A record setting day, in both medals and in low fluff...
• We open tonight with Bob Costas from the Water Cube
giving us a rundown upcoming programming. Unfortunately for
him, the people inside the cube are testing the PA system,
so he's giving us this rundown while trying to drown out "O
Canada" which is playing very loudly in the background.
We stand on guard for thee, Bob!
We jump immediately to the start of the women's marathon
at Tiananmen Square which begins, if I'm not mistaken,
at the very
spot where the
Unknown Rebel stood down those tanks. Is that
really the best starting location the Chinese could have
out? Maybe they'll start the race by having a tank lead the
way over a crowd of people.
• Ooo... NBC has a 3d map showing the marathon route.
Very nice! Hopefully this won't be the last time we see it.
• Helicopter shots at the women's marathon sure make
it look like smog, but the American runner Deena Kastor says
she thinks it's just overcast and humid. I'll take her word
Early on, Kastor drops out due to a foot
cramp while the runners pass through the Garden of Heaven.
Well, if you have to quit, it might as well be in a pretty
• By the time you read this post, it'll be too late
to try this, but keep it in mind for the men's marathon.
Want a fun drinking game? Take a drink every time you see
a police officer standing on the side of the roadway during
the marathon (presumably looking for someone with a "free
Tibet" banner). You'll be drunk within a mile.
Now in front of the Forbidden City, analyst Craig Masback
says that when he came there in the early '80s, people
to fly kites in Tiananmen Square. I'm assuming that's
back before they used the square to crush citizens with tanks.
In the midst of the marathon, we have some fluff about Chinese
marathon runner Zhou Chunxia, who overcame a bone cyst to
compete in the marathon. As part of her training, her coach
now says she runs the equivalent of a marathon EVERY DAY.
An incredible story? Yes. But still, three minutes of fluff.
To be fair, though, during the marathon, how much can you
watch of a giant pack of runners? If someone was breaking
away, I might feel differently, but I think NBC timed this
What is going on with NBC's marathon coverage? They keep
cutting to slow-motion close-up shots of the runners, but
they never give any explanation as to why they're doing it.
Is this an accident? Are they letting the B-team direct this
event? If it had only happened once, I wouldn't have said
anything, but it's happened five times now.
An aside: I went out for Mexican food before I came home
to watch this marathon. I think I had more fat in my meal
than any of these women have on their entire bodies. But
the quesadillas? Yummmmmy!
• Back to the 3d map. We're not even halfway? Oof.
I don't think I could have kept my chips-and-salsa
down that long.
Hilton just had a commercial featuring the Hamm brothers.
Oops. Neither made the Olympic team.
NBC will sell me a DVD of the Chinese Opening Ceremonies.
In the spirit of the Chinese organizers, can I pay in fake
Beijing has had policemen every 100 feet along the Olympic
marathon route, certainly to stop anyone from protesting,
yet here around mile 12-ish there are some bicyclists riding
alongside the marathon leaders with literally
nothing separating them from the athletes.
We take a break from the LIVE marathon to watch some TAPED
coverage of the men's 100-meter semifinals on the track.
Great shades of Carl Lewis! Jamaica's Usain Bolt looks fast.
He's not even trying and he almost broke the Olympic record.
Back to LIVE marathon, where Romania's Constantina Tomescu-Dita
has broken far away from the pack. It's interesting that
NBC stayed with marathon when everyone was in a pack, but
cut to another event just as someone broke away. The segment
with the 100-meter race was pretty short and pre-recorded,
so it could have been
into the program anywhere. I'm guessing NBC thought someone
would break from the pack sooner and that's why they
waited so long to cut away.
Another cutaway from LIVE Tom Hammond at the women's marathon
to TAPED Tom Hammond at the Bird's Nest and the men's 100-meter
semifinal. Tom must not have gotten much sleep last night,
since the taped segment probably happened around 9 p.m.,
and the women's marathon started at 7 a.m. the next morning.
That's some professionalism right there.
Tyson Gay, the
American favorite with the bad hamstring, fails to qualify.
Analyst Ato Boldon does a good job telling us how the bad
hammy would affect
him. Incidentally, his non-qualifying
time? 10.05 seconds. The slowest time that DID qualify? 10.03
seconds. Imagine training for four years and then missing
the Olympic final by two hundreths of a second
make any excuses, though. Bob Neumeier offers him the
hamstring excuse in a post-race interview, but Gay says he
percent, it just wasn't his day.
The marathon runs by Peking University, which is famous for
its humanities courses. Yes, for what is China better known
than for its humanity?
The Bird's Nest is full of people waiting
for the marathoners, and they're being led in song by dozens
of singing children, I'm assuming only the beautiful ones.
Tomescu-Dita has a
54-second lead at the 18 mile mark. Can she hold that pace?
