The Olympics are irrevocably broken. The streaming is a mess, the time delay is inexcusable, and the IOC is doing its best to make sure no one even talks about the darned event. The athletes deserve more.
Molly WoodFormer Executive Editor
Molly Wood was an executive editor at CNET, author of the Molly Rants blog, and host of the tech show, Always On. When she's not enraging fanboys of all stripes, she can be found offering tech opinions on CBS and elsewhere, and offering opinions on everything else to anyone who will listen.
I've already written about how the International Olympic Committee tries to cleanse all unauthorized references to its logos, the word "Olympics," and attendant innocent words like "Games" and "Winter" and "2010." And I wrote about the endless Olympic Internet spoilers, thanks to NBC's incredibly asinine scheduling. But the longer they're on, the more chances the IOC gets to act like jack-booted thugs and the more chances NBC gets to blow coverage both online and on TV, until I think we've all come to the same, inescapable conclusion: the Internet hates the Olympics. And you know what? The athletes deserve better than this.
Let's look at This Week in IOC Shenanigans alone. The Committee went after Verizon and Red Bull for mentioning the Games (sue me) and/or specific athletes on Twitter. It ordered a blogger to remove video of luger Nodar Kumaritashvili's death, claiming copyright violation, even though he shot the video himself. It ordered Uvex Sports, a sponsor of skier Lindsey Vonn, not to use her name in a congratulatory note on its Web site. It even ordered a charity Web sitefounded by Olympic snowboarder Hannah Teter...yes, no, seriously, I'm about to say this, not to use her name on the site for the duration of the Games (sue me).
It's so bad that, as a caller on today's Buzz Out Loud episode pointed out that NBC's own Nightly News podcast isn't allowed to use Olympic footage, presumably because they didn't pay the 17 bajillion dollars in blood money the IOC demanded for multimedia rights.
Add that to NBC's coverage plan, which seems to be based on the assumption that the Internet doesn't exist, and you've got an Olympic season that, as Linda Holmes puts it for NPR, "manages to annoy absolutely everyone." You already know this: hours-long delays in coverage, bizarre decisions to show terrifying country-themed ice dancing in lieu of hockey, and so on and so forth. It's been a joke for those of us on the West Coast. I already know what happened in today's hockey game, I knew what happened in this weekend's hockey game, I've known most of the U.S. medal winners in advance, and I've watched a heck of a lot fewer hours of Olympic coverage than I otherwise would have.
The site is an overproduced mess, video highlights are impossible to find, and even those awesome live streams of curling and hockey are just that: blank, un-narrated live streams of curling and hockey that are darned near unwatchable to all but the most rabid of fans.
How is this possible? Between the IOC and NBC, the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games (SUE ME) are the biggest Internet punching bag to come along since the Twitter Fail Whale. If, and that's a big if, you still care about watching the Olympics at all, I recommend a few of these alternatives, like CTV's online channel, or the BBC's live coverage (if you're not into using a proxy to spoof your IP, their live text coverage alone is better than what you'll get at NBC). And for those Web sites and nonsponsoring companies that might want to refer to the Olympics somewhere on the Internet, here's a list of top-secret code names for the elite cadre of athletes the IOC and NBC seem to give a hoot about:
And while we're on that subject, if I were an American Olympic athlete, I'd feel more than a little horrified and betrayed by this parade of over-commercialized claptrap if I'd spent my entire life making insane personal sacrifices, enduring near-constant and often horrific injuries and bearing the pressure of pleasing an entire country. Especially if what I got in return was to turn the rights to my own name over to the IOC, and to be utterly ignored like poor Julia Mancuso who, when she won an unexpected silver behind Vonn last week, could barely get 30 seconds of mention from NBC, which picked its storylines early and is sticking to them, by God.
So, really, we can boycott the broadcast and bitch about the spoiler tweets all we want, but we're just the spoiled, demanding spectators. The people who are owed more are the folks who actually have an Olympic dream. Hopefully they'll demand better next time.