Live from New York … it’s the Beijing Olympics

Watching the overnight, live coverage of the Olympics on USA Network has been interesting. One huge thing caught my eye, or rather my ear. When equestrian dressage and soccer started, the NBC announcers took care to note that they were watching the action “along with the audience” from the NBC studios in New York.

It struck me as odd that at least two live events would be called out of a broadcasting booth 6,800 miles away. I wonder how many events will be aired like this.

Part of me thinks its a little ridiculous. If these announcers are “watching along with the audience,” why have professionals do the call at all? Wouldn’t an equestrian enthusiast perhaps have an equal chance to provide some interesting insights to a general audience? Especially when I’m fairly sure they spend a considerable amount of time trying to explain their sport to people.

Still, I can think of a couple possible reasons why they would do this. It might be the best way to cover some of the less-mainstream events when the alternative is to not cover them at all. I can scarcely imagine how much NBC is paying to produce its coverage when the license fees cost hundreds of millions of dollars. Maybe not flying some staff to China helps save costs.

I’m sure there are a few dirty secrets about airing a huge sporting competition halfway around the globe. Sometimes the announcers don’t record their play-by-play until after an event ends when they know it’s going to air later on tape. Also having broadcasters do a play-by-play far removed from the playing pitch is a trick that goes back to the days when there was just radio.

Ultimately, I guess it’s a good thing that they’re noting that the announcers aren’t on-site. Although the Internet and other near-instantaneous media have their advantages, I think someone who’s actually present has a unique perspective that a broadcast booth in Rockefeller Center can’t match.

The live Games – Part of me really wants to get into badminton and equestrian dressage, but the tired, up-since-9-a.m. part of me just wants to go to bed. Still, kudos to Katerina Emmons of Croatia for winning the first gold of these games for an air rifle event. She won shortly after the West Coast airing of the Opening Ceremonies ended.

The Opening Ceremonies – I didn’t get a chance to watch much of the ceremony while I was at a house party. There were some pretty rabid Oakland Raiders fans who wanted to watch a pre-season game instead of a show recorded 15 hours ago.

One thing stood out as I watched Yao Ming and Lin Hao, his young companion who survived the Sichuan earthquake. Lin Hao’s Chinese flag was upside down, which is either a sign of protest or distress in the United States (it most often generates ire when it’s flown in protest). Repeated displays of such an image stood out in what was otherwise a carefully and beautifully choreographed event.

The glances that I saw of the 4.5-hour event were pretty spectacular and I managed to see the climatic cauldron lighting. Good thing there’s a repeat of this taped event airing right now so I can catch up.

Online – Have I mentioned that you can keep up with the Games with’s Olympics section? I’m just saying. 😉

Carrying a torch …

My excitement is building as the Olympic torch is just a few hours away from returning to its ancestral home. I look forward to seeing all the intense competition during the next two weeks. Regardless of how the Games are covered, it’s always a treat to see the finest in the world compete in the field of sport.

Apparently, this is a great time to be an couch Olympian, especially after reading NBC’s press kit for its Games coverage. The Olympic motto is Citius, Altius, Fortius (meaning “Swifter, Higher, Stronger”). NBC is definitely going for more in this year’s coverage. It’s even trying to set the world record for continuous TV watching in a publicity stunt.

From the looks of it, it’s pretty impressive — over 1,210 hours of coverage on seven television networks. The networks are as varied as broadcast parent NBC to Spanish-language Telemundo. And it’s not all going to be gymnastics and track-and-field, either. NBC is promising some coverage of all the Olympic sports.

That said, NBC’s not getting its unprecedented coverage off to an auspicious start. Apparently not willing to preempt sudsy Passions, Friday’s opening ceremonies will air taped in primetime Friday night.

By comparison, Canada’s CBC not only manages to air the opening and closing ceremonies live (Starting at 1 p.m. EDT Friday), but they re-air the opening ceremonies in prime-time.

It’s true that the CBC’s coverage won’t be as comprehensive as the juggernaut that NBC is assembling (294.5 on its main network, 115 on CBC Newsworld and 150 on non-CBC network TSN). But, of all the NBC-Universal networks, I only get one — NBC. All the live sports that might air on Bravo! or USA are pretty meaningless to me. Just like I’m not too concerned about Radio-Canada‘s and RDS‘s Olympics coverage in French.

It’s no secret that I love the CBC’s comprehensive coverage of events — live whenever possible. Still, according to a Globe and Mail story, it seems the time difference is going to force the network to tape delay some coverage. I guess the fact that it would be 1 a.m. in Greece when the East Coast hits prime time is a pretty good reason.

While the CBC is resorting to airing a highlights programme each prime time, that doesn’t mean that its not airing the events earlier in the day live. I wonder if NBC would be nice enough to give us the same option?