I'm saying no. That's nine fewer seconds
per mile over the last six miles. I think she overplayed
her hand here. We'll see if I'm right.
Tom Hammond asks Craig if the phrase "going to the
arms more" means that Tomescu-Dita is getting fatigued.
Masback waffles a bit, but basically says yes. It's too bad
Tom and Craig don't know anything about gymnastics, because
interaction works a lot better than the interaction between
Al Trautwig and Tim Daggett.
Tomescu-Dita's lead is still huge, and Tom is asking good
questions of Craig, as to whether she knows how far ahead
she is, whether she would want to know, and whether she
look back. If Tom Hammond is going to be this good on all
of the track and field events, then I'm really looking forward
to the next week.
Over at the Water Cube, Dara Torres is getting handshakes
from... Tony Blair? The Olympics are weird!
Back at the marathon,
the chase pack is 52 seconds behind Tomescu-Dita at the
22 mile mark. Four miles to go and they
all have to make up 13 seconds a mile? Could I be wrong?
A long shot of the Bird's Nest through the smog... excuse
me... the humidity, and Tomescu-Dita is getting closer and
More ads. I've had multiple experiences with United Airlines.
None of them were good, and because of that I haven't flown
them for 10 years, nor do I plan to in the future. That said,
I love their ads. Or maybe I just love "Rhapsody In
Blue." Really, has there a better song ever?
Back to the marathon, Tomescu-Dita is intent on making my
prediction incorrect. Now her lead is over a minute with
less than three miles left. NBC even gives us a slow-motion
replay of her looking back and seeing no one within striking
distance. The helicopter shot showing the distance between
the runners is amazing. Good use of multiple cameras, NBC!
Back from a commercial break and Tomescu-Dita is just minutes
from proving me wrong. She has a minute lead with a mile
to go. Amazingly, even after running 25 miles she can still
run that final mile faster than I could. Now within sight
of the stadium, she looks back again. That has to be a great
feeling, knowing that you've got the energy to make it to
the end and also knowing that no one is close enough to catch
A great helicopter shot from NBC starts with a closeup
of Tomescu-Dita and pulls back to show her outside of the
Nest. A shot from the motorcycle shows her checking her back
again, probably in disbelief at her lead. Craig says the
only thing that will cramp up on her is her neck muscles
looking back. Great line.
Great, great shot of Tomescu-Dita
from within the tunnel entering the Bird's Nest. One victory
lap of the stadium
and, at 38 years old, she becomes the oldest person to ever
win the Olympic marathon. The race for silver comes down
to Chinese runner Zhou and Kenya's Catherine Ndereba. Ndereba
pulls it out in a sprint for the end and wins silver.
After she crosses the finish
line, Tomescu-Dita then takes a few of victory laps. Hey,
after 26 miles, what's another
400 or 800 meters?
You wouldn't think a race that lasts this
long could have this much drama in it, but NBC did a really
good job covering
And now, over to the Water Cube. Michael Phelps is going
for gold number eight, and all the stars have come out. Tony
Blair, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James... everyone wants to see
Before we get to that, it's picture time! Sports
Illustrated has provided NBC with some pictures of Phelps'
from last night, and Rowdy Gaines points out exactly where
Cavic blew it at the end, allowing Phelps to win. Best
of all, he does it without yelling.
the undercard. Dara Torres in the women's 50-meter freestyle
final. Can a 41-year-old
woman win a gold medal
in swimming? Hey, a 38-year-old just won the marathon, so
They're in the water and... No! Britta Steffen of
Germany outstretches Torres by... what a coincidence, one
hundreth of a second.
Is there some kind of irony filter at
the Olympics? Moments after watching a replay of Phelps taking
an extra stroke
to beat the gliding Cavic, we see a replay of a gliding Torres
losing to the surging Steffen by the same exact amount.
it's old lady night here at the Olympics. A gold and a silver.
Not too bad.
• At Steffen's medal ceremony, she sings along with
Deutschlandlied (no, it doesn't mean "Germany lied") at least
for the beginning.
She also puts her flowers down at her feet. Is that some
German thing? I don't know.
Right from the medal ceremony,
Torres has to rush down to compete in the women's 4x100
medley relay. Natalie Coughlin
starts it off strong for the U.S. with the backstroke and
gives the lead to Rebecca Soni, whose slow breaststroke puts
the U.S. in third. She taps out and Christine
Magnuson swims her butterfly laps in second place, where
she gives it over to Dara Torres, who
now has to make up some time to beat Trickett from Australia.
Can Torres do it?
Nope. Torres can't catch
up to Trickett. Of course, she was behind at the start.
In fact, she actually
time, but she was just too far back to being with.
