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Watching Olympics, sort of

A recent article in Salon reminded me of something I briefly mentioned during the Beijing Games four years ago and then expounded upon during the Vancouver Winter Games two years ago.

In one recent two-hour stretch of primetime viewing, I managed to see several final serves of a volleyball match, five or six swimming semifinals and finals, and a dozen of gymnastics performances focused entirely on American athletes and a few of their main competitors. Total action time: Around 20 minutes. The rest? Taken up by the usual mix of cheerleading from the broadcasters, re-cuts of all-too-familiar backstories, “How does it feel?”-type interviews, replays from every possible angle, and a minute of commercials for every 30 seconds of competition.

Not unexpected. Not even infuriating any longer after so many Olympics on NBC. Kinda… pitiful. So much of the Olympic spirit and glory is lost in the NBC coverage, replaced by artificial made-for-TV drama, it’s just sad.

On the other hand, I did find something amazing in a commercial, believe it or not. One AT&T spot used the footage of a recent swimming race and the world record set in it to punctuate its message. The commercial aired for the first time practically right after the race, Rebecca Soni’s win in 200m breaststroke. The announcers commentary was exactly what I heard during the race, and the new world record that the girl in the commercial wrote up as her new goal was exactly the time Soni set. Even if you account for tape delay of 5-6 hours, and accept that most of the commercial was taped in advance, it is still impressive that a flawless national-network-level ad can nowadays be finished and published in such a short period of time after the real-life events take place.


  1. Brian Greenberg

    I’ve hardly been watching the Olympics, but I saw that exact race and that exact commercial and I had exactly the same reaction…


  2. JTS

    I’ve given up on NBC and am proxying in to the BBC stream. Still some deficiencies (lousy diving coverage)’but still miles better than NBC.

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