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November 27, 2014

I'll Say It: Worst. Olympics. Ever.

by Stephanie Earp, posted Feb 19th 2010 1:30PM


Worst Olympics Ever.

Oh I'm sorry, am I not allowed to say that? Because on Day 2 of the Games, I almost got into a Facebook fight with an old friend when he posted a status update that accused those of us with discerning tastes and sharp tongues of not supporting our country. He got an argument from me, but support from pretty much everyone else.

I guess VANOC is like our troops in the PR war. Nelly Furtado's lip synching is the shock and awe of the Olympiad. Isn't this how Bush got elected a second time?

Not only am I not sorry for coming out and saying that The Vancouver Games and the TV coverage of the Games suck, I'm actually kind of enjoying myself.

Worst Olympics Ever.

Oh I'm sorry, am I not allowed to say that? Because on Day 2 of the Games, I almost got into a Facebook fight with an old friend when he posted a status update that accused those of us with discerning tastes and sharp tongues of not supporting our country. He got an argument from me, but support from pretty much everyone else.

I guess VANOC is like our troops in the PR war. Nelly Furtado's lip synching is the shock and awe of the Olympiad. Isn't this how Bush got elected a second time?

Not only am I not sorry for coming out and saying that The Vancouver Games and the TV coverage of the Games suck, I'm actually kind of enjoying myself.

For a critic like me, the last week has offered an embarrassment of riches. It's hard not to be delighted when something so enormously hyped falls apart in big ways and small ways, right before your eyes.

Out of respect, I will skip over the death that started this whole rigamarole off. My beloved says it isn't fair to include the accident that led to luger Nodar Kumaritashvili's death in my litany, as the man had been down the run many times in practice without incident. But come on. A man is dead.

Then there was the delicious spectre of the technical difficulties in the opening ceremony. I would have felt sorry for them if it looked like something good was eventually going to rise from the enormous ice phalluses, but it seemed pretty clear early on we were in for some very tiresome stereotypes. The hydraulics of the indoor flame, the fence around the outdoor flame, the ice resurfacing machines, the bad weather, the cancellation of standing room tickets -- little disaster after little disaster keeps piling up, and I can't help it, I'm revelling in it. To see a mighty Goliath like the much-touted Vancouver Olympics fail so many times is sort of wonderful.

Trust me, I know this isn't a popular opinion, and I'm sort of shocked at myself. I don't think I've ever harboured ill will towards the Olympics before. But then, the Olympics have never been on CTV before either.

What have they done to our Olympics? I think it all stems from that insidious song with its bad grammar. It's the power of you and me, dammit! That little brass theme piping away at us day and night sets my teeth on edge -- it stands as a perfect metaphor for CTV's entire approach to the Games. It's repetitive, lazy, and showy.

I've watched a lot of strange television for my job and nothing has ever confused me as much as CTV's Olympic coverage. I literally don't know what I'm looking at half the time. I glance down at my computer to answer an email and suddenly a whole new sport is on, or even stranger, the same sport but with the opposite sex. For a moment last night, I thought we had some very hairy speed skaters on Team Canada. Sometimes, the announcers will get ahead enough to warn you that in six minutes, so-and-so is going to get a medal - and then instead of presenting it live they cut to commercial only to recap the ceremony a few minutes later. It's bizarre. Despite having numerous stations to spread the coverage across, half the time I can't find any live competitions to watch.

I'll admit CTV has some lovely pre-packaged bits, like 'Superbodies' and 'Difference Makers' but when these come at the expense of live coverage of actual events, I think someone's priorities are pretty messed up.

But that's it, isn't it? The priorities are off. The emphasis is on celebrity, with bits from MTV hosts Jessi and Dan, who were like so excited to meet Cindy Crawford and unfathomably, my favourite gossip columnist. Et tu, Lainey? I'll listen to anything you have to say about Brange but this is just weird.

The emphasis is also on gold. Commentators react to second place finishes as if they are total losses. Jenn Heil may well have been disappointed by her silver medal, but I can assure the CTV announcers that most Canadians weren't. The emphasis is on Canadians, and that doesn't seem like it should be a bad thing. In the past, I've enjoyed hearing about all the great athletes at the Olympics - the medal favourites, the finest in their fields from all over the world.

Because CTV has decided instead to pretend that every Canadian competitor is a medal favourite even when that's clearly not the case, we have no context for how our athletes fare, and if the foreign medal winners are long-deserving or young upstarts. And despite making medal contenders of many Canadian athletes, they did manage to miss a big one. No commercials or spotlights for Alex Bilodeau before the Games. Did the intern who did the pre-Games research forget to do the Bs?



As a figure skating fan, I was one of many who listened in amused awe as David Pelletier and Rod Black went off on the skating costumes and makeup during the pairs long program. The comments were hilarious and well-earned, but even to my ear it seemed over the edge. But it's clear that CTV, having seen Jamie Sale and Pelletier on CBC's 'Battle of the Blades' has decided to steal them away for their own show. I suspect all this mugging around the Olympic Village is the lead up to 'Jamie & David', the new afternoon talker on CTV this fall! Just remember that stealing from CBC got you guys into this mess, CTV.

If I take joy in watching the Olympics fall, my joy in watching CTV screw up is even greater. For so long, they've come across as the schoolyard bullies of the TV landscape, snapping up iconic theme songs to play during their infrequent hockey coverage, discovering the sit-com talents of Brent Butt, and finally making off with this great television sports event. There is something very American in the CTV approach - which isn't always a bad thing.

When it comes to buying programming from American stations, it's very successful. When it comes to developing decent home-made shows, it's successful. But when it comes to the Olympics, that myopic view has completed failed them. I don't think the people at CTV have any idea why we watch the Olympics.

Somehow they got the idea that because Canadians are proud of our athletes we want nothing but blind patriotism. They must have been reading my friend's Facebook status update.

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