We watch the Olympics all day, so you don't have to.
As the Games near an end, there isn't a great deal to comment on about the events. The Olympic Athletes of Russia were playing Germany for the Men's Hockey Final, and I was sort of hoping both teams lost, but no go. Still, I did check out some of the end, which was very exciting. Four goals in perhaps the last five minutes to end regulation in a tie -- when OAR scored with 45 second left when short-handed during a penalty until they pulled their goalie. And then OAR won in overtime.
And, yes, I stayed up until 1:15 in the morning to watch the Women's 30K Cross Country (about 20 miles). But then, how could I not? Jessie Diggins, maybe my fave athlete at these Games, was racing. She did well, but finished seventh. However, she's been voted to carry the American flag during the Closing Ceremonies. Good choice!
They held the Figure Skating Gala, and I thought the performers they showed were all remarkably talented and artistic, but -- man, that was one of the darkest, most somber "galas" I've seen. While I think it's nice when the skaters have a chance to show their artistic side at this event, they're sort of doing that during the competitions. In the past, when they've held the gala, the skaters seemed to be more likely to show other sides of themselves and have a bit more fun. I don't mean "funny" (though some were), but high-spirited. With last night, I felt like I'd been dumped back in the 1950s Beat Generation and was in a coffehouse with everyone dressed in black, with mood lighting, a single spotlight and a performer onstage raging against the world. But they were talented. Just morose. In fairness, I think the event went on much longer (since there were about 40 skaters in the finale), and these few were the ones NBC chose to broadcast.
In the morning on NBCsports, they ran two, hour-long, wonderfully-done documentaries about past Olympics -- though one of them, while absolutely terrific, I felt was oddly misguided. It looked at the hot politics of the 1968 Games in Mexico City, noteworthy for a great many reasons, but particularly the "Black Fist" protests by Tommie Smith and John Carlos, and focuses on the conditions that lead up to it. To be clear, it covers all the various issues -- notably East-West tensions heightened by Russia's invasion of Czechoslovakia) -- and was seriously impressive, but I thought out of place in the wind-up of the Winter Olympics, rather than something to most-impactfully run during the coming Summer Games. I suspect it's because it's the 50th anniversary, so fair enough for that, but it just seemed very out of place. (On a personal note, one thing I did love was a short detour where they discussed and gave full credit -- long overlooked -- to Dick Fosbury for invented the revolutionary Fosbury Flop which all high jumpers now use, and even had footage of Fosbury today talking about it. Equally wonderful, I've been looking for years of footage of Fosbury competing at those Games with sound -- because one of my indelible Olympics memories is the reaction of the stadium seeing this odd style for the first time ever -- and they have some brief footage of that and comment on it.)
More fitting was the following-documentary about the figure skating competition at the 1988 Winter Olympics on their 30th anniversary. Though certainly without the impact of the 1968, it was very enjoyable, looking at the women's competition between defending Olympian Gold Medalist Katharina Witt of Germany and Debbie Thomas of the U.S , and for the men the "Battle of the Brians" -- Canada's Orser (who coached by the men's Gold and Silver winners this year) and from the United States, Boitano. One tiny, fun tidbit is Thomas's insistence -- and surprisingly, not totally without reason -- that Nike got its slogan, "Just Do It," from her, since the documentary shows her mouthing that phrase on camera right before beginning her skate...and six months later, Nike released their ad campaign.
If you missed them and are interested, both documentaries should be streaming now here on nbcolympics.com.
NBCsports also had an excellent and extensive compilation of highlights of the Games. Hopefully they'll re-air it later on NBC or on their nbcolympics.com website, as well.
Speaking of NBC, I've been noting along the way things that I think they've done wonderfully and what they've flubbed on. But one thing I haven't mentioned is how in awe I am that they pulled this off yet again. It looks so effortless, cutting back-and-forth, and crisply showing all these events. But the organization and manpower it requires is breathtaking -- and to time things back to the United States and balance productions across three networks is...and do so without many hiccups is seriously remarkable. So, yes, while I do think they handled some things very poorly, we're dealing on a profoundly high level here.
And...and...and I turned on NBC early today, putting on a show they had called Olympic Gold -- and it was a very long report by -- Mary Carrillo!! And it was, not shockingly great. Alas, it was about the history of snowboarding, and it wasn't during the main Olympics broadcast, but we'll take what we can get and be thrilled that she wasn't at least ignored. I don't know how long her report was since I tuned in late, during the story which had already started. But what I saw was 15 minutes. Joy!
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Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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