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,'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 hometown hero.

    Hey, Jimmy, guess what the Olympic Watch considers the Olympics' biggest disappointment?

  • 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 lives!

  • 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 attention.

  • 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 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 human spirit.

  • 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!


<< Back to Saturday, August 28<<    

© Copyright 2004 Brian Lundmark, all images and text on this page.
All rights reserved. Tell me about it!