Sunday, August 29, 2004
No, no, no, no, no, no, no....NBC sets an Olympic
Watch record for fluff, and what once seemed like a gold medal performance
belly flops into the pool of mediocrity.
- The opening segment was a little different tonight,
probably because not as much was coming up. I suppose in retrospect that
should have tipped me off, but it didn't.
- For those of you who actually tuned into NBC
earlier today, there was real drama in the Men's Marathon as Brazilian
runner Vanderlei Lima was actually attacked by a spectator with only
a few miles to go to the end of the race. He ended up finishing third
for the bronze. Wow! Scandal! Controversy! Danger! Athletic excellence!
Let's give that two minutes of prime time coverage!
Only two minutes? Really? Well, I'm sure NBC has some special Closing
Ceremonies coverage for us then, right? Right? Ha ha ha ha ha ha!
- Bob introduces us to a beloved Greek athlete,
Stylianos Kyriakides, a marathon runner from the early 20th century.
Okay, well, I guess it was naive to think we would get out of the Olympics
without seeing something like this. I'll indulge NBC. Tell me more!
Well, Kyriakides ran in the '36 Berlin Olympics with American Johnny
Kelly. Neither finished anywhere close to a medal, but Kelly liked
the cut of Kyriakides' jib, and invited him back to run the Boston
Marathon as the world's premiere marathon runner. Stylianos lost, which
was devastating to Michael Dukakis. Dukakis?! What's he doing here?
Waaait a minute... we're already over ten minutes into this piece and
we're nowhere near a resolution. For that matter, we're not even near
the Olympics! Is this story going to be all about Kyriakides winning
the Boston Marathon?
Anyway, after a commercial break, we find out that when the Nazis stormed
Stylianos' home town in Greece, they spared his life only because he
was able to prove that he ran in the Berlin Games. Every other male
in town was shot. Kyriakides took this as a sign that he needed to
run again. After the Nazis fell and the Greek communists took over,
the whole country went to hell. It was at this point he decided to
run the Boston Marathon again to boost the spirits of his countrymen.
He did, and he won in 1946. Wow. This is a really great story.
FOR THE HISTORY CHANNEL! Really, what is this?
This story took up 23 minutes of prime time Olympic
coverage for a man who won the Boston
Marathon. Did I not get the memo? Is Boston now West Athens? Oh, no...it's
important because Kyriakides made Greeks feel good about themselves.
Uh-huh. Look. I like sports. I think sports are inspiring. But I don't
think that in 1946, two weeks after Kyriakides won a marathon halfway
around the world that a bunch of Greeks sat around saying, "you
know, those communists killed my brother, shot up the town, and looted
all of our stores, but I'll be damned if Kyriakides isn't the fastest
marathoner in Boston!"
Please. A big fat F for fluff for NBC.
- Dan Hicks and Mary Carillo give us a preview
of the upcoming Closing Ceremonies. What is this for? "What do
you think's gonna happen at the Closing Ceremonies, Mary?" "Bet
they put out that flame, Dan." Fluff.
- Finally! An event! The U.S. men lose to Russia in the bronze medal
game of volleyball. Still, it was a brief respite from...
- More fluff! Jimmy Roberts starts today's "Chevrolet
Olympic Moments" by telling Bob that "he can't believe it's
over." I can't believe it either, Jimmy. It seemed like it would
never end. Today Jimmy marveled at the Olympic spirit. He picked such
examples as shot putter Adam Nelson, who didn't blame others after
he failed to win gold in the shot put. That story is even more special
than Jimmy acknowledges since, as readers
of the Olympic Watch know, Jimmy actively
encouraged Nelson to blame someone else.
And what would the last day be without some kind of platitude? Jimmy
said of Morocco's Hicham El Guerrouj, who finally won gold in the Men's
1,500-meter Run after trying for three Olympics, that "the little
engine that couldn't apparently could after all." Good, Jimmy.
That's a nice bit of respect you've got going there for the former
world-record holder. By the way, once again the
Olympic Watch noted that El Guerrouj's
story was told better without fluff.
Finally, Jimmy's biggest disappointment of the Games was Greek sprinter
Kostas Kenteris, who's suspected drug use deprived Greece of a potential
Hey, Jimmy, guess what the Olympic Watch considers the Olympics' biggest
- More fluff. This time it's how the U.S. men teams
did compared to the U.S. women's teams. Bad, as it turned out. Now,
some of this can be explained by the women's teams not facing as tough
opponents, but still, the men underperformed.
I do have a question, though. NBC seems to be pushing women awfully
hard at Athens. I thought that Sydney
was the "Olympics of the
Woman?" Is this
going to be a theme at all future Olympics? Is there some kind of rule
that says that men and women can't cheer for each other? Why does NBC
insist on pitting them as opponents?
- Andrea Joyce talks to Ian Thorpe in a very fluffy
interview before the Closing Ceremonies start. At the end, she wishes
him "good luck." For what? Walking into the stadium?
