Sunday, August 10, 2008

Herzengovina Idol

Olympic coverage continues…and continues… and continues. I love all the human interest stories. It’s like I’m watching the open audition rounds of HERZENGOVINA IDOL.

Question: Since I have an audience that extends beyond the U.S. borders (not in China because my blog is blocked there) but are you other-than-Americas really into these Olympics?

In 1984 the Big O's were held in L.A. as opposed to this year where (despite all the positive spin) they’re being played in the Detroit of China. For six months prior to the event we Angelinos were warned that the traffic was going to be an absolute nightmare. Citywide gridlock was predicted. But the result was a mass exodus of the locals and there was no traffic at all. We should have the Olympics at least every Friday.

For those of us who stuck around, it was a three-week party. The athletes were housed in the UCLA dorms and on the weekends would walk down the hill to the student union and mingle with the crowd. Vendors were selling commemorative pins and tacos and my family would swing by from nearby Westwood. Security measures were in place but mostly around the dorms. At this makeshift street fair the athletes roamed freely with us riff-raff. It was fun to talk to them about their countries and culture and answer their questions about America – like what was the appeal of Sylvester Stallone, and Prince.

I was fortunate enough to attend several events. Sat on the street and watched the marathon go by. I had my “Emil Zátopek rules!” sign but it turns out I had missed him by thirty-four years.

Got tickets for the ladies gymnastics finals at Pauley Pavilion. Thank God I brought my little Sony portable TV. There was no P.A. announcer telling you what was going on. All of these events were taking place simultaneously. Nobody had any idea what was happening except me. The one thing that did become clear, even to the people whose only exposure was watching it themselves, was that Mary Lou Retton was something special and on the verge of greatness. Beating out Romanian minx Ecaterina Szabó for the Gold Medal was truly thrilling -- only eclipsed by getting home with no traffic.

Since the Russians and 14 Eastern Bloc-countries boycotted the games, the U.S. kicked ass and American jingoism was at an all-time high. But what a joke. It was like the New York Yankees playing in the World Series against the Hooters girls.

Anyway, I must end here. The women's 10 meter air rifle event is about to start and I can't miss a minute of that.


Anonymous said...

1999, Delirious, Little Red Corvette, Lets Go Crazy, When Doves Cry, Purple Rain. I gotta believe Prince's awesome was pretty well understood to most everyone then.

Ger Apeldoorn said...

a recent radio survey here in Holland said 8% watched everything, about 40% didn't watch anything and 50% was only going to watch the events with Dutch athletes. My guess is that nationalism is the driving force behind all viewing, but we Europeans are maybe a bit more accepting about the fact that we can't win everything.

And we don't have four daily talkshows, that only know two categories - a huge succes or a total failure they can take the piss out off.

Anonymous said...

my main complaint so far is that the "artistic portion" (the network's term) of the program was narrated by what sounded like sports announcers. sheesh. the height of ridiculousness. my mind is numb from watching it and I can't remember the apex of their stupidity, but it was beyond belief. here we are watching this sublime production and we've got to listen to those two goofs. if the music wasn't part of the deal I'd have watched it with the sound off.

Unknown said...

The women's 10 m air pistol featured a Russian and Georgian hugging after winning the silver and bronze. NBC was quick to report that they hugged after the event, in the true spirit of the Olympics.

If this had been some other stage, they might've started firing BB's at each other.

Anonymous said...

Let's not forget the serious branding of the 84 Olympics, especially that loveable Sam the Olympic Eagle. You can still a lot of that stuff on ebay.

Plmrk said...

Not as such, no. That's for me personally, of course (and I'm in Russia).
There are people who watches every event, and there are people like me.
Of course, there's a bigger distration on TV these days...

Anonymous said...

Your blog is very interesting

Anonymous said...

Balkan Idol shows tend NOT to have the human interest stories - it is pure performance, all the way! My favorite is the Croatian Mini Super-Svezde (Superstar) - the Kids Idol show. All of them still contain surprisingly large amounts of accordion.

Anonymous said...

I think the Olympics is just an excuse to wear skin-tight Lycra in public. I am also boycotting the TV coverage in protest at whatever.

Anonymous said...

Residing near London (next in line as host) we started out watching it like you'd watch a friend doing karoke when you're up next. You hope they do well...but not that well.

Then we realised how much money they'd spent on the opening ceremony, that would be 1 - 0 to China then.

Saying that, with the time difference here in the UK, most events are on first thing in the morning providing a welcome alternative to Big Brother repeats and childrens T.V. Never did I think I'd be late for work to watch the end of the synchronised diving.

