The weekend of the Olympics' Closing Ceremonies -- Summer or Winter -- never fails to make me feel a bit melancholy. And we have now reached the point when London 2012 wraps up its 19 days (counting soccer preliminaries) of exciting competitions filled with inspiration and celebration. As I typed the opening paragraph of this piece, it was just after 6 p.m. ET on Saturday night, and there was no Olympic programming on the HDTV in the living room of my parents' house in Florida. The circumstance made me want to weep.
Before I get too deep into this post, I'd like to apologize for a lack of entries during the second week of the Games. If you've been reading my posts here (particularly the early ones) or following my thoughts on Twitter, you already know that the past two and a half weeks have been a bit, well, interesting (for lack of a better word), and things frankly got worse as the Olympics entered their final seven days. When you combine these goings-on with NBC's coverage plans, you can see why I couldn't really commit to writing as much as I ideally would have liked. Plus, further developments have clouded my entire blogging future, at least for the short-to-medium term.
Thanks to an annoying visit from real life, which accompanied by the ingestion of a healthy dose of cynicism, these were without a doubt my least enjoyable Olympics, on a personal level, which is an impressive feat, considering I thought for most of the final week of Vancouver 2010 that I was going to be fired from my day job at any moment. Yet keep in mind, that for me "least enjoyable Olympics" is equivalent to "least enjoyable pizza" is for most people. I still relished every moment.
When I look back on London 2012, I want to remember the spectacular athletic moments and the simply amazing response of the British public -- the things that made these Games such an unqualified success and, yes, bit of a surprise. Keep in mind that was the first Olympics of my lifetime that was scheduled to take place in a truly established world city. (Note I was not even 2 years old when Moscow 1980 started and just about to turn 6 when LA '84 rolled around.) That's a wholly different proposition than when Seoul, Barcelona, Atlanta, Sydney, and Beijing hosted, as those cities all used the Games as a vehicle to introduce themselves to the rest of the world. That's an exercise that requires a tremendous amount of buy-in by the host's various levels of government and the citizenry as a whole. Sure, 2004's host, Athens, fits in the "established world city" category, particularly as it's one of the few major European cities that's more historically relevant than London, but the Greeks felt the return of the Olympics was a birthright and an inevitability, so it is, again, not quite the same comparison to make.
So, I often wondered how well London 2012 would go down in its host city. Would it get lost in the mega-city shuffle? Would the public ignore it? Would Olympic fever result in an escape to the sunny Mediterranean or America for most Londoners?
Well, the past two and a half weeks have shown us, with just a few exceptions (many of which can be blamed on sponsorship and ticket allocation issues), that it will be hard for future host cities to match the enthusiasm of the people of London and the entire United Kingdom. From the Olympic Stadium to Riverbank Stadium to the Aquatics Centre to the North Greenwich Arena and beyond ... all along the courses for the road races ... at the soccer stadia throughout Great Britain ... and at every venue in between, it was impossible to not be caught up in the good spirits of the crowds over the past 17 days. To me, it's that support for athletes from every nation on earth that makes the Olympic Games special. But then again, I'm really just an old softie at heart.
However, I suspect I will instead dwell on all of the things that dampened my personal enthusiasm for these Olympics -- the broadcasting/streaming issues, the deluge of repetitive advertising on TV and online, the endless features that limited the airing of actual competition (especially in primetime), and, naturally, all of the real life things that were driving me batty. Additionally, there's an odd symmetry in the behavior of the NCAA and IOC (and many its affiliated international federations) that makes the Olympics a natural complementary pursuit for a college basketball blogger. (Think about it, major bureaucracies that each run a highly compelling, yet money-spinning event where the competitors typically don't get a direct share of the spoils, each of which also happens to make several bad administrative decisions for each good choice it lucks into.)
With Rio being just an hour ahead of Eastern Time, I'm already looking forward to some level of resolution in the live vs. delayed issue for 2016. But I doubt the argument will completely end, particularly as the Western United States is treated in an even shabbier fashion by NBC than the East.
However, there is one final item about London 2012 that's been bothering me, particularly over the final week. It's strange that with all of the viewing options out there, I feel like I did not get the full Olympic experience this time around. Sure, I watched plenty of the marquee events -- particularly from the pool and the track -- witnessed far too many matchups from the team sports, since it's always good to see handball and field hockey in video form, and checked out many moments from the other sports that tend to get ignored for the other 206 weeks of the Olympiad. But I have the sneaking suspicion that I missed several moments that make the Olympics the Olympics, those moments of sheer uniqueness that provide a nerd like me memories that I will likely use to annoy people on Twitter during future Games. Perhaps I'll just have to go back and take a look at the archived coverage and NBC Sports Network's Return to London series over the next few weeks to see if such events are out there.
The Modern Era of Olympic Broadcasting is truly a paradox. Finally, after years of wishing and hoping, technology has finally delivered a method for us to see literally every event in its entirety, constant buffering notwithstanding. No longer is our Olympic viewing experience subject to the whims of a director in the host city, usually thousands of miles and several time zones away ... unless you choose to stick with NBC's primetime coverage only. However, these choices feel quite overwhelming, even when spread out over a 19-day period.
Yet, over the final days, the shortened broadcast windows and long-form features NBC rolled out tells me that perhaps there needs to be a bit more balance in the event schedule. This suspicion will require further examination on my part, but it's something I'd like to explore before I close the book on London 2012. Watch this space.
Follow Mr. Dobbertean's Olympic thoughts on his personal Twitter account.