Fri, September 20, 2013

Tilleyvision: Olympic highlights and lowlights

By STEVE TILLEY, QMI Agency


The Spice Girls perform during the closing ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium, August 12, 2012. REUTERS/Gary Hershorn


LONDON - The TVs are turned off. The laptop is closed. The tablet and smartphone are powered down. After 17 days of watching the Olympics — and watching how others have been watching the Olympics — it’s time to shower, shave and step outside. OH GOD, THE SUN! IT BURNS!

Two years between Olympics is just enough time for viewing habits, technologies, and expectations to change. The way we experienced London 2012 is different from how we experienced Vancouver 2010 and particularly how we experienced Beijing 2008. TV images are crisper. Online content is richer. Social media is more prevalent. The Olympics became an always-on, real-time global conversation.

From where I’m sitting — a well-worn groove on my couch, surrounded by food wrappers and empty Tim Hortons cups — here are some of the highlights and lowlights of how we watched these games.

HIGHLGHTS

The Opening Ceremony

Director Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire) didn’t please everyone with his extravagant, whimsical salute to British culture, but he and his crews deserve a standing ovation for pulling off this staggeringly complex event without a hitch and capturing it on camera for the billions of souls watching around the world. As Boyle himself said, it was like staging a live-action movie. With Queen Elizabeth II as the newest (oldest?) Bond girl.

Social media

Though I wanted to bang my head against my keyboard every time I heard the term “Twitter Olympics” or “Socialympics”, it’s true that Twitter, Instagram and Facebook gave us a greater degree of unfiltered insight into the thoughts of our athletes, and allowed fans a way to voice their support directly to these men and women. Even if Usain Bolt didn’t actually get to read all the tens of thousands of kudos people tweeted to him.

The smaller screen

Aside from the constant bombardment of advertising, I was impressed with CTV’s Olympics website, which allowed web surfers to tune into any of the network’s channels live (well, delayed by two or three minutes) or watch recaps of key moments. Best of all was being able to watch raw feeds of events not being shown on TV. How else was I supposed to get my women’s handball fix?

The even smaller screen

From the official London 2012 results app to CTV’s companion app — plus dozens of others — it was possible to stay on top of everything happening at the games simply with a smartphone or tablet. Live video, recaps, results, background on the various events … being able to stay completely connected to the games while on the go felt a bit sci-fi at times. By the time Rio 2016 rolls around, will anyone watch the games on a television?

LOWLIGHTS

#NBCfail

While the CTV-led Canada’s Olympic Broadcast Media Consortium didn’t garner universal praise for its coverage of these games, Canadians should feel blessed that we weren’t at the mercy of NBC. The American network’s tape-delaying of key moments — including Michael Phelps’ final swim, Usain Bolt’s 100-metres win and the Opening and Closing Ceremonies — so riled U.S. viewers that the #NBCfail hashtag trended on Twitter.

Social media

The flipside of the kind of access that social media provides is it can lead to undesirable exchanges, from athletes tweeting racist remarks (and being tossed from the games) to the 17-year-old scumbag in Britain who insulted and then threatened Brit diver Tom Daley on Twitter … and earned a visit from the police. Insert obvious “twit” joke here.

Social media in the media

While I might be throwing stones in a glass house here, I think the potential of really examining how social media intertwined with the Olympics was squandered by CTV’s fluffy Social Scene segments. This may just be television, but it would have been nice to have some context to go with the various athletes’ tweets instead of just, “Gee, Twitter’s neat! Now here’s a viral video that sort of has something to do with the Olympics!”

The Closing Ceremony

Maybe it was the sheer audacity of the $43-million Opening Ceremony or the fact the Closing Ceremony was more a concert than a spectacle, but the Olympics’ bizarre, overlong farewell (ghost ship, giant octopus and supermodels?) didn’t have the same, and the commercial interruptions murdered the musical vibe. But hey, it had the Spice Girls. Sporty Spice is still my favourite. And not just because this was the Olympics.