- In a verrrrry disturbing trend, NBC has decided
to come back from each and every commercial break by showing us highlights
of performances from the Athens Games. These segments account for 16
minutes of the fluff. I'm not going to report on them individually
because I don't want the Peacock assuming I approve. I most definitely
do not. Did you know that the U.S. won a gold medal in taekwondo? You
don't if you only watched prime time coverage! Do you think that 16
minutes might have been enough time to show you highlights of that?
- And finally, an hour-and-a-half in, the Closing
Ceremonies start. As the multitude of dancers hits the floor, they
all pull handkerchiefs out of their tops and start waving them. The
crowd has them, too! Look! Hellas Hankies!
- Then, a guy in the middle of the floor starts
singing. It's a very haunting wail, and all the dancers move toward
him through the grain planted on the stadium floor. It's like they're
hypnotized. Holy Hera! They're the Children Of The Corn! Run for your
- After the commercial, we're suddenly at a big,
fat Greek wedding. Ooo...except it features a hot, thin Greek bride.
Nice upgrade, Athens! Then, appearing at the wedding, lots of lithe
women in shiny dresses. Hey! They're the
Solid Gold Dancers!
- Another break and we're back! Now, let's slow
it down a bit for all you lovers out there. Ohhhhhh yeaaahhhh. A new
singer lounges us into a mellow mood as our spiral of wheat has now
turned into a big, swirling spiral of light.
Suddenly, another set of dancers gathers around a fire that's sprung
up in a different part of the stadium. Commentators Dan Hicks and Mary
Carillo tell us that it's a fire dance designed to put people in a
trance. Ahhh!! Children Of The Corn!!
- What's this? One more medal ceremony, this time
for the marathon men. Italy's Stefano Baldini picks up the gold, American
Meb Keflezighi gets silver, and Brazil's Vanderlei de Lima gets bronze
for the race and the Pierre de Coubertin medal for what the International
Olympic Committee said was a recognition of his "exceptional demonstration
of fair play and Olympic values." Whatever. I'm sure he'd rather
have the one gold than the two medals he's getting, but it was a nice
gesture by the IOC.
- The athletes finally enter, and generally just
run around like idiots for the next two hours. Hey, they earned it!
- High ranking Olympic muckety mucks give many speeches. Greece is
good. Athens is good. Everybody here is good. Blah blah blah... Everyone
on the stadium floor is too busy taking pictures of each other to pay
- And now it's time for the ceremonial handover of the Olympics from
Athens to Beijing. The mayor of Athens hands over the Olympic flag
to the mayor of Beijing, and now the Chinese part of the party starts!
What, wonder Dan and Mary, will China bring us?
Well, for starters, leggy musicians! Good opening, China! They follow
with a red streamer dance, which means... well, certainly it means
something other than long, red streamers look cool, but that's all
I got from it. And China closes with a young girl singing from on top
of a big, red lantern. I can only assume this is a tribute to the legions
of Chinese child laborers. Way to go China!
- Finally, it's time to snuff the giant joint...er...I
mean, it's time to extinguish the cauldron. Another child climbs
the stairs as the
cauldron bends down to meet her. Once it reaches her level, it "lights" her
symbolic lantern, which she then passes around to everyone in the stadium.
Light and pass it around? Hey! I thought we were trying to get rid
of drugs in the Olympics!
Anyway, after she does that, she stands on a platform in the middle
of the stadium and makes a blowing motion toward the cauldron, at which
point the flame goes out. From 200 feet away? Maybe that little girl
should consider a Tic Tac.
- From then on, nothing much organized happens on the floor. The Greeks
lower a giant disco ball down from the sky, and a bunch of Greek singers
who I've never heard of take turns singing. Everyone dances and NBC
interviews anyone they can find in the commotion. Yay, celebrate the
- Three more minutes of fluff as "Ode
To Joy" plays under
footage of Olympic highlights. You know, they do this at the end of
every Olympics. I still love it.
- Almost at the end, Bob gives us some closing thoughts that I'm not
going to count as fluff. I think a wrap-up speech at the end of 17
days of events is acceptable. What's NOT acceptable is that in the
two Olympics that have been covered by the Olympic Watch, TONIGHT was
the night with the most fluff. Whereas I've spent almost all of the
Athens games enthralled with what the athletes were doing, tonight
I spent most of the night glaring at the screen. In diving, in gymnastics,
and in almost any other sport, blowing the final round in Athens meant
not only losing the gold, but falling out of medal contention. We'll
see how I feel about this tomorrow after I've had some time to think
about it, but tonight was definitely NOT the Peacock's shining moment.
- And finally, the credits. I'm not counting these as fluff, either.
These people have worked hard. However, I will question one thing.
Why do the really big shots have to have their names read aloud? Wasn't
their name being alone on the screen enough for them?
Tune in one more time tomorrow for the 2004 Rockwood
Olympic Watch recap. Now, I'm off to get some sleep. See you then!
2004 Brian Lundmark, all images and text on this page.
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