Lots of fun with visualization. NYTimes puts all the medal winners of the modern olympics in 100m on one track, calibrated to the Olympic Record.
Here’s a suggestion for NBC, though: How about celebrating this group of American gymnasts, perhaps the greatest ever, by explaining to Americans exactly what makes them so great? I’m not a lifelong gymnastics fan—true gymnerds refer to the rest of us as “Four-Year Fans”—but earlier this year I spent several months engrossed in the sport while writing about Biles. I now consider myself safely in the ninetieth percentile of gymnastics comprehension, meaning that I understand about ten per cent of what is going on. But every bit I’ve learned has made the sport wildly more interesting to watch. On Sunday, for instance, I watched the qualifying round with two Four-Year Fans and was able to pass along an insight that Biles’s coaches have pointed out many times, but that NBC didn’t. As good as Biles is on her world-beating Amanar—a vault in which she twists two and a half times while flipping through the air—she will never get a perfect score because of the tiniest flaw: she crosses her toes.
This is the kind of information we might expect to learn from NBC’s broadcasts. There’s no questioning the credentials of the network’s analysts: Tim Daggett won a team gold medal at the 1984 Olympics, and Nastia Liukin won the individual all-around in 2008. But their expertise is often muted by the strictures of a prime-time broadcast. “My producer always puts a note card in front of me, like, ‘Talk to Madeleine in Middle America, who doesn’t know gymnastics,’ ”
This, all of this. The Olympics are a time when a bunch of unusual sports end up on the air. It is an opportunity to help us understand them and get excited about them. People get excited about things they understand, and can tell what a good / bad / great performance looks like.
I remember sitting in a hotel room in Sydney in 2000, because the Olympics actually started, watching a cricket match. I had no idea what I was watching. I turned to my friend Dylan and said “ok, we’ve been in Australia for a month, we’re going to figure this out.” And with a laptop up searching the internet while watching, we figuring out enough of the basics that we could see what a good or terrible performance looked like. And it was so much more interesting to watch.
The London games have swept me up in an Olympic Fever that I haven’t had since Sydney (when I was there). The live extra streams (even with all there problems) take me back to being in the command center, with a bank of 16 screens all running live feeds off the venues. These are the same cameras, same floor coverage, with no commentary that I remember. The olympics raw. Love it.
That being said, the streaming has it’s issues. There is the cable requirement, that made me bump my programming up by $15 for the month. Annoying, but not a big deal. Our $60 satellite bill this month is something I’d gladly pay fully for Olympic coverage.
Device support, is less cool. I’ve yet to get Linux working with their live streams. Given that it’s all flash, that wasn’t supposed to be an issue this time around. I did just get the Nexus 7, and the Samsung S3, both of which are streaming fine. As I write this I’m watching the women’s bike race, in all it’s raw glory.
But, NBC is making is difficult to get this raw form onto your TV. The live extra app doesn’t work on Google TV. No Roku solution. So if you want streaming TV coverage you pretty much need to hook a full computer to it. The fact that MSNBC and NBC have been completely taken over for broadcast means we’ve got enough content to keep us busy, and can even fast forward through the fluff and commercials, but on principle I’d love to just have the road race up on the set instead of next to me on the Nexus 7.
And then there are the NBC chuckle heads, the ones that don’t know who Tim Berners-Lee is. It is truly amazing how horribly ignorant they all are. My only consolation is that the rest of the world is watching BBC coverage, and not seeing NBC’s american ignorance. After paying a couple billion dollars for these games, you’d think NBC would find more reasonable on air “talent”.
I really wonder how this will evolve for 2016. The right steps were taken this time around, but there is still so much more potential here. Just imagine if NBC ran multiple commentaries on the opening games, user selectable. You could then have the kind of commentary you were looking for. My vote would be for Peter Sagal and John Hodgeman. And let me stream to my TV if I’m allowed to stream to my tablet.
So it’s not all Unicorns and Rainbows, but for the first time since Sydney I did get to watch a Handball match, so I’m pretty happy.
For all the gripe people gave to NBC on their coverage, I have to say I was pretty happy with it overall. When you look at the coverage across NBC, USA, CNBC, and MS-NBC it really seemed like they air more hours of unique coverage than during the Beijing Summer games, and a large portion (at least on the cable networks) was live. We had our DVR with 2 tuners almost constantly running and gathering the games.
My love of curling was rekindled, and I got to watch a lot of it during these games. While it was a bummer that the Americans didn’t do very well, the medal rounds were just incredible. The spontaneous outbreak of “Oh Canada” before the 8th rock of the final end in the men’s gold medal match was amazing. I didn’t watch much hockey, except for the gold medal match, which was definitely the best game I’ve ever seen.
To me, the most surprising thing of the Olympics was how much x-country skiing was aired, and how much I enjoyed watching it. The men’s 30 km pursuit was an incredible race. When I saw they were showing it live, I never thought they’d stick around for the whole thing, but they did. With the snow arriving this past week, it helped inspire us to get out to Fahnestock for some skiing of our own.
No Olympics will ever be the same to me as the Sydney games, which I got to experience both in person, and with Australian TV coverage that was live 8am – 11pm every day. However, I really think that with NBC’s use of their cable networks so extensively, we got much closer to that this time around. I’m hoping that isn’t a one off, and that we see that again in the future.