The results aren't official immediately and Dan
Hicks says that sometimes that means someone false-started.
someone did. The Swedes. Cheating Scandanavians! That's a
DQ for you! But the Aussies still won.
Andrea Kremer asks
Torres what she'll tell her 2-year-old about these games,
since the child won't remember it. High-ranking
Team Rockwood member Sandy says that Dara Torres should come
back in four years and make another try for the gold medal.
Then her daughter WOULD remember it.
Phelps fluff! What would the night be without it? This is
two minutes of quick cutting comparing Phelps to Mark Spitz.
They've been building this up for three hours. Did I really
need two more minutes of hype for this one race?
And now the main event. An NBA crowd (and by that, Is mean
a crowd full of NBA stars) watches. NBC puts a graphic up
that says the U.S. has never lost the 4x100 medley relay
in the Olympics when they've competed. Then they say the
Aussies won in 2000. What? Did I misunderstand that
graphic? I know stats guys look for odd statistics ("Mr.
X has never lost when it's raining and in between 57 and
63 degrees"), but these appear to be contradictory.
Piersol starts off with the backstroke and finishes with
the lead. Brenden Hanson takes the next leg and finishes
second. Now Phelps and the butterfly. Phelps is behind at
the split, but makes it up and touches the wall first. Now
it's all up to Jason Lezak with the freestyle at the end.
wall first at the split and now just needs to hold off the
Aussies to give Phelps eight golds! And...
He does it! Gold
for the U.S.! Eight golds for Phelps!
Sandy says of the swimmers, "They
all shave their armpits!" I
tell her they shave everything. She says, "I'm surprised
they don't shave their eyebrows." I say, well, they
don't want to look like freaks.
Visa and Morgan Freeman have an ad ready to go for Michael
Phelps' eighth gold medal. What ad would they have run had
Team U.S.A. finished second in that race? "Hey, Michael,
one silver with seven golds ain't that bad." Nahhh...
After a Phelps and U.S. team interview, NBC shows footage
from the Baltimore Ravens' stadium where after the NFL exhibition
game versus the Minnesota Vikings, the stadium jumbotron
showed the last Phelps race to a cheering crowd. Okay, sure.
But who won the
Jamaican fluff! Two of the runners in the 100-meter dash
final are from Jamaica. Asafa Powell and Usain Bolt are friends
and buddies and blah blah blah... they're really fast, okay?
They could finish one-two. And by that, I mean Usain Bolt
will be one, because he's, like, wicked fast. Now you know
my prediction. Of course, I've been wrong before. Like earlier
The Chevy Gold Medal Spotlight. Once again, it's an actual
event instead of fluff. The 100-meter dash. It will be won
by Usain Bolt. Whoops! I guess I should let them run it
isn't "Bolt" the coolest name for a sprinter? "Bolt
bolts to victory!" That's a great headline.
There are two Americans here, Walter Dix and Darvis Patton.
Maybe they can finish two-three to Bolt.
Here's what I love about the 100-meter dash. It has about
five minutes of buildup for a 10 second race.
Bolt bolts to victory! 9.69 seconds, a new world record,
and he didn't even run it out. Bolt dropped his hands and
started showing off about 80 meters in. Amazing. Oh, and
Walter Dix finished third, so an American did medal. Asafa?
Fifth. Same as in Athens. So much for my one-two prediction.
That, by the way, is the first ever gold medal for Jamaica
in the men's 100-meters.
And one more time, we go to the Water Cube. Will Michael
Phelps or any of the American team sing when they top the
medal stand? Why would they start now?
What's this? Before
they present the medal, FINA presents a special award to
Michael Phelps for winning eight medals.
Why? Eight medals isn't enough? Methinks that FINA just wanted
to get some name recognition here.
Phelps doesn't sing, but
he does lick his lips repeatedly. He's done that at every
medal ceremony. I know. I've been
watching. Sandy says, correctly, that we won't ever know
if anyone else was singing, because they only show Phelps
during The Star Spangled Banner. Really, NBC, there are three
other U.S. swimmers there. Couldn't we have shown them at
least a little during the national anthem?
walks up through the photographer pen and to hug his mom.
The photographers eat each other trying
to get the picture.
Costas interviews Phelps. Michael Phelps? Great athlete.
Bad interview. The most interesting comment is that Phelps
has passed... well... everyone, in his number of Facebook
requests, apparently in the tens of thousands this week alone.
Hmm... we need some of those hits. Maybe we can just repeat
his name a lot. Whose name? Michael Phelps.
See that number up there? Six minutes of fluff. That's right,
on Saturday, August 16, NBC's Olympic coverage had fewer
minutes of fluff than a Michael Phelps had gold medals. That's
unlikely to happen again, but count us happy that it happened
this once. See you tomorrow!