On Torino’s Coverage

With yet another absurdist ceremony, the 20th Winter Olympic Games came to a close. They finale had its moments, I guess (like the flaming head skater guys!), but they always feel so counter-Olympic. You spend two weeks watching great, competitive events with the worlds greatest athletes only to end with hundreds of clowns doing a carnival rendition of YMCA. What!?

The worst part of the ceremony (next to Ricky Martin) was the small segment done by Vancouver’s comittee in anticipation of their 2010 games. After the pomp and grandeur of the Italian festivities, the Canadian bit felt expectantly lame in comparison. It was as if they followed a checklist of lame Canadian festivity cliches: crappy Canadian musician? Avril Lavigne — CHECK! Hockey reference? CHECK. Generic Canadian cliches? A snowmobiler in snowshoes and flannel ice fishing — CHECK! Very strongly playing the native card — CHECK and DOUBLE CHECK!

They have four years to fix that.

The actual games, however, were quite good. A lot of drama. A lot of exciting races. Unfortunately, if you’re American (and not close enough to the border to receive CBC), you never got that. I caught some of NBC’s coverage, but 99% of it was rediculous bullshit. Coverage of taped events, long since completed, spliced together with other sports in a seemingly random manner. There was no real “schedule”. Since they mostly aired in prime time, almost nothing was ever live and, with the limited time, many events were outright ignored. Tons of feel-good fluff and filler. An overall poor showing.

About the only thing they did do right was show the bronze and gold medal hockey games live and uninterrupted, but I imagine that the only reason that was done was because they were on early on the weekend.

Lucky for me, I do get CBC. Wall to wall Olympic coverage, from 5am to 5pm live, a half hour break for news, and then all the way through to the night with repeats and highlights in prime time. Most events get covered. The ones where Canadians have a chance, naturally, get more attention — but those without any chance get shown too. Two weeks of non-stop Olympics. They definitely do a better job of fueling Olympic interest in this country than NBC does in theirs.

They’ve done a great job with it for as long as I can remember. Unfortunately, even though it was still a great showing, this year, I thought, there were a number of disappointments. Cracks in the concrete, if you will.

Timing. I found SRC’s (French CBC) coverage and timing with live events to be a lot better than English CBC’s. While Ron MacLean babbled about something, SRC was showing live B-finals in speed skating. While CBC was analyzing and overanalyzing some hockey game, SRC was showing live bobsled. While CBC was showing commercial after commercial, SRC was still on the event.

Commercials. It is to be expected that during the Olympic games, key sponsors would get the majority of commercials. For two weeks there’s nothing but the same dozen commercials over and over again. It’s annoying after a couple of hours. It’s extremely annoying after 16 days.

That’s something that happens with every Olympics, so that alone isn’t the problem this year. What bugs me this year is that there seems to be more commercial breaks than ever (sometimes interupting important live moments, as mentioned above) and, worst of all, this year’s batch of ads was the most irritating ever Everything from the damned Bell beavers, to the “That’s my train!” Bombardier garbage, and to that manipulative Tim Horton’s ad. Those were just minor irritants, however, compared to the levels of absolute pain that was Yoplait’s campaign. This fucker especially:

Yogurt Fucker

They were so effective in getting under your skin (in the most negative “nails on blackboard” way) that I will never buy a Yoplait product on sheer principle.

Bob Cole and Harry Neale. CBC needs to retire these guys. Now. The game of hockey is faster than it’s ever been and these two aging, old school announcers can’t keep up. I spent more time during a game cussing at Bob Cole’s missed calls and misread plays than I did swearing at Team Canada, and let me tell you, Team Canada had a lot to swear about.

Exclusive Rights. I can’t remember if it was like this (no other stations could show video highlights from the games) before, since during the games I’m generally in the Olympic bubble and not very aware of other channels, but I don’t think it was ever this strong. It’s disappointing that CBC has been like this. Exclusive rights don’t help to spread excitement and interest in the games. After that amazing shot in the gold medal curling game, which pretty much won the title for Canada, none of the other networks could show it. Shame.

TSN Partnership. If you didn’t pay attention to the schedule, you might have never known that TSN was actually showing some events while CBC was focused on other things. This mostly meant round robin curling and some odd hockey games, but there was some speed skating in there too. But CBC was pretty much content to act as if their broadcast didn’t exist. There was an opportunity there for more extensive coverage spread across the two networks, but it failed to materialize. When CTV takes on the Olympic reigns (sadly) I hope that they can better leverage their networks (which include TSN).

Other than that, CBC’s coverage was good.

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