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U.S. Sports Fans, This Is Not the Real 2012 Olympics

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I was in Spain in September of 2000 when the Olympics were held in Sydney, Australia. If we had been in the U.S. we would have seen different Olympic Games than the rest of the world saw. But in Spain we watched Spanish TV, Sky 24-hour news out of England, and the BBC. That experience changed my view of the Olympics forever.

I had always been led to believe that the Olympics were about the USA and how perfectly powerful we were. But in 2000 I became painfully aware that the Olympic games we see on TV in the United States are not the real Olympics. Not at all.

In 2012 that principle applies even to the opening ceremonies. Over 40 million Americans watched the event. The viewers’ judgement of the ceremonies and opinions of the TV coverage didn’t matter; the event was paid for by advertisers, and what the American people saw was edited to fit around those advertisements.

The coverage of the Olympic Games is only a small example of a larger truth. Television guides U.S. citizens’ self-image and their view of the world.

In 2000, English TV (Sky 24/7 News or BBC) carried coverage 24 hours a day, from the opening ceremonies until the end of the Games. They showed athletes from countries around the world performing in everything from badminton to taekwondo. That is the way the games are seen by all those countries, from China to Spain, served by Sky. That global audience demands that Sky have a much broader view.

When NBC covered the opening ceremonies for the 2012 games, the network decided to skip over the portion of the pageant telling the story of the 2005 terrorist attack in London. That tragedy followed closely on the heels of the announcement that the 2012 games would take place in that city. That tendency will continue throughout the Games. The short segment about the man from Ireland who competed in the gymnastic floor exercises after doctors said he’d never walk again was one of the few that United States viewers will see out of all those other thousands of men and women who compete in the Olympics.

What is seen through the lens of the NBC cameras is all about the United States athletes. In the eyes of the world, there is a lot more to the Games than that. The world may be feasting on international spectacle, but the people of the United States are being fed a local meal a tiny bite at a time by network TV.

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About RetireInStyleBlog

I am a retired educator that has been blogging for 6+ years. I talk about my life as a retiree out here where the rubber meets the road. I love good books and love my TV. I write for Retire In Style Blog as well as It Crossed My Mind Blog. The first is real life and the second is purely fiction or something that resembles it.
  • Thanks for the informative article. I assumed that the U.S. was capable of doing something of the sort, but you’ve just affirmed it!


  • I find that watching the TV coverage in the US is a bit like getting just one Lays potato chip and then they bring a bowl of boccoli out! Wouldn’t you just like to see all of something…anything!


  • @ #5: Now I have, El B. Two of ’em.

  • Igor

    The appearance of “it’s the USA against all the world!” serves to deepen American isolation and remoteness, which serves the purposes of our industrial Masters. Thus, when Emperor Romney (or Obama, who will get the call from our military-industrial congress in spite of their misgivings that there may be some remnants of humanity and empathy remaining in his character despite the warring evidence he regularly offers to dispel the notion that he might go wobbly when the call comes, like some GIRL!) the morbidly compliant US citizen will gladly commit everything to war war war against, say, Iran, thus insuring the forfeiture of our last remaining shreds of civil liberty with a new ‘Patriot act’ and the looting of the last few sheckels at the bottom of our national treasury.

    We will gladly surrender the last little bits of what heritage Americans have inherited from our predecessors because we are so frightened of all those foreigners arrayed against us. After all, they’re mostly muslims, aren’t they? Or countries soon to be taken over by muslim hordes invading Europe!

    Maybe it’s a good thing that we elect a Mormon cultist as Maximum Leader. After all, it takes a cultist to beat the Muslim cults, doesn’t it?

  • Don’t worry, Doc. You haven’t missed a British gold-medal performance yet

  • As an expat Brit in the US it can be terribly frustrating trying to follow the Games, especially during primetime when non-US competitors are practically ignored (unless, as with the Irish gymnast, they come with a remarkable story attached).

    I think it reached its absolute nadir yesterday at the end of one of the swimming heats: “Who cares about the nameless swimmer from some foreign place or other who won; let’s analyze the shit out of every last nostril twitch of the American who came third and might not even qualify.”

  • Igor

    American TV coverage is just terrible. By depriving us of variety and diversity it quickly becomes boring.

  • This is such a common practice in the United States when play is not built around the TV coverage. For example, when a football game or basketball game is televised the game is built around the advertisers. Breaks last as long as they need to so the advertisers can hold our attention.

    I suppose that is why Americans are using their Tevo or some recording device, waiting to watch events and then fast forwarding through the commercials.

    Thank you for your comment Tourmaline.


  • Tourmaline

    Interesting points about TV advertising and the Games, Barbara – this year, for the first time, the Paralympics will not be covered by the BBC, but by Channel 4, a commercial channel. I’m wondering how ad breaks will work within the coverage. I’m all too familiar with Eurosport tennis coverage which inevitably misses the first shot or two after the change of ends because coverage isn’t back from the ad break.