13 Oct Olympics Super Blog!
I know in the fast pace world of think pieces, inta-memes, and snap-googles writing about an event from (gasp) months ago seems almost prosaic. BUT, I’m not going to let that get in the way of me writing about the Rio Olympics! as some of you may know from my insentient postings, I love watching the Olympics… and I watched a tremendous amount this year.
it seems like each time the Olympics roll around, the press loves to talk about the looming disaster. In Beijing it was the air quality (which was awful), in Sochi it was the conditions of buildings (which were bad), in Rio it was… well, it how much time do you have? Crime, misspending, sewage in the water, the Zika virus. if you read the reports it seemed like the world’s sporting community was headed like lemmings toward a cliff overlooking a disaster. but in each case, once the athletes began competing the problems fell to the wayside. sure they were still there, but instead of focusing on them, the world turned its eyes to it fastest, strongest, and most athletic – and after all, isn’t that the entire point of the Olympics?
in the two weeks of the Olympics I watched a LOT of different events. I can’t say I have a “favorite” Olympic sport, but I tend to enjoy watching the ones that get less airplay. for instance, I avoid watching tennis and golf – but will instead watch skeet shooting. tennis and golf are on ALL YEAR long, it is so very, very easy to watch those sports. now, there are other events that I will watch that are available throughout the year, like soccer. but hear is the difference. in tennis/golf it is the same people playing each other. the Olympics have become another pro tournament for them. but in soccer, you get to see different squads of players competing against each other. granted, I am a little biased.
another thing people love to complain about is NBC’s coverage of the Olympics. every year people talk about how awful it is. they only show Americans. they only show swimming, gymnastics, and running. I’m not going to debate any of those complaints – because I agree with them completely. but in NBC’s defense, they do allow you to avoid their “curated” experience. every event is available to watch, on its own, either live or as a reply. so you want to see the Uzbekistani weight lifter set her personal best but were at work? no worries, pull it up after the fact. you just need an internet connection (and a cable password).
still the online options were fraught with issues. the GUI was poorly designed. the apps didn’t auto-update. and events frequently lead to different streams. here is each device I watched on, and a short review.
**there’s a lot of what I don’t like below, so here’s one thing I did like that went across all 4 platforms – the “Gold Zone.” this was a channel that showed four events at once, and prioritized any “medal” events. it was a great way to watch when you weren’t sure which event to focus on. here is on my iPad (at the airport).
Xbox One – this was my primary viewing device. the app had multiple issues,
1) the app wouldn’t auto-update. so if you finished watching an event and wanted to see what was live, you had to QUIT and RESTART the app. it showed only what was “live” when the app opened
2) events frequently weren’t live or happening, even upon quitting the app, sports weren’t listed correctly
3) events linked to other streams, getting a different sport was common, one time it even lead to a drama on the USA network. yes, an Olympics app connected you to a different station not showing sports.
4) basically I had to watch the Gold Zone to see what was actually live or look at an online schedule. the interface of the app was almost useless for this.
Apple TV – this functioned in the same way, and suffered the same problems as the Xbox One app.
iPhone – used this to watch fencing, soccer, and one of Usain Bolt’s gold medal runs. it worked great, at least for watching one event. not sure how it would hold up for extended viewing.
iPad – I would use the iPad as 2nd viewing screening if I wanted to watch two events while sitting at my desk. it worked in a similar manner to iPhone app. one funny note, but not enabling “location services” it gave me ads in Spanish.
regular TV – I watched this out of duress. I was at a friend’s house who didn’t have his Apple TV setup. they were showing the golf and the marathon in its entirety. needless to say, it didn’t last long.
Desktop Computer aka Web browser – this was my 2nd viewing device, in Olympics past it’s been my primary viewing portal. but this year it worked SO POORLY it was almost unusable.
