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NBC's Olympics Coverage -- So Far, So Great
August 11, 2008  | By David Bianculli

Sunday night's NBC prime-time telecast of the XXIX Olympic Games -- part live, part replayed from hoarded video coverage -- was nothing short of fabulous. The U.S. athletes shone in some events, faltered in others and barely missed in still others, but NBC, in its first weekend of Olympics coverage, has been a winner all the way.


There's so much to rave about. Start with last night's stunner, the U.S. men's team amazing upset in the 4x100m freestyle relay. Michael Phelps led off the relay, but it was Jason Lezak, in the anchor leg, who pulled off the miracle win, and snatched the victory from the highly favored, vocally taunting French squad.

Part of the reason the race was so exciting was because NBC made it so easy to watch. Computer graphics identified each swimming lane by country at the race's start, with visual banners cannily designed so that Phelps and the other leadoff swimmers actually appeared to dive underneath them as they began the race. (See picture above.)


Then, once the unprecedented pace of the relay became apparent, NBC provided another helpful visual: a green line indicating the world record pace for the event. It made it truly thrilling, to see how many swimmers, at the same time, were on pace to break the established world record.


And when Lezak beat his French competitor to the wall by the merest of margins, NBC had cameras not only at poolside, but underwater and even overhead, to replay and deconstruct the surprise victory.

The high-definition coverage, I must say, blows me away. Also, I'm glad NBC has surrendered some of its prime time to letting us hear the national anthems, and witness the medal ceremonies, of winners from other countries. It embodies the ideals of the Olympic Games, and hasn't received the attention it's deserved in recent NBC telecasts.

And while Bob Costas' prime-time interview with President Bush wasn't exactly newsworthy, it wasn't because Costas didn't ask the right questions -- about Georgia and Russia as well as China. And at least it was uninterrupted, unedited and lengthy -- so lengthy that Bush joked about being kept there so long.

One other note: the rain in Beijing, in events televised earlier yesterday, came very close to raining on these athletes' parades. Bicycle races are a lot riskier on wet roads, and the men's beach volleyball games were played under near-monsoon conditions.

To be able to see it all, though, was fun. For where and how to see what, especially on the Internet, I happily refer you to the latest Olympics-related dispatch from TV WORTH WATCHING's Olympics ultra-viewer, Diane Werts. No matter when you read this, there's something to watch somewhere...




Phillip R. Crabb said:

The thing I really, really like the most is the ability via the NBC website to watch any event I want, even the preliminary rounds where much of the excitement and varying degrees of skills are evident.

It gives you the opportunity to watch events at length you would never see on 'prime time' or even at any length on the secondary networks offering coverage.

I've enjoyed live broadcasts of the early rounds of Archery, Badminton, Women's Weightlifting, Equestrian events and more....without play-by-play except for the on-site event announcers.

This really lends itself to feeling like you're actually there...and casually moving between events.

I hate being stuck on one televised event where a large percentage of the broadcast is 'backgroun material' and precious little of the event itself.

Thank you NBC for leveraging technology to bring a wider range of viewership and involvement to our fingertips.

Comment posted on August 11, 2008 11:25 AM

Elizabeth said:

I am currently enjoying the Olympics in Australia, and the coverage features are exactly the same, including the country identification by lane and the green line that shows the world record pace. And this is on network Seven. How much of this television technology is due to NBC? And is everyone else paying to use their stuff? (Wow -- what a great question. I'll find out. And I've been to Australia, and you don't have many broadcast networks, period -- so I'm impressed. Thanks for the observation from the other side of the world... and for reading when most of the Best Bets, I'm guessing, don't help you at all. We are, however, remaking your "Kath & Kim" this fall, if that's any help. -- David B.)

Comment posted on August 11, 2008 7:27 PM

Just A Comment said:

nbc coverage might be great...IF one can figure out when an event just might be on.

nbcolympics.com's tv grid is useless.
timewarner cable on-screen listings are useless.

sometimes, both show 8-hour block with variety of sports supposedly appearing during that time.

1. frequently, the sport is not shown and a non-listed on is shown.
2. nbc knows the timing of events and can drill down to 1- to 2-hour blocks of event listings.

it's all a ploy to keep one watching without knowing what's coming up.

THEN, there is the nonsense of never knowing if something is live or memorex. everything should be stamped with date/time (beijing) such that one can easily see if it's worth getting hyped whilst watching.

overall rating of nbc coverage on scale of 1-10. about a 4.

Comment posted on August 19, 2008 5:06 PM

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