us what was going on, remind us that they were too stupid to understand the tech involved (not to mention the presence of Worldwide Web creator Tim Berners-Lee) and make comments so stupid that I felt myself cringing.

Still, the ceremony itself was quite impressive, when we could actually watch it during a tape delay broadcast that was constantly interrupted by adverts, even as the ceremony itself proceeded. Which meant, yes, we missed significant portions of the event, but did learn that Audi’s are driven by space aliens and athletes eat at McDonalds. At least Apple’s “Is There a Genius On Board” advertisement was engaging, but I might be a bit biased towards the Cupertino-based firm.

The powerful Dickensian imagery of Boyle’s “Rise of the Industrial Age” was wonderfully capped by five massive Olympic rings floating into the center of the stadium then raining a magical stream of stars, my favorite image of the entire ceremony:

NBC London 2012 Olympics - Opening Ceremony

But I’m not done venting, because after lasting less than an hour, I’ve turned off the coverage in disgust and it’s possible that I won’t be able to watch any Olympic coverage this time.

The comment that sticks out as the most inane was during the portion of the ceremony that featured a number with “sick” children being tended by nurses and doctors an obvious nod to Peter Pan, Mary Poppins, and many other classic British children’s stories even as it also celebrated England’s much-admired national health service.

Here’s a pic:

NBC London 2012 Olympics - Opening Ceremony

What does the commentator say as we watch this powerful scene unfold?

“Y’know, those children don’t look very sick.”

Well, duh. They’re performers and it’s a performance. They’re not supposed to look sick. They’re not sick.

Doesn’t NBC screen its commentators for basic intelligence?

But even that didn’t cause me to turn the broadcast off. In fact, even when the commentator started singing along to The Who during a later number, though it was so inappropriate that even the other commentator made a snarky comment on air, I stuck with it, though rolled my eyes.

Greek Flag, Waving in the BreezeNo, when I gave up was when the profound and amazing moment of the athletes from different nations marching into the stadium, the real purpose of the opening ceremonies, was tragically marred by righteous and condescending commentary. The Greek national team came in first, and we were told that “due to their economic crisis, the team’s smaller than it’s ever been” and that “if it wasn’t for their history, Greece would never have hosted the Olympics”.

Not “The great Greek team! And that blond man in front? He’s their best hope for a gold in pentathlon, while the cute woman on the left side of the screen is their secret weapon in the 400-meter” but criticism and complaints about their economic situation. Yes Greece is in a tough spot, but why does that have to be mentioned during their first moment of Olympic glory, a moment that every Greek should have felt their patriotic pride swell in their hearts, not be smugly reminded of their national frustration.

Then, seconds before I gave up, the Afghan athletes marched into the stadium and we were told not about their team or the events that they’re planning on participating in, but the fact that “10,000 American troops were recently withdrawn from their country”.




Really, disgustingly poor coverage, NBC. Your entire broadcast team should be embarrassed by what you’re forcing us to wade through, the awful, awful coverage that’s far too xenophobic for my taste.

And as for me? Well, maybe one of my readers can send me a YouTube link for an amazing moment. Because I just don’t think I’ll be able to stomach the coverage this time…

12 comments on “Why Must Olympic Coverage Be So Awful?

  1. I agree. It amazes me to think, the commentators actually believe they are adding to the experience. I switched over to the Canadian CBC. A little better. I did also find the last 15 minutes a little bizarre.

  2. I found the entire evening worthless. Unimpressive. Self-centered (aren’t the games for all… why was the entire show about the UK?). The ‘show’ was pitiful.

    The commenting didn’t add anything of value, I’ll agree. But, other than a few rare moments, the entire opening ceremony was a waste of TV time. IMBO I turned to the Yankees game. Much more entertaining.

  3. Yvonne, the games are for all, but the opening ceremony is typically a celebration of the host country. Sorry you and other Americans didn’t see the ceremony as intended. It was truly awesome.

  4. I agree with LSF in that these celebrate the host country so i tend to look at it that way with a less than critical eye and enjoy it for what it is!! We can always criticize!!

  5. Wow. I was going to write a similar post but there is no way I can put it as eloquently as you did… I was pretty disgusted by the comments as well. It was such an awesome moment for those athletes who have worked so hard to be where they were. I am glad they couldn’t hear the commentary as they were there in all their excitement . All correspondent commentary aside, I watch the ceremonies because I am always interested in seeing how each host country highlights their culture and I am usually quite impressed.

  6. So glad you liked the Opening Ceremony. I’m a Brit, and I was rapt the entire time, though I did worry that some of the humour and cultural references might be a bit too ‘in-jokey’ for folk from outside the UK, so it’s good that most people seem to have rolled with it. I recommend you have a look at the BBC website – tonnes of Olympic stuff. They’re streaming coverage of every sport online, so I hope you can get it outside the UK. And the ‘Beeb’ is advert-free, so you get to see stuff uninterrupted by ads for corn-plasters and soap!

  7. Well spoken Dave. I was lucky since I watched with a rowdy bunch that was joking non-stop and I could hardly hear a word the commentators were saying.

    I have to add that the US team also looked a little bit out of place with their uniforms. They looked too militaristic and that evening was really about everything but that.

    No we’ve moved on to counting medals. It’s such a shame that the true spirit of the Olympics will be missed by so many of us.

    As for all the missed references to culture last night. I’ve heard the “we don’t care about the rest of the world” a little too often in the last couple of weeks. It is sad to see so many people unwilling to open their hearts and minds but it won’t change a thing about how I feel about them…here and abroad 🙂

    I wish all Americans could see that this evening was also displaying patriotism at its very best…with a big portion of self humor and a big nod to the rest of the world…acknowledging that times have changed and Great Britain is really a whole different animal than some 50 or 100 years ago.

  8. hahahahah, Dave Taylor, your thoughts and opinion about the london 2012 olympics opening ceremony is hilarious and contemptuously controversial, you are right though

    hahahahahaha, just cant stop laughing

  9. After suffering through the inanities of the commentators, an ignorant batch of ineffective babbling morons, I tuned the sound out and enjoyed the very enjoyable historical tableaus of British history. The pride of the British of the past when Great Britain offered so much to the world was beautifully portrayed.

    A friend taped the whole ceremony and replayed it skipping the ads and the total time of the actual presentation was just over two hours!

    The parade of competitors was a farce because the avalanche of ads lost all continuity; three countries=6 ads! In all my many years of watching Olympic TV presentations (I am 82) this has to be the very worst on record!

  10. You raise an interesting point, Dad, when you say that the coverage ended up being two hours when you skipped all the ads. In fact, Danny Boyle’s three hour opening ceremonies apparently ran 45 minutes past his allotted time, so in fact the entire opening ceremony was almost TWICE as long as we got to see here in the USA. Boo NBC for that.

  11. I absolutely agree. If you want to relive the opening cermony sans commercial interruptions and with (slightly) smarter British commentators, here’s a link to a putlocker recording [[removed]]

  12. The BBC did a great job I think, as I am a Londoner myself, I actually went to a few events, but those that I didn’t see at the stadium, I thought were very well presented WITH NO ADS.

    However, C4 did a bit of a botch job with the Paralympics, honestly, there was an ad break every 5 mins!

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