Saturday, August 6, 2016

The Triumph Of Greed: How the 2016 Olympics was bought and sold by NBC

If you have ever seen the worldwide coverage of the Olympics in any country besides the United States, you know you have missed, well, the Olympics. I have never been a fan of NBC Sports coverage for a variety of reasons including the incessant ads, the xenophobia and spotty coverage if there are no Americans competing. In Germany, and I learned in China, the Olympics are broadcast non-stop and they show every competition regardless of who is competing.

Last night, August 5, 2016, opening ceremonies for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro showed the greed and lack of world view at its most extreme by NBC. Texting a friend in Hong Kong who asked me if I was watching, I had to tell him it would be hours away here in California. Since he is 15 hours ahead of me, I was surprised that he was already watching as Rio is just four time zones ahead of California.

Opening ceremony fireworks at Rio Olympics
Then an hour or so later when I was watching the evening news, I was surprised that they were showing events including the fireworks at the end of the opening ceremony. We still had to wait about two hours before we would see the start.

7:30 pm finally arrived just as my Hong Kong friend sent photos from his TV showing the fireworks that ended the opening ceremony. Then we waited ... and waited through about 45 minutes of commercials, profiles of some athletes ... an opening that didn't start in this country, or at least in California for 45 more minutes.

Each year of the games, the host country shows some aspect of their country that makes them unique. Who can forget London, the pageantry of China, the color and traditions of Seoul. Rio was no different but it was very hard to follow what we were seeing as NBC had commercials every 3 minutes. I know, I was counting them using the clock on the cable box. I don't know what the IOC made from the bid of NBC but surely, they both made all the money they needed opening night. Imagine, they have 16 days left.

I found myself drifting off because the only continuity you could count on was the ads ... and a not very inspired group either. Finally, around 11 p.m. when they had only gotten to "F" of the parade of national teams, I went to bed. I mean how many times can you stand a few minutes, if that, of events and hearing we will be right back. Ah, NBC a moment is not 5 minutes of ads. Be honest and just say, "We interrupt these commercials to bring you a quick clip of the games!" What's next, corporate logos tattooed on the athletes?

Ancient Olympia, home of the Olympic Games

The original Olympics, in honor of the god Zeus, were held over 2,000 years ago with the intention of defusing the interminable fighting of the various Greek city states. (You know, kinda like what we are witnessing between the Republican and Democratic parties today). They may have invented democracy but maybe too much of a good thing is, well, too much! However, all fighting was stopped and athletes from every city state came to Olympia to compete in sports we would recognize today. It was meant to be a competition of individuals who received in victory merely a laurel wreath and the accolades of all, regardless of where they came from. Now there's a concept in a time where nation medal counts are shown over and over again, daily.

The first Olympics in modern times - Athens, Greece in 1896
When the Olympics were started again in 1896, the original purpose was intended but within a very short time differences in what was acceptable regarding training and medicating, patriotic feelings and corruption reared its ugly head. Political leaders used the games as a means to promote their own national agendas (Hitler). Many think this years games may be the ugliest and corrupt ever. You have state sponsored doping from Russia, mismanagement preparing for the games in Brazil, the uproar of the impeachment of Brazil's president, pollution that makes Flint, MI look tame, the $16 billion cost of these games, money many felt should have been spent on improving the lives of the locals and a nation where 63% of its citizens could care less. Throw in the threat of Zika, crime and pollution and you have a story any editor worth his salt would eject you from his office should you have written such a fictional story.

Rio's trifecta of issues - Protests, Zika, Mosquitos
However, I find it hard to forgive NBC. The endless ads, the even more endless and often boring interviews that ignore events going on all around the interviewer while the rest of the world gets to see these ignored events ... this is unforgivable.

Recently Forbes Magazine had an article discussing the crippling costs of the modern Olympics. In the recent era only Barcelona and Los Angeles came out even or even showed a profit. The reason? Both cities were able and used facilities that they already had. China's estimated cost to host the Summer Olympics is said to have been $40 billion dollars. Just to maintain the famous "bird nest" stadium today costs over $1.5 million dollars a year. Photos show portions of it that have failed and fallen away! Forbes solution was to have cities compete for individual events ... swimming in one city that has the necessary facilities, track another, pollution free harbors for boating events, etc. However, the games are "supposed" to bring the world together in one place and following the Forbes formula would defeat that. The costs to a country today though, begs the question, can the host really afford the costs? If they do, at what cost? Doesn't this just smack of design ... how we design events in our lives?

Enjoy the games but you might want to keep the knitting, wood carving and other hobbies you can do in front of the TV nearby or in your lap. It looks like you will have plenty of time to work on them. At least you won't have to worry about getting more chips, a beer or a trip to the potty and miss something!

Thank you for reading my blog. We design our lives and often for others as well. Please check out earlier blogs ... all address the way our lives are designed!

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