Is Olympic television coverage outside of the US really _that_ much better?

Every two years, when the Olympic games roll around, I hear the same complaints on practically every message board:

  • “Olympic television coverage in the US spends too much time on human interest stories, ann not enough on the sports.”

  • “Olympic television coverage in the US is too America-centric.”

  • “Olympic television coverage in the US shows only popular sports.”

  • “Olympic television coverage in the US is dumbed down, and they explain the rules for everything.”

After one of these comments rolls around, inevitably someone from Seattle, Detroit or Buffalo will chime in and say how much better the coverage is on Canadian television.

I’ve watched Olympic coverage on Canadian television, and it really doesn’t seem like it’s much better than in the US. The production values and associated graphics aren’t as slick, bringing out the argument that the Canadian coverage is more “real”. I see as much, if not more Canada-centrism on Canadian broadcasts than on US broadcasts. There’s a ton of human interest stories on Canadian Olympic broadcasts, too. Also, there’s going to be more explanation and “dumbing down” of sports like curling and hockey in US broadcasts, because throughout much of the US there’s very little knowledge of them, bit for track and field, it’s not as if commentators are saying things like “Let’s explain the 100 meter sprint for our audience; the length of the sprint is 100 meters, or about 110 yards or 330 feet, annd the first to cross the finish line wins. The second to cross ends up in second place. The third to cross ends up in third place, The runners run with their legs and feet.”

There seems to be this belief that in other countries, Olympic television coverage shows obscure sports a’plenty, with almost no flag waving. Is this true, or just another case of the “Everything’s better in Europe than the US” variety of grass-is-greener syndrome?

I didn’t watch the opening ceremonies this time, but the past few (summer & winter) I’ve seen on CBC: the commentator will actually stop speaking for up to a minute at a time while something interesting happens on stage, and golf-whispers for most of the rest of the show. NBC viewers can jump in and advise if their viewing experience is similar.

I think it is worse in Australia

Canadian coverage is a bit better, but it’s not as fantastic as people make it out to be; it has a lot of “Athlete background” stories too, and not enough live coverage for my tastes.

The BBC’s coverage has expanded a lot with interactive digital TV. They’ve now effectively got several channels running with various coverage on the one ‘proper’ channel. Admittedly a lot of this ends up to being repeats and so on, but there’s serious coverage of full competition (not just highlights) when there’s any serious British hope of success.

There also seems to be a very clear principle of not marginalising any sports, and providing at least some coverage of all of them. There’s also a looping ‘daily news’ section which gives a brief rundown of medals and major news in all sports.

The explanations of ‘unfamiliar’ sports perhaps are infuriating for those familiar with them, but it must be a difficult judgement, because you can’t apply the same assumptions about viewer knowledge to, say, archery as to athletics. Each commentary team has to try to find an appropriate balance.
But…God, yes, far too much ‘human interest’ drivel.

US coverage has been the best in the past two Olympics. The soap opera coverage is left to the prime time coverage which I don’t pay attention to. I have watched the Olympics on cable and online almost non stop since they started. No up close and personal. I’m actually watching boxing for which has not been shown on the network since 1984.

Are the cameras used by NBC exclusive to them, or do they share the footage with the other countries? Because although American sports commentators get a lot of criticism for over-talking, the American networks do use a lot of wonderful technology. (Like the camera on wheels that follows the sprinters around the track, so it looks like they’re running in place.)

Just imagine if every TV company on the planet was using their own cameras for the same shot :eek:

I believe those cameras are set up by the country hosts (in this case, China) shared to all nations airing the events. The sound commentary is up to the country airing the basic footage.

But back to the OP…I heard from German friends that, for instance, the opening ceremony was aired live, with no commercials and little chit chat. Granted, Germans pay a fee to have television (sort of like a mandatory PBS subscription), but it must be nice to see the Olympics without commercial interruption.

Germany also airs the events as they happen - they don’t wait until prime time to drag out everything and make you watch until the end of the show to see the two or three “big” events of the day. They do show highlights later in the evening for those who had to work and missed it live, but they do not make the whole country wait until 10:00 PM to watch an event that happened 9 hours earlier.

And as I mentioned in a recent thread, I wish I had a dollar for every time they mention Dana Torres is 41 years old.

Who the &*@# cares?

It is my stated goal not to watch one minute of the olympics.

It’s a pretty easy goal, all in all.

I don’t have a TV set.

Well, actually I have two, but they’re both LCD types with VGA ports, being used as computer monitors, and not hooked up to antennas/cable/etc.

Oh deary me, whatever shall I do next year when they switch from NTSC to ATSC?

So, are you a Curling fan or a Hockey fan?

I’ve been watching the Olympics here in Thailand, and really enjoying it.

The main national broadcast channel, NBT, has been showing nearly non-stop coverage. Narration is in Thai, of course, but the camera feeds seem to be the same “official” ones discussed above. There are almost no human-interest stories or anything other than the footage itself-- with the exception of when a Thai athlete is up, when (understandably) they do some extra stuff, such as a split-screen with the athlete’s family and neighbors watching the live feed in their home town.

There are few commercials, which is nice-- and there were NO commercials at all during the broadcast of the Opening Ceremonies on Friday night. Score.

So, even though I can’t understand the narration, I’m really enjoying the experience compared to the US.

