I am watching the Olympics, wholeheartedly and sometimes skeptically but mostly enthusiastically. Here are some thoughts!
1) Hooray for the Opening Ceremony, for the cheerful low-budgetness of it all (£27 million, but still), for those dancing nurses, for Rowan Atkinson’s comedic timing, for an unprecedented amount of reading aloud from books to a packed stadium and a bazillion people at home, and for the moment (we were watching it at work) when we all gaped at the actual Queen and those actual corgis and a coworker came over and exclaimed, “WHOA. Is that James Bond!?”
2) The aerial shots of London are making me depressed. In a genuinely stupid nostalgic way. Don’t get me started on that little boy who began “Jerusalem”.
3) The NBC field trips around London (that wacky Tower!) and the general bemused banter about the city or Britain in general (have you ever seen anything as crazy as this weather!) is making me depressed. In an embarrassed way. It is as if they have all disembarked on the moon.
4) So can someone who’s watching or has watched the Olympics in another country tell me if your country’s coverage is as cringe-worthily ethnocentric as ours? The favorite will be the most jaw-dropping athlete some sport has ever seen, but she’s from Slovenia and THERE’S AN AMERICAN IN THIS RACE TOO WHY ISN’T SHE WINNING? The worst I’ve heard so far is that catty Southern woman talking during synchronized diving. Every time any other country made a mistake, she was all over it. But the American boys start flipping out of synch and she’s suddenly and suspiciously rendered silent, or worse, tries to explain why they shouldn’t lose any points.
5) On a related note: I hear a lot of talk about how stupid it is that we’re hearing all the results like a full day ahead of time but NBC insists on controlling the coverage and saving it for primetime. But I’m not hearing nearly enough talk about how poorly they’re editing the whole thing. They’ve got a FIVE HOUR TIME DIFFERENCE to pull out the relevant story lines. And yet. Men’s gymnastics last night was a prime example: we spend the entire first bit watching the Americans seriously blow it, not like they were favored to win AT ALL, stop making me watch them, with barely any footage of any other team, including the Chinese, who won the gold, and then all of a sudden at 11:40 p.m. we’re watching the British (who I would’ve liked to watch all along, what adorable little men) and then that thing with Japan happened and the announcer’s like, “What just happened? I heard the crowd…” You’re not tricking me, NBC. This isn’t live television. You could craft the most beautiful, suspenseful, emotionally manipulative broadcast and I’d be totally down with that. But don’t try to pretend that it’s up-to-the-minute action or something. I knew that the Chinese had won nine hours earlier. I have the Internet.
6) And speaking of that Japan thing: are you fucking kidding me? If you want to make an inquiry you have to hand the officials a wad of cash and if they decree that you still lost whatever it was you’re inquiring, they keep the money!?!?
7) I am already tired of commercials that turn incredibly unhealthy activities like eating McDonalds or clicking around on the Internet all night into parodies of Olympic events. “He’s going for the gold medal…in EXTREME SNACKING.” On the flip side, I’m seriously tried of that commercial shot from the perspective of the athletes where they say things like, “I haven’t ordered dessert in two years” or “I haven’t watched TV since last summer.” I get it. You’re dedicated and we’re all lazy and sad, at home watching you on TV while eating ice cream. The great thing about Olympic commercials, though, is they are all “proud sponsors,” so they don’t actually have to try to sell us anything. Show us Olympians in slow motion, maybe with some sort of golden filter, and then say you’re proud to support them. Even if it has nothing to do with what you’re selling, we’ll run out and buy it no matter what.
8) The P&G MOM commericals are back and they’re still making me cry.
9) The last time I watched the Summer Olympics obsessively was in 1996. OBSESSIVELY. I stayed up until MIDNIGHT every single night, until they signed off and ran the credits. That was really kind of late, because I was eleven. In the afternoons I would shoot baskets in our driveway and pretend that I was on the men’s basketball team. (I had a crush on John Stockton. I mean.) At night, I’d do gymnastics. There was a line in the carpet right in front of the TV and as I watched, I did little balance beam routines along it. It was pretty easy to keep from falling off. Remember those girls? Remember Shannon Miller? The poofy bangs? The scrunchie? She WAS the nineties. And there was Bob Costas, droning on. And now! Here’s Bob Costas, droning on. And Al Michaels. And that woman who’s always “on the floor”, Andrea something. So I’m wondering now how all of the same exact people are still on television, talking about this stuff, and how they look EXACTLY the same. Am I mis-remembering? Or did they all take some Dorian Gray group shot back in Atlanta and NBC’s got it stashed away in the bowels of Rockefeller Center?
10) There is a non-beach volleyball player named Destinee Hooker and she has the longest and most graceful-looking legs I have ever seen on a lady, ever. She is 6’4”, but maybe 5 feet of that is legs.
11) A thousand points to Gryffindor for planting that beach volleyball court in the middle of the Horse Guards Parade. Ballsy venue choice. Has any other country in the history of the Olympics held an event like three feet from the prime minister’s house? Also, I learned just today that until fifteen years ago, the space was used as a car park for senior officials. A car park!
12) The most important point—it’s been made already, but I’m going to make it again—is this: why didn’t the Doctor fly in and light the torch at the opening ceremony??? We all saw it in what, looking back, was a fairly accurate representation of six years in the future: the crowd vanished and it was left to the Doctor to single-handedly save the day and start the London Olympics (where was Rose? I need to watch that one again). I do remember quite clearly that the one touch of “near-future” detail in that episode was that instead of TV, they were watching the Olympics on a computer. Looked like very clear picture, too.