Annie said...

You didn't ask Americans what they are watching but I'm telling you what we're watching anyway. Heh. I'm pushy that way.

We are TIVOing everything Olympic. And yes, this entailed clearing out some long-saved programs/movies we just never got around to watching. *sobs* So long, "My Dinner With Andre" that I wanted to see again to see if it's aged well. Bye-bye all two seasons of "Bathroom Divas" the Canadian reality show about opera singers. Shrugs at "All American Dog"; not even I could get into that one. It's pretty horrible.

Anyway, after clearing out the TIVO to make room, so far we've watched almost all of the swimming, diving, gymnastics, equestrian (I used to do three day eventing so I force my poor husband to watch the dressage part of it, admittedly the most boring for most viewers while I inform him of the riders' many mistakes...not that I'd be any better, I sucked at it myself; still, I can *sound* superior as I sit on the couch because I definitely know how to do it "wrong"), we watched a little rowing, a little badminton, (sorry but it gets very boring to watch those sports after awhile) avidly watched the little bit of archery and fencing they aired and blew completely past all track, field, soccer, basketball and volleyball.

Which meant a LOT of fast-forwarding. A whole big lot. We both find team sports overall tedious and boring, thank god, although the Hubs does like to watch hockey at times because he used to play.

Our biggest complaint so far, which is our complaint every Olympics about the coverage is I would really like to see more of the other countries too. How did the athletes get there, especially from the smaller countries? What about the Muslim women from conservative countries, how are they handling it? Can we see some medal ceremonies even if *gasp* an American didn't win a medal in that event?

Everything is so American-oriented. I'm proud of our Olympic heroes, don't get me wrong, but here is a chance to mingle with most of the world! Can't we see more of other countries competing? The only place I see them doing that is in women's gymnastics.

This one-sidedness bothers us every Olympics.

LouOCNY said...

Annie - a few comments:

First of all, even with all the different channels and number of hours devoted to the coverage, there still are only X number of hours in a day...put yourself in a programmer's position - what will you devote your non-event programming to, features on your home countries athletes, or features on the athletes from your home country? That is what it comes down to..

Second, I bet you are only watching the main NBC channel where you are - on the other channels that NBC owns, USA, MSNBC, CNBC is where you will find a lot of the non American events. and by skipping through the 'ream' events, you tend to miss a lot of this...

Anonymous said...

Of course I got your Emil Zatapek reference instantly..."If God had meant us to be in a crutch race He would have given us two broken legs"

A friend's cousin competed with his dad and siblings on FAMILY FEUD, and I watched the three episodes. They were taped off KABC when aired in June 1984, and I noted the number of local advertisers promoting themselves as Official Olympic Something or Other.

Anonymous said...

My boss's husband is on the US water polo team and she's posted a team photo on the outside of her door: the team in Levis and no shirts, standing on a rock at the beach. Every gay guy in the building has been by here about 3 times.

Because he's played in Italy, Husband speaks Italian. Before the Olympics offically begin, he's at the gym just after the American basketball team has finished practice, watching Kobe takes extra shots after the formal workout. He goes up to him and starts yabbering at him in Italian. Kobe, who spent some childhood years in Italy while his Dad played in an Italian pro league, is shocked to see another non-Italian American speaking fluent Italian. They strike up a conversation and Husband gets to play Kobe Bryant in a game of HORSE. Kobe misses his first shot. Husband has chance to go up a letter on Kobe and have story to tell grandchildren. Husband shoots an air ball. Kobe dunks the next shot. Husband curses him in his finest Italian. Kobe laughs. Husband says, "Let's play PIG and I'll spot you the P." Husband has pig's chance at a barbeque. Kobe drains 2 from about Hong Kong, but Husband still has story to tell wife and grandkids.

Rohan Venkat said...

Out here in Qatar, the local Qataris are only really interested in Football (y'know the proper English kind, not American). Indians, like myself, tend to watch many other sports including the Tennis, Badminton, Hockey (again, the proper field version), volleyball and a few of the entirely individual sports DESPITE our generally dismal performance (especially considering our population).

It kinda has to do with the fact that even the most popular sport in the country, cricket, is played famously on an international scale rather than on local leagues, although those too are growing in stature.

Anonymous said...

Vancouver's hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics so we watched the opening ceremonies to see what 40 billion dollars can buy. China had 22,000 people, 15,000 costumes, and ancient wizardry at their disposal. We've got a paltry budget of $64 million, but the leaders of our regime advised us we've also got 'potential,' so we're much more relaxed about going on the world stage under a leaky dome with our colored balloons.

