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NBC Tape Delays Anger Olympic Viewers

NBC Tape Delays Anger Olympic Viewers

[ Wed, 2010-02-17 14:34 ]
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Didier Cuche cruises through the 2010 Wengen Downhill Course

Two days of weather delays only raised our anticipation of the men's Olympic downhill. Our inability to watch it live and meager coverage of the race in primetime—compounded by real-time spoilers—squashed the excitement. Ski racing fans across the country are voicing their disappointment. Where do you stand?

We waited patiently while Whistler's fickle weather wreaked havoc on the Dave Murray downhill course, forcing organizers to postpone the men's race for two days. We spent the weekend glued to our TVs and soaked in the magic that unfolded at Cypress Mountain. We collectively celebrated the victories of American Hannah Kearney and Canadian Alex Bilodeau in the freestyle moguls events. And when we learned on Monday that the men's downhill would be broadcast on tape-delay in primetime—not live in the middle of a national holiday—we gladly watched countless qualifying rounds of snowboard cross, letting the anticipation build until the evening broadcast of the premier Winter Olympic event. So imagine our bitter, nay indignant, disappointment in NBCs offensively scant 20 minutes of downhill coverage.

Early in the primetime broadcast, the show cut to the top of the Whistler racecourse, with Bode set in the start shack. There was no preview; no commentary about the course conditions, the athletes or the long-awaited break in the weather. There were three short beeps from the start signal, and Miller was off. We watched the blazing fast run that put him into first place with a time of 1:45.40. Then we saw Aksel Lund Svindal edge out Miller by an unbelievably tiny margin of two one-hundredths of a second. This, we thought, was worth the wait. The event was delivering all the excitement we expected. Svindal was followed by Switzerland's Didier Defago, who snatched the top spot by just seven one-hundredths, 1:54.31. His teammate Didier Cuche, expected by many to win the event, had a disappointing run that put him well out of the medal standings. After Cuche, we saw one more athlete, American Steven Nyman, who finished in 20th place.

And that was it. We saw none of the Austrians, the longtime dominators of the event, and we saw and heard nothing about our other American athletes, Andrew Weibrecht and Marco Sullivan. As quickly as it started, and just as we were settling in, it was over. NBC's coverage returned to Vancouver's ice arena for three long hours of pairs figure skating.

Adding insult to injury, the ubiquitous instantaneous news feeds announced the results long before NBC broadcast the event. Anyone unfortunate enough to stumble onto the Web, radio or non-NBC TV networks suffered the ultimate spoiler.

On Tuesday, still shocked and upset, we gathered around the water cooler to lament the previous night's show. We weren't alone. By Tuesday morning, critics such as Henry Blodget at Business Insider were blasting NBC for ruining the event for viewers. A group on Facebook called Why Does NBC Hate Ski Racing had collected thousands of members and continues to grow. And an open letter to NBC requesting better coverage of the alpine events is being circulated online.

Today, it's the women's turn to attack the downhill. In fact, Lindsey Vonn might be on course even as we write this. All we can do is wait until tonight—with our fingers crossed, our radios off and our web browsers on lock-down—to preserve what little excitement NBC might offer with this evening's broadcast.

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