London Olympics Off to a Great Start but…

So far, the London Summer Olympics have been pretty interesting, even though the events I like the most have not yet aired – dressage (just kidding), who gets the medal in the dancing horse event anyway, the horse or the rider?  I believe Mitt Romney’s horse  (his wife Ann’s actually) is competing in London.  The horse named Rifalca (aka “crazy legs”)  is a equine treasure that yields a handsome tax break and perhaps even precious medals.

So far, I’ve watched as much coverage as I could, and in some cases, as I could stomach.  For example, I managed to get through a water polo match as the Americans took out Montenegro.  The game is a bit silly in my view, but it is a game, at least, being that there is a ball involved, unlike dressage.  I found the caps they wear pointless – I guess they call them hats.  Are they simply decorative?  I’d like to see them wear those old diver helmets made of cast iron.  The other thing that annoys me about water polo is that dang whistle the refs incessantly blow.  Sometimes a player will get whistled for dunking a guy’s head or splashing his opponent in the face with water, and have to go dog paddle in a little roped off penalty area at the side of the pool.

The men’s and women’s bike races just took too long, and I tired watching them tire, but both featured fantastic finishes.  I enjoyed the women’s race more because they biked in the rain and it seemed far more treacherous and challenging with quite a number of spin-outs and non-fatal crashes.  Not that I enjoyed the crashes, but that the element of danger made the event more exciting.

The gymnastic qualifying rounds just seem pointless.  Couldn’t they just line them all up and have everyone go one after the other, and say the best vault wins gold, next best silver and so on for all the events.  And how many countries compete in swimming?  The Olympic Committee should just cap it at 16 countries and build a 16 lane pool.  One race per event.  My oldest daughter believes there are too many distances too and I quite agree and also think there are too many events.  There should only be the freestyle, that’s it.  The backstroke is just plain stupid. Have you ever heard of the 100 meter backwards sprint in track? Actually, that might be pretty interesting.

Beach volleyball.  I’m sorry, that belongs in the X games, not the Olympic Games.  And skeet shooting?  Come on.  That’s something for hunters, not athletes.   I could go on.

I’m partial to basketball, soccer (futbol to the purists), track and field, cliff diving, bowling and croquet.  These are the events that produce true Olympic champions.

Olympic Coverage Update

As I’ve written previously, I think NBC has done an excellent job of covering the Beijing Olympic games. The reporting has been first rate. I have a sense of what it would be like to be an Olympic visitor in Beijing. Granted there is more to China than the Great Wall, the Forbidden City and learning to eat with chopsticks – just a few of the featured reports – but for those of you like me who have never been to China, NBC has been like a friendly tour guide, careful not to stray too far off the beaten path. There was one compelling beaten path feature in which a college student (from Iowa I think) strolled through a typical Beijing neighborhood outside the manicured zone of the Olympic village to experience an authentic slice of life. Kudos to NBC for airing it.

After watching each slickly produced athlete spotlight, I became an instant fan, and hoped they would do well. These hook stories definitely snagged my attention. Most of the spotlights have been on American athletes, however. While I have not seen every minute of NBC’s coverage of the games, I would have liked to have seen more stories on athletes from other countries. I understand that NBC is an American based corporation and is covering the games for an American audience, but we should not lose site of the fact that the Olympics Games are a global event.

In particular, the sideline reporting could have featured more athletes from countries other than the United States. Chris Collingsworth, who I think has been a refreshing addition to the NBC Olympic broadcast team, interviewed the men’s Beach Volleyball duo of Dalhausser and Rogers, but he could have interviewed the Latvian team who handed the American team their first loss. Instead, one of his first questions was “how did you guys lose to the Latvians”? Rogers answered simply that he didn’t play well and let his partner down. The rest of the interview was fine, but that first question was disrespectful to the Latvians who actually finished ahead of the U.S. team in Group B.

To be fair, athletes from other countries have been interviewed and featured. There was an interesting profile of Guo Jinging. Bob Newmeyer interviewed Usain Bolt didn’t he? Also, one of the sideline reporters interviewed a Russian athlete immediately following her performance. And wasn’t a Canadian diver interviewed as well. But why didn’t anyone interview a Chinese diver after a round? If this happened, I didn’t see it. Perhaps the Chinese have forbidden its athletes to have direct contact with Western media? If it had been simply a language issue, with a little planning, NBC could have arranged to have interpreters at the ready to assist. For better or worse, English has become the lingua franca of international commerce – call it English language imperialism if you want – and most of the athletes, Americans excepted, are multilingual, therefore the language barrier could not be a legitimate explanation as to why so few European and Asian athletes have been interviewed.