I have not been a fan of the Olympics for many years, though I love a good sporting contest, and have to admit to being a fan of the Blue Jays. When the Summer Olympics are in this hemisphere, they are usually in the U.S., and the jingoism of the home side is hard to take. When they are in Europe or Asia, there is tape delay, which results in this bizarre parade of edited events. Obviously, the networks believe that most people do not have the patience to actually watch a sporting event from beginning to end if it has already ended-- with all the little delays and formalities and suspense-- so they package everything into a facile narrative without much colour or real suspense. Here's the winner. Now an interview with her parents who have, with the assistance of a consultant, prepared a "narrative" to sell you about this athlete, which will then be packaged and resold by Nike and Gatorade.
NBC, by the way, cut away from the portion of the opening ceremonies that honored the victims of Britain's own 9/11, the subway bombings, because, rightly or not, they didn't think American audiences would care. This is either a ringing condemnation of Americans or of NBC or both. It was an emblematic decision, a defining moment of gracelessness, ignorance, and narcissim.
The CTV commentators at the rowing and gymnastics are appalling. There is not even the slightest pretense of anything other than a bellicose ranting for the home side. And all rather gay, to be truthful. They all talk like nagging, proud, invested parents, always referring to the athletes by their first names, and offering unsolicited advice about how to compete-- as if, after training for fifteen years, there was something their coaches forgot. You really need to get a life of your own.
Why are the empty seats so offensive? Because everyone knows how the Olympics works. City officials, other government officials, politicians, washed-up athletes, and various other parasites pick your pockets to pay for this extravaganza and then reward themselves with the choicest seats: the empty seats that I'm looking at right now are in the front row of the soccer stadium where Canada is playing Great Britain. Lovely. They didn't even bother to show up-- there will be lots and lots more freebies to indulge in later.
There is a compelling drama in every really great sports narrative but not every narrative is dramatic. No matter-- the broadcasters will invent one where none exists: the athlete overcoming tremendous odds with hard work and determination (they never credit talent because you can't buy or sell talent), the self-sacraficing parents (when most of them appear to inordinately invested in their children-- literally and emotionally), the shock of failure, the bullshit of Kerri Strug or the inelegant thunky bullying impostiture of Mary Lou Retton.