Did it already happen, or is it still to come? The American television network, NBC, is showing a prime-time summary of the day’s sporting events in Sochi. A farce, at times, complete events are simply ignored: a weekend in American prime time.
Bob Costas’s announcement was fantastic. Two days before the beginning of the Olympic games, the moderator sat in a studio that looked like a mixture of Superman’s fortress and Batman’s cave; he explained the rules of American broadcaster NBC’s prime-time program: It was intended for all those viewers who neither watched live at night nor informed themselves of the results during the day: the Olympic day packed into a three-and-a-half hour program; in addition, smart interviews, gripping stories, a little politics.
Sounds wonderful. During the opening ceremonies, U.S. President Barack Obama joined in. It was not only a matter of the chances of American athletes in Sochi — which are very good, according to Obama — but also about the relationship between the U.S. and Russia — not at all that bad, according to Obama. You can do that all weekend long: Go to the zoo during the day, the office or the beach and watch the Olympics 210 minutes at a time.
However, what NBC is presenting the viewers during prime time is not the Olympic day, but rather an Olympic wormhole. One constantly asks oneself: Did that already happen, or is it still to come, or is that live now?
What of 18 Hours?
Saturday evening begins with snowboarding, men’s slopestyle. Actually, it begins with a story about Canadian Mark McMorris walking through his hometown in summer: must have been recorded a while ago. It does not matter. It does not last long. Then, there is sport — but only the semi-final. "We’ll get to the finals later," says the commentator. Later? It all happened 18 hours ago! Well, maybe they want to raise the suspense now with the "as if it were all live" tactic. One can do that.
Cut to Shaun White. He has canceled his participation in slopestyle; he will only appear in the half-pipe. There were practice pictures and an interview. Okay, pause for a moment: Are these pictures now live, or did the practice already take place? Is the half-pipe contest now running live in Sochi? No, it is not. The women’s slopestyle semifinal is taking place live in Sochi just now, but that will not be shown until the next evening. Now, the men's finals will come soon. Phew, not so simple!
To calm the viewer’s nerves, NBC now first sends the brain of the viewer more than 36 hours in the past. There are pictures of the opening ceremonies. Nice. In addition, an interview — not nice. Costas now quickly goes to the slopestyle, as if something incredibly important had just happened. Now, no spectacular live pictures of the women, but instead, an American has won gold in the men’s, a Canadian, bronze. Wonderful.
Now — quickly over to the team competition in figure skating and the decision in the women’s freestyle, in which three North Americans are at the top of the standings —gold and silver for Canada, bronze for the United States. What is not shown is the victory of Ole Einar Bjørndalen in the biathlon sprint, which is mentioned shortly before the end of the program at 11:30 p.m., whereby Costas spends more time making fun of a name that is apparently difficult for an American to pronounce than acknowledging the achievement of the 40-year-old Norwegian. What is also not shown is the decisions in speed skating and cross-country skiing. Only the display of the medal count reveals that apparently, more must have happened this day than snowboarding, freestyle and figure skating.
The program on Saturday ends with the American national anthem honoring the winner in the men’s slopestyle, almost 14 hours previously. In Sochi, the start of the men’s downhill is beginning; Bode Miller is just about to start, but no one tells you.
Quick! Fast-forward to Sunday evening, which will begin with slopestyle, women’s now. An American woman wins. Nice for the American woman. Cut to the start of the men’s downhill. A man reports about Bode Miller, as if he were just racing through a trouble spot and saving the Western world — the reporter uses words like D-Day. Before Miller’s run is shown, there is yet a promo, in which quite a number of Americans chant "USA, USA, USA." It does not help. Miller comes in only in eighth place.
Hopefully He Will Do Well
Anyways, quickly to curling: There is an analysis of this wonderful discipline. One moment. Did it already happen, or is it still to come? Neither, the match between Canada and Germany is taking place now — live, but no one tells you.
Again, the evening ends with the American national anthem, this time on account of the winner in women’s slopestyle. That leads for the moment to the suspenseful question of how NBC will end a program on a day without an American Olympic winner. Much greater is the concern about German luger Felix Loch. He has succeeded having the fastest run at the Sochi sliding center and becoming an Olympic winner. That got lost in NBC’s Olympic wormhole. Hopefully he will do well.