Saturday, February 13, 2010

Olympics: Thoughts on Opening Ceremonies and Day Two

By this time in my Olympics watching, I’ve usually taken a couple of shots off the television, maybe rah-rahed on here, but I was so caught up this year in these Olympics being in my country and sharing thoughts on Twitter, I forgot all about blogging. Ah me.

As I write this, the women’s moguls are starting the qualifying round. Brian Williams is at the helm at CTV primetime coverage. And I’m calming down from the high of last night’s Opening Ceremonies and the lows of CTV’s disappointing coverage this afternoon.

I hadn’t intended to start watching the Olympics until the Opening Ceremonies began but in the early afternoon yesterday, I turned on the TV for news -- which I’d set to channel 9 earlier so I didn’t miss a moment of the ceremonies -- and there was the torch relay. Live. In Vancouver. I couldn’t believe it: CTV was broadcasting a Canadian moment live, ditching all their American programs in the process including Oprah. Was this a miracle that portended CBC-calibre, Canadian-centred Olympic coverage? I hoped. And I was hooked. All thought of working on my website went to the wayside. I had my TV on, my twitter feed on, I was sharing this relay with my fellow Canuckians. But even better was to come.

The Opening Ceremonies began right on time. And wow, what a beginning. I can hardly describe it, it was so beautiful. Beijing couldn’t be beat, everyone said. Well, Canada did. The creators used special effects, wrapped the audience in white ponchos, floated down fake fat flakes of snow, and a winter wonderland was born. Technology brought whales to life, technology brought the northern lights indoors, technology turned a stadium floor into soft grass, but it wasn’t the technology we noticed, it was the effects. It was the places and seasons and cultures that technology recreated inside a cold stadium that we got wrapped in. And then there were the performances from sublime to rawking to heartrending. They were too short! I wanted more!! The entire evening was simple, effective, captivating. It was so much fun. In a phrase: c’est beau!

I had read that CTV was beginning coverage today at 12:30 pm, and I was so knackered from the late night and coming down from the high of the opening ceremonies that I wasn’t awake enough to watch earlier anyway. Let’s just say that the choppy coverage, the never-ending commercials that they ran mid-race during long track 5000m men’s speed skating, the filling-air yakking in lieu of covering events, just put me in a very bad mood. I was all set to do some serious Olympic watching; instead I was offered up ads, talking, promos, profiles, with a few snippets of events thrown in so that it was impossible to get lost in the competition.

I turned on my computer, but CTV’s online coverage flummoxed me. I tried to watch streams, but the live coverage either hung up my browser or showed numbers not the actual video. It was extremely disappointing. I needed some serious chocolate therapy by suppertime, after CTV totally spoiled the long track coverage.

But it’s evening. It’s primetime. Brian Williams is at the helm. Already the coverage has improved. There’s a level of professionalism not evident with the afternoon hosts, a feeling that we can trust Williams to ensure we’ll be watching events not talking heads, that he knows how to handle multiple events so that we won’t miss a thing or feel like we’re being bounced around, that whatever the Olympics will throw at us -- because as he said, the one thing you can expect about the Olympics is the unexpected -- he’ll handle it and we’ll be glued to the thrill of the Olympics.

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