Having had the chance to “experience” US coverage of the 2000 Sydney Olympics, I believe I can say, with only a little hyperbole, that if they had shown just one more glurgey soft-focus piece about little AnnLee Snorzsitzky of Whosville Illinois – recounting how she had been forced to sell her favourite milk-cow to buy shoes and trained exclusively on frozen soy-bean fields in the dead of winter – I was going to attack the television with my teeth. :slight_smile:

Both, at the same time. In sports that were popular, but where the US team were not doing too well – gymnastics are stuck in my mind as an ideal example – it was sometimes damn hard to figure out who was actually winning the event. Some of the gymnastics coverage gave me the distinct impression that a US competitor was winning until they were suddenly declared 5th or 6th or something and I had no idea who’d won.

Worst. Coverage. Ever. :smiley:

At least Aussie TV revels in all the great achievements by any country. Macaveney would die if he couldn’t cover all the athletic greats and we will see every gold medal that Phelps wins. I was just watching coverage of Long Qingquan, the Chinese 17 year old in the men’s 56-kg category winning at his international debut.

Well, a fun anecdote: my mom was watching yesterday and happily told us about how she saw the Latvian team squash the US team in beach volleyball. We got a kick out of that! :stuck_out_tongue:

Sure, all the complaints in the OP are true if you only watch or record the NBC primetime stuff. But so far this weekend, I’ve watched volleyball, beach volleyball, dressage, archery, badminton, skulling, boxing, soccer, and basketball. Right now, I’m watching the Netherlands and Cuba play beach volleyball, last night I watched Spain and Greece play basketball, and later, I hope to catch the Equestrian events. I know that some people only have the chance to watch NBC primetime, but really, if you want a variety of sports with few human interest stories, just record the overnight coverage on USA, CNBC, and MSNBC, or the “late night” NBC coverage after the local news. Or the day time coverage on NBC. By and large, the only time you’re going to get the soft focus stories of triumph and other obnoxious shit is when Bob Costas is hosting (not that it’s his fault, just that that’s when you can expect it. If you don’t see Costas, you’re probably safe from it).

Japan’s coverage has been very Japan-centric in some regards, such as mainly showing just those events that Japanese athletes are participating in (this past weekend had a combined total of at least 12 hours of judo, and there are still plenty of weight classes left to go). On the other hand, they do show the entire competition in those events, so we see competitors from every country rather than just jumping in when a local kid is on. They may spread out their coverage more once judo is done and the track and field events get into full swing.

Coverage is split between the private Asahi network, and the public NHK network, and with their combined terrestrial and satellite channels, it’s on somewhere for most of the day and night with a mix of live and taped footage.

The chatter is pretty continuous, but because I can mentally shut out Japanese and because they rarely cut away from the action to show the announcers (only occasionally between events on Asahi, never on NHK), it’s unobtrusive. The time zones also work out nicely this time, although last time with Athens they ran taped footage during the day and live all night.

The “up close and personal” is minimal, although this may be because just about all Japan’s medal hopefuls are already celebrities to some extent and have already been profiled to death long before the games began.

I’m pretty sure you can’t get worse than not showing the events.

If you are on the West Coast in America, NBC did not show the 400m relay. While the entire rest of the world was able to watch a fantastic event live, we were watching tape delayed gymnastics preliminaries.

Hours later, near midnight, they did show a replay of the relay. Watching NBC coverage on the West Coast is sort of like if you watched a midnight Sportscenter to see clips after missing the World Series or the Superbowl.

NBC isn’t just bad, they are criminally bad.

I find the complaining over all the human interest stories overblown.

There were a few olympics in a row where it got real bad (the words “up close and personal” still send a shiver down my spine), and I think that they’ve had a hard time shaking that stigma, but it’s not nearly as bad as people complain about.

Olympics coverage is ridiculous in the US this year. Between NBC, USA, MSNBC, CNBC, and UHD (I think) the internet and two additional basketball/soccer stations, NBC is airing over 200 hours of olympic coverage PER DAY. I watched some great boxing yesterday. There was even dressage on one of the stations.

I found the coverage this weekend to be a pretty good mix of studio-driven general olympics/politics talk and sports coverage. How many more swimming preliminaries could you really stomach?

They also aired quite a bit of cycling, and that is far from a US-centric sport.

By “not showing the events”, you apparently mean “showing the events from 12 time zones away in tape delay”.

Welcome to watching the damn olympics.

You probably just got the same feed the East Coast did, but delayed. We also had mostly edited gymnastics prelims, and then late in the night, we got the swimming, yes live. If you were able to just watch the coverage, you got the same great final we did.

Were you just expecting NBC to re-edit the entire thing. . .to cut into the gymnastics programming they already put together to show you one of the scores of swimming finals that will be shown in the upcoming days?

Watching the Olympics is ALWAYS a case of getting events tape delayed or live at weird time. Shit, the entire country saw the “Miracle on Ice” in tape delay.

Yes, if the entire rest of the world including the east coast is all watching the finals live, I expect NBC to send that same feed to the west coast so we can watch it live as well.

Showing a replay near midnight when everyone else has been talking about it for hours and the results are well known is not the same thing.

Obviously some events will be shown on tape delay; that isn’t the issue. This event took place in prime time, but wasn’t shown.