We watch the Olympics on our Canadian channel 'CBC' which provides good coverage all day. The big buzz in swimming, of course, is the Phelps dream of winning 8 medals, which could soon be an inspiring reality.

With our 'potential' Vancouver dreams big too but at a reduced price.

Anonymous said...

During synchronized diving, anyone else notice that after every dive, they went to a shot of the two girls showering? Because I noticed.

After a while, I started judging the showers like an event. USA girls won. Easily.

Your Humble Correspondent said...

The Olympics are an anachronism. ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

The best part of the 1984 Olympics was winning all the food from McDonald's because America won all the medals.

Anonymous said...

I thought that was Krusty Burger....

Unknown said...

I'm amazed at the diversity of people who read this blog and commented here.

India, Holland, England, Canada... impressive. I think this is the first time I find the comments more entertaining than the original post. Very nice read.

Oh and we germans tend to watch everything with german athletes as well, which in the first couple of days meant swimming, sync. diving and today a lot of military horseback riding. And of course field hockey as well as women's soccer (football!) and rowing.

Aside from soccer all sports that only shine during the time of the Olympics and I tend to watch all and everything here. It's all so exciting if you only watch it every four years so you can really forget the stuff where the lift of the pro athlete-ban turned the competition into just another tournament (like in Tennis where you don't really have to watch anything in the men's competition until Federer heads up against Nadal in the final).

My personal Favorite: Basketball. Dirk Nowitzki made his first Olympic games and with a little help from our freshly immigrated US-german player Chris Kaman we handed the african champion Angola their personal can of whoop-ass int he first game.

Only 9 hours until the next game against the word cup runner-up Greece. Can hardly wait :-)

Anonymous said...

I do enjoy the 'backstories' but it gets to be too much sometimes. Like I'll only care if I find out his whole family was killed or he/she lost everything in a fire. I miss '10's in gymnastics. 10 I understand. The new system is terrible. They get a that good or bad? I love the swimming events. The men's relay was amazing and I admit I cheered when the US guy beat out the French dude. So I guess there's my national pride.

Anonymous said...

Am I the only one who thinks girl's gymnastics is a total farce? They all look like little toy robots. You wind them up, turn them lose and the flip and flop all over the place. And they're way to young to be that far away from home!

Plato said...

It's a big thing here in Norway, especially with one of our swimmers (I say our even though I am actually an American living here with my Norwegian wife) getting a silver (Norway has never done anything in swimming). We watch as much as we can considering it is on in the middle of the night or when we are at work, with replays on when the kids just have to watch Hannah Montana.

Been reading you on and off for a bit now and thought this was my chance to say, hey, nice blog. And I appreciate the work you have done on some of my favorite shows. Been working our way through Cheers seasons lately, and just this evening watched Finally! part one and two from Season eight that you wrote. Fantastic.

Anonymous said...

I'm not terribly interested in anything Olympic, but I do hope to catch the women's beach volleyball for reasons that should be obvious to anyone who's seen any clips of the event.

Anonymous said...

I'm from Hong Kong, China (where your blog is not blocked). We're hosting the equestrian events. They are very ex-zzzzzzzzzzz-citing....

Anonymous said...

the beijing olympics has thousands of attendants. great...

Mary Stella said...

I'm so glued to the tube for Olympics coverage that my butt's going to be as big as the Great Wall by the time this is over. I screamed so loudly last night when the USA team won that swimming relay that I woke up both of my dogs, and at least three others in the neighborhood.

Granted, there are some events that, on first thought, I think are silly. Then I remember that, silly or not, I couldn't do what those athletes are doing for even two seconds with anything like their skill.

Anonymous said...

It might not be that big of a deal right now, because all the events are at weird ours (great excuse to put on the sports channels on the background at ~3am when there's nothing on, otherwise I just forget I have them).

Still, our country does usually well on team sports.. football, and lately volley, women's hockey, and basketball (I think we won gold medal on the last olympics). Also some good tennis players. The whole "national pride" thing gets very annoying (like assholes saying "we won the gold medal" while sitting on their ass in front of the tv).

Annie said...

Second, I bet you are only watching the main NBC channel where you are - on the other channels that NBC owns, USA, MSNBC, CNBC is where you will find a lot of the non American events. and by skipping through the 'ream' events, you tend to miss a lot of this

...louocny, well, actually, we have DirecTV and our TIVO was *supposed* to record MSNBC, USA, etc., *anything* Olympics on any channel. However, in the last year or so, some stations, especially on popular shows, are coming across distorted and unwatchable. For instance, HBO with the last season of the Sopranos; we couldn't TIVO or even watch the first airing at 8pm, we had to do the 10pm one which came across unscrambled.

