So the 2012 Summer Olympics opened today in London, as I’m sure all the world knows. I’m sure that more than a billion people saw the whole thing live, as the Queen of England and James Bond parachuted out of a helicopter and J.K. Rowling read a passage from Peter Pan and Paul McCartney blared out my favorite Beatles song ever, “Hey Jude.”
I’m also sure that none of those people watching it live were American or in America. At least, not through legal means. And yes I’m staring at you, NBC.
I was a little miffed to learn today that NBC had refused to air (or even stream online) the opening ceremonies live because it wanted to monopolize the event for its primetime broadcast. I mean, why are you going to pretend this giant event is NOT happening at the same exact time, 6 hours across the pond, they are going on? It’s bad enough everyone else thinks Americans are ignorant, arrogant fools who don’t know anything about the world they live in. Now you have to make it actually seem true? Seriously, it amazes me how many people I talked to today legit thought the Olympics started at 7:30pm CT. At 3pm on the dot today I promptly scoured the Internet for update feeds on the opening ceremonies. I read every tweet as the show unfolded. When I shared its highlights with friends or co-workers, the response was largely the same: “WAIT, WHAT?? BUT I THOUGHT THAT WAS TONIGHT!!”
Really? You thought the 2012 Olympic Games in London were going to start at the time that NBC had designated for its American viewers? Never mind the fact that they operate in a completely different time zone?
As it was, I managed to find some live streams of the BBC coverage online when I came home from work. And then later tonight when NBC aired its edited, time-delayed version, I did some quick comparisons. There were a few things I found disturbing:
- Because they obviously had had the chance to edit up the show before airing it, NBC’s coverage of the Parade of Nations was pitiful. They basically skipped over the marches of lesser known countries or cut quickly to commercials as they came out. In contrast, the BBC coverage was live (duh) and therefore didn’t cut short the appearances of smaller countries, and sufficient commentary was given for each delegation of athletes (or at least, as sufficient as it could be). Most of NBC’s airtime was given to the U.S. delegation, which is of course to be expected. No equality whatsoever. I understand that NBC covers the highly coveted U.S. market, but there needs to be a change in how they present the Olympics. There needs to be less “Hey, here’s another chance for us to bully the world around because we’re the U.S. and we can!” and more “Here’s a chance for us to be a part of this truly global event with our fellow nations!”
- Saudi Arabia is sending female athletes for the very first time, and in the NBC show they mentioned it very briefly and then moved on. In contrast, on BBC they actually cut to closeup shots of the Saudi women. This very occasion, the fact that every national delegation is sending at least one female athlete to the Olympics for the very first time, is so momentous and yet NBC treats it as a sidenote.
- When Sudan marched across, NBC again mentioned briefly of the known troubles the country has experienced in recent times. But absolutely no mention of South Sudan or the fact that the world’s newest country doesn’t have an Olympic committee yet so its only athlete is running independently since he refuses to run for Sudan. Granted, I wasn’t able to watch the entireties of either broadcast, so I could be wrong on NBC’s part, but they still didn’t mention anything of the sort when Sudan made its appearance.
- Bob Costas trying to explain why Great Britain, a nation known for its obsession with the sport, was fielding a soccer team for the very first time in years was just pitiful. I don’t even remember what facts he garbled up; all I know is that NBC sucked even more by showing its ignorance of the world’s most popular sport. This is why I love ABC/ESPN so much more when it comes to sports broadcasting (for goodness sake, ESPN at least airs World Cup/Euro/insert-international-tournament-here matches in real time!!). It’s so simple: in international soccer (FIFA territory), the four countries of the U.K.—England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland—field separate national teams and always have. But in the Olympics, there is only one Great Britain Olympic committee and hence, team. Undoubtedly, there has never been a need to field a GB soccer team because soccer at the Olympics doesn’t even matter anyway (at least for men). In fact, the British team that’s come together for the Olympics was really only specially created for these London Games, and each country had to be assured that their independent associations were still valid for FIFA play. Take THAT, NBC.
I love the Olympics and look forward to watching it. Just not on NBC.