Not watching the Olympics -- 08/15/04

I have to admit it. I am a sucker for watching Olympic opening ceremonies.

The pagentry doesn't mean much to me. I love fireworks, but only in person, not on a television screen. I hate the endless announcer babbling and jabbering, the constant interruptions for commercials, the promotional hype...

But I am hooked on watching the parade of athletes from around the world -- I think there were 202 nations this time -- especially the smaller nations sending just a handful of athletes. It's not just that there were many nations that are smaller than Rhode Island in either physical size or total population (or both), but more than one such nation had about the same population as the Town of South Kingstown, R.I. (If you have the money to cover the expenses and have always wanted to be an Olympic athlete and you are good enough in a particular sport to be the best in a small town, then establish residency in one of these micro-nations. Just a thought.)

[Monaco -- 32,000; Nauru -- 13,000; The Cook Islands -- 20,000; San Marino -- 28,000; Federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis -- 39,000; Liechtenstein -- 33,000]

So, once every four years I waste a couple of hours indulging in this fascination with micro-nations.

Friday night I plopped myself down in front of the TV to watch the parade of nations (although somehow I missed seeing the team from Cape Verde, which at just under half a million in population is certainly a couple of steps up from being a micro-nation, but which as a strong Rhode Island connection because significant numbers of Cape Verde immigrants settled in Rhode Island).

I was strongly tempted to watch with the sound turned off because of the annoying and obnoxious chattering of Katie Couric (from NBC's Today show) and a male co-anchor (it didn't sound like Matt Lauer, her usual morning co-host -- I think it was some NBC sportscaster moron). These to buffoons just would not shut up -- the mindless babbling was bad enough, but they also were attempting lame jokes leavened with equally lame geo-political one-liner pontification. Then, after the parade of athletes, when Bjork was singing the special featured Olympic song, they kept up their asinine chatter all during the song.

The broadcast of the opening ceremonies also reminded me of why I cannot abide watching the actual Olympic events as broadcast on television. This same endless idiotic verbal drivel throughout is bad enough, but they show very little of the actual competition. Instead they present constant "human interest" stories about the athletes, tear-jerking sob-sister yellow journalism. Oh, and then there is the way they attempt to pretend that they are broadcasting live when they are actually showing tape of events that had been held hours earlier. They even did this during the opening program, constantly claiming after commercial breaks that they had taped the highlights of what had happened during the commercials.

I would love to watch the track and field events, but I know from past experience that they will only drive me nuts with their chopped up presentation of short pieces of the competition, constantly cutting away to show a two minute biography of an athlete or to their studio for more wasted minutes presenting empty analysis and inane commentary on how the games have been going and what the medal count represents and then a slow motion look at someone crossing a finish line, and then a quick recap of the results of the competition that they did not show us because they were too busy presenting meaningless filler.

I'm not a big television sports fan. I don't really follow professional baseball or football or basketball or hockey... nor do I care one bit for Nascar (hey, lets all make left turns for the next few hours), etc. The sport I probably watch most on television is international sports car rally racing. Other than that, I really don't bother. I am quite interested in running events -- both track & field competition and distance racing (marathons, etc.) -- and the Olympics should be the prime choice for watching those events, but the televised presentations seem to get worse and worse with each Olympics and I end up watch less and less and this year I don't know if I will even bother to watch any of it.

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