I 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:
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:
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.
No, 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…