1) the live events were buried in 3 or 4 clicks from www.nbcolympics.com. watch, all sports, scroll down to “live” then it lead you to a new page
2) the page of the actual “live” events built in such a way to render it almost impossible to use. all the events were listed in a vertical row. which made it impossible to see how they corresponded with each other. e.g. if I watch “China v Serbia” in Women’s basketball, how long does this event go? what will I miss during it? or “I’ve got 30 minutes, I want to cycle between multiple events. let me see click between everything that’s happening at once
3) in this barely functioning timeline, they also had basically “pop-up” ads. why is there other links here? I just want to see the schedule.
4) everything is the same color, whether it has happened or not.
take a look at these two screen shots. that is nearly the entire screen of my laptop. just to see every event in the 8am hour, it required scrolling through two whole pages. how are you supposed to get an idea of what the days events hold? look at all the wasted space. all that room on the right is not being used.
now you may say, “Luke, this is a hard thing. multiple events, venues, etc. you are asking too much.” well, I might agree with you… except for the fact that the BBC did it right FOUR YEARS AGO. check out this screen shot of their interface. it’s so intuitive and well designed I want to wax poetic about it for a bit.
1) If you are on the Olympics page, it’s only ONE click to get to
2) great use of color. yellow = replay available, blue = live, grey = upcoming
3) it’s a GRAPHIC interface. so you can visually see what events are happening at the same time by looking straight down the line. it just visually makes sense.
4) each of the blocks was clickable. so if you wanted to watch “beach volleyball” you just clicked on the blue block in it’s row.
5) easy to see what is later in the day. or what has already happened. just scroll to either side.
it really blows my mind that NBC didn’t make something clean and straight forward like this. it was like they tried to make something that was purposefully hard to use so people would just watch their curated programing.
okay, enough of a rant about the presentation and delivery. let’s talk about SPORT!
here are a few of my favorite moments:
• Usain Bolt – not a particular moment, but every time he was on screen he lit up the arena.
if I had to pick one it would be his “bromance” moment with Andre De Grasse
• Fiji winning first ever medal, and it was gold in Men’s Rugby 7’s
just rugby in general. what a fun and exciting sport. it has the physicality of America football with the continuous play of soccer!
• high drama at the end of the 50km race walking. elbows thrown, strides broken, dreams dashed!
who knew race walking could be so exciting?
• USA women sweeping the 100m hurdles winning gold, silver & bronze!!!
just because I love seeing other nations compete, doesn’t mean that I don’t love seeing the USA win. ‘cause I do.
• Japan’s Kaori Icho wins her 4th consecutive gold medal in women’s wrestling, in a come from behind victory over Russia.
the joy on both her face and her coach’s shown through the screen and made my eyes misty. I mean, look at this
• the pole vault gold medal showdown
high drama and psychological games between a Frenchman and a Brazilian. I was rooting for the French, but seeing a hometown boy win was pretty special.
• Phelps last gold medal swim
I avoid swimming, it’s on too much and seems like one of those “I got faster” events. that being said, seeing a champion like Phelps get gold in his last swim was pretty incredible. the emotion was electric.
• Aussie announcers calling horns “hooters”
I really love my Aussie and Kiwi announcers. apologies for not being able to tell the difference…
• a world record in womens’ running when Ethiopia’s Almaz Ayana beat it by 14 seconds in the 10,000 meter!
“we’ve simple run out of superlatives!” such a great call from the announcer, so excited as he saw history being made.
• KOSOVO gets its first medal ever and it was gold
even little countries can shine, and people who never had a country are finally able to represent the land they love.
• cycling road races, both men and women
these races, while long were great to watch. put on the background for a couple hours – then tune in for the last circuits when strategy speed, and endurance all come in to play.
what about you? what was your favorite Olympic experience from either Rio or a previous one. let me know in the comments below!
p.s. here are all the different events I watched in the basic order of when I watched them (for the first time, because some I watched a bunch of times)
men’s road race
women team archery
men’s field hockey
men’s water polo
women’s beach volleyball
women’s road bike
men’s beach volleyball
men’s trap shooting
men’s double canoe
men’s time trial bike
men/women horse dressage
women’s field hockey
men’s double trap
men long jump
men pole vault
women hammer throw
women wind surfing
men high jump
men ping pong
men/women speed walk
women rhythmic gymnastics