Olympic Obsession: Day 9

Yes, Usain Bolt is faster than your Internet connection ... well, at least faster than NBC's live online streaming.

We’re a week in. We’re used to needing to go online to see events live. And NBC takes every chance it can to remind us that you can go online to see the events of London as they unfold.

So, Sunday afternoon, when the marquee event of the track and field competition was lining up to go, what happened?

Buffering. In a big way.

The last live image I saw was about 60 meters in, as Usain Bolt began to pull away from the field. The live pictures finally came back as Bolt was hugging people in the crowd.

I’m sure that some folks figured they just had a bad connection or slow Internet connection.

Nope. It wasn’t just you.

Viewers nationwide tweeted their displeasure at the timing of the buffer, noting that Bolt outran the Internet. Oh, and don’t worry, all of NBC’s commercials are playing just fine.

It’s especially frustrating when seven hours later, there were millions of people around the world sitting in front of their computer watching rocket scientists landing a vehicle on Mars. Without any major incidents in streaming (my feed buffered once), and we were able to get images beamed back from Mars within a couple of minutes of the Curiosity rover landing.

Congratulations NBC on yet another epic fail. If you don’t want us complaining about your constant tape delays, then get your site working right.

Speaking of NBC’s tape delays, it does have one upside: You get to skip all the boring parts in between events and heats. But the counterpoint to that positive is that it makes the final results predictable (even if you haven’t seen the results online).

For example, during Sunday’s primetime show, the first sport they turned to was the women’s 3-meter springboard. And the coverage was what you’d expect: The two Americans, the two Chinese leaders and the Italian woman who was in her fourth Olympics.

So for the first three rounds, those were the five divers we got to see. Then, in the fourth round of dives, all of a sudden we got to see Mexico’s Laura Sanchez Soto go off the springboard.

And it immediately dawned on me: Oh, she’s going do better than the American (who was in third at that point), maybe even medal.

Sure enough, Sanchez Soto – in her third Olympics – earned the bronze.

THE GOOD KIND OF TAPE: There was plenty of live coverage Sunday morning, including all of the tennis, and an intriguing quarterfinal women’s water polo match that was decided in a shootout.

But two of the favorite things I saw Sunday were feature pieces by NBC’s Mary Carillo.

The first one was a retrospective on the effect that Olga Korbut had on gymnastics, 40 years after her performance at the 1972 Munich Games. It was well reported, featured current and ABC archive footage from her routines (note all the moves that the female gymnasts can’t do any more) and did a good job of explaining America’s love of gymnastics.

The second focused on current day, and Oscar Pistorius. The South African double amputee may have finished last in his semifinal run, but the interviews in the piece, and the explanation about his running blades, were informative and entertaining.

(Speaking of Pistorius, great moment of sportsmanship following the race.)

We all give NBC a lot of flak about making the Olympics less about the competition and more about the story. Well, when the stories are done well, interesting and informative, it makes all the tape delay a little more palpable (only a little).

Meanwhile, the bad kind of tape: Anytime Ryan Seacrest is on showing us about the social media at the Games. Blah.

GAMESMANSHIP: A soccer border war will be reignited at 11:45 a.m. Monday, as the U.S. women will take on Canada in the semifinals.

(Yes, and thank you U.S. men for not even making it, while Mexico made the semis … sigh.)

So, anyway, apparently Canada’s coach doesn’t like us much. Or our supposed tactics.

Coach John Herdman decided to get into everyone’s heads (especially the officials, I gotta think) by claiming the U.S. players regularly engage in “illegal marking” on set pieces.

Um, OK? What game is he watching?

Soccer is not a genteel sport. It’s not a day on the croquet field. There’s going to be pushing and shoving going on during set pieces. Everyone does it. Does the referee call it all the time? No, because the referee would never stop calling it.

I had refereed a game many years ago, and a few weeks later, I was assigned the same two teams. The coach of the losing team came out to us before the game showing photographic proof of the other team grabbing her players. Did it affect my game? Maybe. Was the result different? No.

Meanwhile, New Zealand’s coach complained for another reason about the Americans: Their goal celebrations.

UPCOMING: Besides the U.S. women’s soccer game, you’ll get a chance to see the American men’s basketball team tip off at 2:15 p.m. against Argentina (which boasts a pair of NBA players). In primetime, expect more beach volleyball, gymnastics individual events and track and field (the men’s 400 meters being the marquee event there). If you’re looking for different, there will be sailing, shooting, equestrian and wrestling events going on throughout the day.


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