The death of Georgian luge athlete Nodar Kumaritashvili is tragic and a horrible thing to happen – especially when it was the main news on the day of the Opening Ceremonies and happened before the ceremonies took place. I understand why tonight’s NBC broadcast (and probably many around the world) started by mentioning the tragic event from earlier today. In spite of the warning (I’m glad NBC threw that in, I had no desire to see what I’d already seen described), I don’t think it was appropriate to start the broadcast with video of the tragic death. The Olympics Opening Ceremonies are watched by people of all ages and I think the video of the death could have been shown tomorrow and only made available online initially. I’m sure many disagree and were glad they got to see the video of the tragic death in HD on the opening night of the Olympics, but I wish NBC had handled the situation differently.
I was very disappointed with NBC’s coverage of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing and I’m hopeful that this year’s coverage of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver will be much better. I know a lot of people on the west coast who still believe we will get live coverage of the 2010 Olympic Games (which we did not in the Beijing games even when the east was able to watch Michael Phelps win gold again and again live). I don’t know why they believe this will happen, since the Olympics are taking place in the same time zone. I doubt it happened in 1984 when the Summer Olympics were in Los Angeles. I didn’t live here at the time, but I know how coverage has been more recently and I doubt it happened. Those of us on the west coast don’t get the Oscars live even though they take place in Los Angeles. Why would NBC allow us to watch any Olympics live? Like all other sports broadcasting in the United States, the NBC Olympics will most likely be very east coast centered. The Opening Ceremonies started at 7:30 pm here. They started at 7:30pm on the east coast. So, unless those on the west coast have DirecTV or Dish with the east coast NBC channels, they will not be able to see the Olympics live. Those on the east coast finished watching the Olympics Opening Ceremonies live not long after those of us on the west coast could start watching them if we wanted to watch them live. My plan had been to sign up for the east coast channels for the Olympics from now on so I could watch the broadcasts earlier (though still not live), but I can’t get DirecTV, so that’s not possible. I’ll be at the Olympics in less than a week, though, so it wouldn’t have made sense to pay extra money for a week’s worth of advantage anyway.
NBC definitely did a lot right in tonight’s broadcast. One of the best things was that they interviewed a lot of athletes from different sports. They didn’t just interview those from the sports that are most popular. They interviewed a variety of Olympians. They even interviewed Jack Johnson, the only American NHL player at the Opening Ceremonies. I did think it was bad that the reporter insisted on making Jack say who he thought would light the flame for the Olympic Games to begin. Most of us thought it would be Wayne Gretzky (and although I it hasn’t gotten to that point as I type this in the west coast broadcast, I could easily find out if we’re all correct online). Not surprisingly, Johnson’s answer when pressed was, “I’ll go with Gretzky – seems like the safe bet.” He realized resisting the reporter was futile and gave the answer we’d all expect from almost anyone asked that question. The interviews might not have been very good, but at least they chose a variety of Olympic sports and not just a couple people everyone in the country recognizes already.
The Opening Ceremonies also gave us our first North American TV coverage of former NHL star Jaromir Jagr (who won two Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 91 & 92, his first two seasons in the NHL) in quite a while. Clearly, he’ll be prominent in the Czech Republic’s men’s ice hockey team competition later in the Olympics. Initially, a couple of the flag bearers surprised me, and then I remembered that most of the NHL players were not as lucky as Jack Johnson and couldn’t attend the Opening Ceremonies even if they really wanted to do so. Johnson had the advantage of being on the west coast, not having a game that night or the next afternoon, being allowed to skip a practice, etc. I don’t think getting to attend the Opening Ceremonies should be something NHL players typically can’t do. If the NHLPA is able to keep Olympic participation in their contract, I think they should get an Olympic break that covers Opening Ceremonies through Closing Ceremonies. Part of the reason Jack Johnson of the LA Kings was the first American NHL player to attend the Opening Ceremonies is that he’s one of the only NHL players who would have the chance. Since NHL teams are not likely to allow players to skip games to attend the ceremony, the NHL schedule eliminates the possibility to attend for most NHL Olympians. I think they should all be able to do what Jack has decided to do and take in as much of the Olympics as possible if that’s what they’d like. Normally, the Olympics are too far away and one couldn’t fly to them and get back in time for a morning skate the next day. I realize that a lot of Olympians from all sports (winter and summer) choose not to attend because of early competitions the next day, training, or even because they’re not interested in the long ordeal of the Opening Ceremonies. I think the NHL players should also have a choice. I know they’re not leaving for NHL games, but they are playing the same sport they play in the NHL and getting a lot of completely free (to the NHL) advertising for the NHL. I’d think the NHL would want as much national coverage as they can get.
