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Bravo, Canada. Boo, NBC

February 28, 2010

The Olympics kind of sucked this year. Unlike, Rick Reilly, though, I don’t think it was Canada’s fault. In fact, I’m sure of it. Don’t get me wrong…there were exciting events, thrilling moments, and heart-rending storylines. But, still, they kind of sucked.

Things didn’t start off in Canada’s favor. The games began with the tragic death a Georgian luger, Nodar Kumaritashvili. Immediately, a pall was cast over the games. Further, to say that the weather conditions were less than ideal would be an understatement. From the beginning there were delays in the skiing events, and the weather didn’t get much better as the games went on. Superficially, the fourth arm of the supports for the flame cauldron malfunctioned during the opening ceremonies, leaving millions, including torch-bearer Wayne Gretzky, waiting awkwardly. Finally, they proceeded without the fourth support. (At the closing ceremonies, Canada poked fun at themselves, finally bringing up the fourth support, with the help of a Handyman-Mime, and Catriona Le May Doan was able at last to light her portion of the cauldron.)

The Vancouver Olympics could have been forever linked to that image, a country struggling to hold up an enormous undertaking that it simply didn’t have the arms for. Thankfully, that didn’t happen. The Olympic crew, the city of Vancouver, and the country of Canada, stepped up and delivered a memorable Olympics. The events all seemed to hum with the buzz of excitement, anticipation, suspense, and elation…a tribute to the fans, obviously, as well as the organizers. And despite the weather issues, the crew did a wonderful job making sure the various courses were usable and safe.

In short, despite all the hardships and obstacles, Canada did a wonderful job with the 2010 Winter Olympics. I think most Americans, and people around the world, would agree, despite the idiotic statements of people like our nemesis, Rick Reilly.

So, congratulations Canada, for an excellent show. Thanks, and well done.

Still, the Olympics were seriously marred, at least in America, by NBC. The National Broadcasting Company and Dick Ebersol, head of the NBC Sports, got a lot of flak for their shoddy presentation of the Olympics, and every word of it was richly deserved.

First of all, the number of events unavailable live, and aired later was staggering. And many of the events that were shown live, were televised on MSNBC or CNBC, channels that are inaccessible to many. Further, many of the events that were shown live were somewhat curious choices. It seemed like every time I turned on the TV, some form of cross-country skiing, or ski jumping, or the millionth Bobsled race was on.

On the other hand, the most popular games of these Olympics, Curling and Hockey, were inexplicably relegated to one of NBCs secondary networks (CNBC, MSNBC, or USA). In spite of themselves, however, there were some bright spots to NBCs Olympic coverage: namely, the men’s Halfpipe and the Gold Medal Hockey game between the USA and Canada. The third period of the latter, an instant classic, was shown without commercial interruption: a brilliant decision by NBC that turned out to be too little too late.

We should be careful, though, not to extend NBCs transgressions to Canada and the Olympic planners and crew. In the end, the Olympics will always be thrilling, and Canada successfully did everything in its power to maximize those thrills. But NBC certainly seemed to try its damnedest to suck the life out of the 2010 games, and to some extent, they succeeded. And that’s not good for the viewers and it’s not good for the image of the host country. NBC should issue Canada a formal apology.

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