30 July 2012

Olympics

I've been an Olympics fan ever since watching luge runs at the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid, so I was a bit apprehensive about how much coverage of the 2012 games I would get to see in South Africa.  There was no need to worry...the coverage here is fantastic.  The main state-government run channel showed the Opening Ceremonies, and shows a bit of highlights, but fortunately, I have satellite TV here, and there are 4 dedicated 24-hour Olympics channels showing coverage of nearly every event in the games.  South Africa is just one hour later than London, so live coverage lasts all day and all evening long.

Last night, I got to watch South Africa's Cameron van der Burgh win their first Gold medal in world-record time in the Men's 100m breaststroke.  Van der Burgh's gold is South Africa's first ever in individual swimming, and has enthralled the country; he was expected to be competitive, but to have such a dominating performance was maybe a bit unexpected.

It will be tough to go back to American-based coverage after seeing an alternative.  The coverage is all-encompassing, showing all the competitors, with very limited commercial interruptions during the action (only 5 seconds at a time); they save the longer breaks for when they switch from one sport to another.

There are quite a few former Olympians that have been hired to provide color commentary, like Carl Lewis, who must not be annoying enough for NBC to hire them.  There is less focus on the athlete's story of how they arrived at the Olympics and more emphasis on the competition, which I really enjoy.  It's great to be able to watch events that the US is not a powerhouse in, like Archery or Table Tennis.

Obviously, the coverage pays deserved attention to the South African team (125 athletes) but also favors other English-speaking countries, most of whom were also part of the British Commonwealth at one time or another, along with any African country.  The commentators are quite encouraging of the American team, so even though I'm watching foreign coverage, I still get to see all the top American competition.

Many of the American staff here gathered at someone's house for a party to watch the Opening Ceremonies last Friday, and nearly every country's entrance in the Parade of Nations was cheered by someone, as most everyone here has friends and family or work connections the world over; it was great fun to watch with other Olympics fans and to see the complete, unedited coverage (including Queen Elizabeth picking at her fingernails as the Great Britain team started to enter the stadium...)