My best friend doesn’t follow the NHL (other than what he hears through me on a regular basis) and he isn’t a huge fan of sports outside the Olympics, but he noticed that they interviewed Jack Johnson during the Opening Ceremonies and immediately thought of me, since he knew Johnson was an NHL player. National TV coverage is something that’s good for any sport. If the NHL is trying to expand their audience, why not advertise on one of the biggest world stages available for a bit longer? Allowing the players to all attend the Opening Ceremonies (if they’d like) would give the NHL more national exposure. The Kings have gotten a lot more national coverage this year than they normally do, since they’ve been doing well and have been mentioned on the NHL Network a lot more. In spite of that coverage, more people in the United States saw Jack Johnson’s interview than would ever see anything on the NHL Network or Versus. I think the NHL should break earlier for the Olympics and encourage their players to enjoy the whole Olympic experience if they’d like.
I think the graphics when the countries were entering were well done. I liked how they showed where each country can be found on a world map starting out at the United States was. It was a neat touch and a good graphic concept that was also well executed. The way they listed the upcoming countries was okay, but I think that the bottom bar graphic could have been a lot smaller. There was no need for it to take up almost ¼ of the height in the HD broadcast.
I think all the projection design of the Opening Ceremonies was amazing. I think they did a better job than China with the visuals for the projection. The opening with the ice breaking apart was so well choreographed. I’m sure that those acting in that segment could barely (if at all) see the icebergs breaking apart below them on the screen due to the lighting on them. I can’t imagine how many hours that took to coordinate. The one guy even “swam” for a while and then grabbed on to another iceberg. I thought that was amazing. My favorite part of the Opening Ceremonies came not long after that section – the whales. I don’t know how they did it, but the whales looked like they were breaking through the plane of the screen with the other whales. I still have the Opening Ceremonies on my DVR and have already watched the ice breaking, whales, etc. a second time. I’m sure that won’t be the last.
Some of the segments I really liked (like the step dancing with the leaves, the running then flying through the fields, etc.) were great initially, but seemed to go on a bit long.
Everyone knew Wayne Gretzky would be the one lighting the flame. What we didn’t know was that for the main part of the ceremony he would be joined by basketball player Steve Nash, skier Nancy Greene, and speed skater Catriona LeMay Doan. I thought that was a wonderful touch and a great surprise. The technical difficulty was unfortunate and it was clear those about to light the flame didn’t know what to do and were wondering what was going on like the rest of us. I think the torch lighting was still pretty well done. The extra two and a half minutes seemed like an eternity. I understand the awkward looks on the faces of everyone as the ceremony came to an unexpected stand still, but Gretzky had to know there were a ton of cameras on him throughout the ride to the outside flame location. Couldn’t he have pretended to look excited about being the one to light the other flame? I was very surprised that he didn’t look happy to be a part of something so amazing.
As usual, I don’t think that the Opening Ceremonies should have sports guys announcing the events. They don’t seem to study their media guides enough, since they often aren’t able to name the Olympians in the close-ups. I think they need people who are used to doing parades or heck, just any really huge Olympic fans who will study their guides. They do not need to be sports or news people. They need to be people who can help the audience with some of the things they might not know from time to time and who will be quiet and allow the home audience to fully enjoy and appreciate most of the Olympic Opening Ceremonies. NBC never seems to get this part right. I hope NBC will air some events live on the west coast (especially the bronze and gold medal hockey matches), but if the NBC site is accurate that will not be the case. The gold medal match is listed on the Official Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics site as being at 12:15pm on February 28th. NBC lists the game airing at 3pm on NBC in Los Angeles. Some people will not avoid the news of the gold medal game and enjoying a game when you already know the outcome is a lot more difficult. Why is it so impossible to allow everyone across the country to watch a major event (like a gold medal match in the Olympics) live?