There are many complaints from US viewers about the lame coverage of the Olympics by NBC, both for the overproduced and melodramatic prime time shows, compounded for those on the west coast who watch tape delayed coverage of the few competitions broadcast live on the east coast. In addition complaints from Washington state where cable viewers had grown accustomed to CBC coverage of past Olympics.
Being in Whistler we are able to compare them side-by-side and there is good reason for all the complaints. We have all day live coverage on “CTV”, actually several channels making up the Canadian Olympics Broadcast Media Consortium. Every run of the men’s super combined earlier today. (which we chose to watch over curling). Commercials relegated to times where there is a hold on the course cause by a clearing a fall. Women’s biathlon this afternoon tape delayed by 45 minutes, but shown in entirety. As are many, many events.
So by the time NBC gets going in earnest at 8 p.m. Pacific, we have seen most everything of interest and are able to evaluate some of the editorial choices being made. Take the Men’s Super G competition on Saturday which I watched slope side. The medalists were Svindal from Norway and Miller and Weibrecht from the US. On CTV, the entire event was shown live and then later in the day the runs of the first 30 skiers (who are seeded randomly from the top 30 in World Cup rankings) were repeated in order. While I didn’t keep careful notes, the NBC version was quite the contrast. Perhaps 10 runs were shown; I recall the runs of the medalists, two other US competitors (places 19 and 23), Defago who had won the downhill (place 15), the first two racers (places 12 and 13) to set context for Weibrecht–the third down the run–moving into the lead, a veteran Swiss skier Cuche (place 10) which accounts for nine runs. What was missing from the story line was how close Weibrecht came from falling from the bronze medal. Take as an example the Canadian skier Erik Guay who placed 5th. Svindal was the 19th skier and took the lead, Guay was the 20th skier and his run was not shown even though he finished 0.03 seconds behind Weibrecht. Instead the story line taken was to show Defago as the threat to the US place holders. Plus a commercial or two and a up close and personal segment <update> about Cuche, see above </update> to punctuate the action.
Another pleasure of CTV is that the announcers are not as smooth and experienced. <update>They use the traditional terms for segments of the men’s race course: one segment being “Toilet Bowl” and then down the run “Sewer”.</update> And also some great lines. My highlight so far, with respect to a pair of figure skaters: “it looks like their costumes were designed by their competitors”. And there is a frenzy of commentary on the relative scarcity of Canadian medals after the cost of Canada’s “Own the Podium” program. But most striking is the lead-in to the Canada-US hockey game which gets underway at 4:40 p.m. Pacific. I was quite unaware of the long history between these bitter rivals, teams composed primarily of NHL team mates split by nationality. Leaves me wondering if the government will fall if Canada loses the game <update> , which they did 5-3 </update>.