You can imagine how upset we were when all the stations except NBC came across distorted; we had to erase them.

I don't know if it's our TIVO (if it's our unit, then why can we see the programming just fine until something really popular airs?) or if it's our satellite dish (again, if it's our own dish, why can we see those stations without any problems unless there is something popular on).

We have had both the dish and the unit looked at; they seem fine and yes, we have rebooted the TIVO and yes we have done the big Master Erase Reboot Giant Procedure on our TIVO as well.

And it still happens sometimes.

Good to know that some stations are carrying more information about other countries, though! Makes my heart glad, thank you for sharing that. :)

Anonymous said...

"1999, Delirious, Little Red Corvette, Lets Go Crazy, When Doves Cry, Purple Rain. I gotta believe Prince's awesome was pretty well understood to most everyone then."

Well I was around then, a lifelong L.A. resident, at the time in my early 30s, and Prince's "Awesome" (Perhaps you meant "Awesomeness"?) has always utterly escaped me. I would have been hard-pressed to explain his appeal then, and I still don't get him now.

I gotta agree with the criticism of too much AMMURRICCA in NBC's "Coverage." I was watching men's gymnastics (Women have gymnastics too? I had no idea. How nice for them.) and all we saw were the Americans and the Chinese. We'd hear the commentators say "The French are failing." or "The Italians are crumbling." or "The Russians are disappointing." BUT WE NEVER GET EVEN A GLIMPSE OF THEM! I bet some of those Russian, French, and Italian gymnasts are hotties. I'd like to SEE them!

"Ed Berman said...
During synchronized diving, anyone else notice that after every dive, they went to a shot of the two girls showering? Because I noticed."

Girls dive? How nice for them. Do they make patterns in the air with paper streamers as they do? I watched the men's synchronized diving (Where at least we got to see some of the non-American divers), and they always followed the guys into their (Overdressed) showers also. It's why I was watching. That's entertainment.

And now we find out that the Chinese National Anthem in the opening game was "sung" by the small-Chinese-child equivelent of Milli Vanilli.

I watched one Michael Phelps race. (Aren't they all the same? He wins?) By the end of it, I'd been informed 487 times that Ian Thorpe (My beautiful Thorpy. [Sigh!]) had said Phelps couldn't win 8 gold medals, and that Phelps posted this remark in his locker to motivate himself. Okay, it was interesting --- ONCE! Sometimes the gaps between retellings of that story was less than a whole minute. (Women swim too? I had no idea. Why?)

And then, during men's gymnastics, we were told about the Hamms dropping out and the two last-minute alternates's Olympic dreams risen from the ashes at the last second 3826 times. ONCE IS ENOUGH!!!!! STOP TELLING US THE EXACT SAME THINGS OVER AND OVER AND OVER AND OVER AND OVER!!!!!


NBC, the cure for Olympic Fever.

Anonymous said...

"Granted, there are some events that, on first thought, I think are silly. Then I remember that, silly or not, I couldn't do what those athletes are doing for even two seconds with anything like their skill."
WORD!!! I feel exactly the same.

I am an Olympic junkie. I usually operate on 8 hours of sleep but since Friday I'm doing about 4. I've discovered that I really enjoy watching my obscure events on my laptop at lunch because...NO commentators!! Bliss. Although I do like the NBC rowing duo and Mary Carillo's segments.

Martin_B said...

D. McEwan: the Chinese National Anthem in the opening game was "sung" by the small-Chinese-child equivelent of Milli Vanilli.

I had the same thought. Mi Li and Va Ni-Li

I'm South African and we are in national mourning because our highly-fancied swim team got slaughtered.

Personally, I found the most exciting event was the weightlifting. Specifically, the 69 kg mens' and womens' events. There was tremendous drama. An athlete will fail to lift a weight, and come out and try again, and you sit there holding thumbs for him or her. The joy when they succeed, the disappointment when they fail. The trembling as the weight is almost there -- will they be able to take it, or will they accept defeat and throw it down? Can they lift another 5 kg to beat the next guy when they've already set personal bests?

I've never lifted weights in my life, but I found the contests absolutely riveting.

Buttermilk Sky said...

How come "Make Money Online Work At Home" can post a comment, but it's such a bloody struggle for me?

The Olympics. Well, if the diver Speedos were any skimpier, NBC would be risking a Janet Jackson moment. BTW, at the Y they make you shower before you go in the pool.