We’ve hardly touched on the Olympics around here the past couple of weeks, but that’s not to say we haven’t been watching them. We’ve tuned in nearly every night, and, for the most part, have enjoyed what we’ve seen. The coverage, however, has detracted from the overall experience, and the following observations hopefully support that claim.The time difference is a nuisance – China is a day ahead of the United States. We understand this. But NBC doesn’t want to acknowledge the time difference. When we see an event, we don’t know when it's actually happening. Could be yesterday morning, could be tomorrow night. Might have been last month. It’s hard to tell, really. It’d be nice if the broadcast gave us a little clock and date on the bottom of the screen saying that the said event is happening at 9 a.m. Beijing time or 7 p.m. or whenever.
- The media needs to be synced - A delay in Olympic coverage is understandable based on the time gap. We aren’t that bothered seeing an event nearly a day after it happens as long as it still feels current. But when media as a whole doesn’t abide by this, we get spoilers. Other news outlets are breaking the results in real time which is making the prime time telecast untimely and irrelevant. We saw on ESPN that Nastia Liukin and the 11-year-old Chinese girl tied in the uneven bars. It didn’t register then, but when we watched the event later that night the potential excitement of the competition was lost.
- The medal events don’t have enough context – Due to the magnitude of the Games, it’s impossible to cover every single round of each event. We aren’t going to see all the qualifying rounds of an event unless Michael Phelps is involved. That’s fine. It’d be nice, though, if in the five-plus minutes of pre-coverage before the actual medal competition we were informed – either by graphic or video (if the video exists) – of the preceding rounds that set the final field.
Dara Torres’ silver medal, for example, might have been even more impressive if we knew that she beat out 40 women just to get to the medal round. But this wasn’t made abundantly clear. We may have seen a semi-final heat, but that might have been days ago. It would’ve been helpful for the broadcasters to provide this info. at the top of the race coverage, even if it's just a refresher. Providing substantial context would enhance the excitement surrounding the medal round.
Some other observations:
- 11:30 p.m. is not prime time. Please don’t show important events then. This is a good time for events that people don’t watch or qualifying heats. Just make sure to replay those heats when the final airs.
- Don't assume the viewer is an expert in each event. The commentators should explain the rules and scoring so the viewer has an idea as what to look for. For instance, all the high dives look pretty damn similar. Explain why points are deducted for having the feet spread apart.
- NBC should be giving us a rundown at the top of the telecast as to what and when we’ll be seeing each event. This is commonly referred to as a schedule. They should do this throughout the night. At the top of the program isn’t sufficient. Just a simple sidebar on the screen with something like:
8:36 p.m. – 100m hurdles semifinals
9:06 p.m. – men’s vault finals
9:55 p.m. – Women’s beach volleyball: United States v. Brazil
NBC is doing a nice job of informing us of the top moments – we get about a 20 minute warning that Phelps will be swimming (useful when it comes to bathroom planning), but that’s about it. Constant scheduling updates would be easy, and the network shouldn’t be worried about losing the viewers by sharing the broadcast’s schedule. It’s the Olympics. People are going to watch.
Don’t get us wrong, we like the Olympics, even if we find them to be more spectacle than sporting event. This is the only athletic competition in the world that can get the average sports fan interested in men’s gymnastics or women’s diving. There’s merit to that. But these Games could be even more exciting, more inspiring, more breathtaking, if the coverage was more complete.
Those are our gripes. Yours?