Olympic Wrap-Up: Part 2

In yesterday’s post, I discussed some of the many things I enjoyed about the London 2012 games. This post reflects on some ways that organizers and broadcasters could make Rio 2016 even better. Here are some semi-random thoughts from a semi-anonymous Internet blogger. 🙂

Advice for the IOC and Rio 2016 Organizers

I have every confidence that Rio 2016 will be unforgettable. How could it not be, set in one of the world’s most beautiful places? I really hope Rio uses the games as an opportunity to show off its natural beauty and diverse culture. I also hope the games bring a financial boost that can help the country address the very real issues of crime and poverty that it faces. I know many of the 2016 venues are probably under construction already (especially with the World Cup coming up in 2014), but Rio could take a page from London’s book by using the games to highlight and revitalize many of the neighborhoods of Rio that tourists don’t often see. The city is really, really big—so show it off as much as possible!

In a more controversial suggestion, I’d love to see more co-ed events in the Olympics. 2012 was such a big year for women in the games, why not take it one step further? As a runner, I like women’s races… but I also sometimes like racing with men. Why stage two marathons when you could stage one? The same goes for triathlons. I’m hard pressed to see the downside of men and women racing together. There may be cultural issues here, sure, but the IOC already kind of forces countries to allow women to compete alongside men… it’s a short step to putting them in the same events. Some of the games, like equestrian competitions, already have co-ed teams, and separating the genders in some sports just seems archaic. Sure, it’s also more bodies on the field of play at once… but we all know that marathons and triathlons can be staged with thousands of participants. The marginal cost would be small, and the result would be a lot more excitement and the ability to more easily broadcast distance events. (See also my note below on the coverage of distance events, generally.)

My favorite pic from Brazil

Advice for NBC: Fixing an #nbcfail

In the U.S., NBC also really needs work on its coverage. I know that in broadcasting the games, it’s impossible to please everyone… but NBC does need to listen to criticism in a few areas. In Rio, there’s no reason not to show the opening ceremonies live. Given how long the broadcast is, even folks on the West Coast can tune in and catch part of it if they’re just getting home. If not, then just air it live in the East and repeat it for those in other time zones. It was baffling to me here out West that marquee events like the triathlons and the marathons were covered live at 3 or 4AM local time and then weren’t replayed during the afternoon/evening. Also, good luck if you wanted to see the open water swim marathon, which was barely promoted and buried in a weird time slot. What’s with the disdain for distance events?

It also incensed me that NBC continually touted “live online coverage of every event” when it wasn’t really available to everyone. If you had a premium cable package with a major provider, you were golden. But those of us who rely on broadcast TV couldn’t get live coverage—even of events that were being shown over the air! That wasn’t a classy move; it was false advertising. NBC should make at least some events free and live for everyone. They should also think about showing a more diverse selection of events over the air. Archery was very highly rated on cable, but I never saw it on broadcast. By contrast, volleyball and water polo were on almost every freaking day, and NBC seemed to have an aggressive marketing campaign for water polo that was totally baffling. I don’t care how many times you tell me that water polo is “just like ice hockey”; it isn’t ice hockey. That’s why we have Winter Olympics.

Yep, still not an ice rink.

NBC should also dial down the “filler.” Showing lengthy documentaries on the host country and past Olympic teams is not in and of itself a bad thing, but when you air this programming unannounced in the time slot reserved for Olympic coverage, viewers again feel cheated. Consider moving more of this filler to online content or air it in the weeks leading up to the game. As much as I love Oscar Pistorius, it was interesting to me that NBC aired Mary Carillo’s in-depth story on him once before the games on Rock Center, and then aired the same piece at least two more times during the games. I just found it odd that I saw that three times… and yet would have had to wake up at 3AM for the marathon coverage. Hmm.

With that being said, I’m sorry to see the Summer Olympics end for another four years. I hope some of you enjoyed them as much as I did!

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