To be clear, I applaud the expansion of sports during the Olympics, and see no reason for the coverage to be filled with featurettes and interviews. But like anything, perspective helps build interest, and most especially when you have SO much more time on your hands, it allows you to put that time to better use. The Olympics, after all, are not just a big sporting event, but a cultural and even political phenomenon. So, it's these featurettes and like-material which help tell that story.
This material is still being done, to a degree. But what NBC seems to be doing is shifting most of it out of the Olympic broadcasts and moving it into their various auxiliary shows. So, instead we see interviews and featurettes on the Olympic Zone syndicated show that comes on a half-hour because the primetime broadcast, and on the Today show, and on their Sunday Today with Willie Geist. And those are all great venues for the pieces -- but to augment them, not replace them. Because otherwise it presumes that the audience will expand its Olympic viewing to include...well, pretty much everything. And in most rational worlds, that just does not happen as the rule.
Moving on, as I mentioned yesterday, I foolishly bought tickets for the L.A. Opera's production of Candide months ago, not realizing it would coincide with the Olympics, so I missed a lot of the mid-day's coverage -- thank goodness for the invention of the DVR, where I caught up on some of it later. But I did get to watch some early, and over on NBCsports the men's skiathalon was a treat. Basically it's the skiing version of the marathon, though competitors have to chance from classic style to freestyle "skating style") halfway through. The men's race is 50 kilometers, which is around 35 miles. This year, one skier was knocked down within 200 meters, about a minute of the start. That's got to be annoying, though I supposed it would also be annoying to ski for 34 miles and get knocked out at the end, at which point you're probably so exhausted it's hard to get up. By the way, lest one think this is a boring event to watch -- well, okay, some of it is, though even on NBCsports they only show about half of it, not the complete hour-and-a-half, but much is a treat and last year -- after 49.9999 kilometers -- the race was neck-and-neck and won by only a remarkable .4 of a second. The race wasn't as close this year, with 11 seconds being the margin, but not only did Norway finish 1-2-3, but in a nice twist the fellow who won, S.H. Krueger, was the same guy who I mentioned fell at the beginning!
One of the nice things about the NBCsports channel is not just that it often covers events not on regular NBC, but also they will cover events in full that make it on NBC later (and often edited), so you get to see the coverage earlier. For instance, I notice that NBC's schedule shows they'll be showing the men's skiathlon later -- but not only will I have seen it at that point, I'm sure that NBC will only air a few minutes of it, and not "the race" itself.
Perhaps the highlight of the day -- or at least the morning -- was in men's luge. That's when Chris Mazdzer became the first American to ever win an Olympic medal in the sport. He actually came very close to winning the Gold -- he was ahead halfway through his final run -- but got an impressive Silver. Also notable was that a first-time Olympic luger won the Gold, and the favorite finished out of the medals, shocked I'm sure that two people who no one ever expected would get medals...did.
And the Games go on...