Watching the Olympics from afar or at home has happened to me a few times over the past 30 years. The London games find me in Swaziland after a one-night stop on Sunday in South Africa.
I recall being in London during the 1972 games and, due to some illness, being stunned at the endless coverage on the BBC that included watching preliminary heats in men’s track. The broadcast went on all day and into the night—a stark contrast to the U.S. network’s approach of prime time only in those days.
Of course, as I’m now abroad and in the same time zone as London, the NBC networks are broadcasting live events at an unprecedented rate and we get a grand total of two Olympic channels at the hotel in Swaziland—limited, as far as I can tell—to prime time. Swaziland is the only true kingdom left in Africa and is surrounded by South Africa on three sides and Mozambique on the fourth. Of interest was watching the Arab-dominated Al Jazzera report the Olympics from its viewpoint.
Incidentally, we got to the hotel in Johannesburg Sunday evening just in time to tune in the Senior British Open and watch Freddie Couples close out his first Open win in the British Isles. Of course, it was still quite light in Scotland, while the sun had set deep in the Southern Hemisphere before 5:30 p.m.
Thinking back to 1972, we returned home while the games were still on and were transfixed by the horror of the terrorists’ attack on the Israeli athletes and the failed rescued attempt that left them dead on the tarmac in Munich.
We also were in Europe in 1976 for the Montreal Games and, while sipping apple wein (an easy sip with a potent after-effect if you have a few too many) in Frankfurt watched the typically dominating U.S. swimming performance.
While abroad in 2000 for a trip that included the multi-national celebration of my father-in-law’s 80th birthday in Belgium (folks attending from Finland, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden and U.S.), we returned home in time to enjoy the full Sydney games.
The common factor is how different the international TV feed is and the total lack of features to give insight into the athletes that characterize the NBC coverage (as well as ABC’s broadcasts before that).
Those features help give an audience the interest that would be missing from the Olympics with out them—how many of us follow track and field, let alone target shooting with guns or bow-and-arrows in non-Olympic broadcasts. I never knew there was team pistol shooting until Sunday evening.