The National Broadcasting Company has been waiting for this moment for a year and a half.
The Salt Lake City Olympics are just two days away now, with opening ceremonies slated for Friday evening. NBC has a chance to redeem itself for its “let’s put the events on at 3 a.m. and pretend they’re live” coverage of the Sydney Games. And all indications point to a successful vindication. The Peacock Network has set aside large daily chunks of primetime coverage from February 8-24. There will be comprehensive coverage on NBC and its cable affiliates CNBC and MSNBC. The network brass has assembled a top-notch broadcast crew, which will be headlined by the venerable Jim McKay, who will be working his 12th Olympiad. McKay will appear each night alongside primetime host Bob Costas, and anything that limits Costas’ ability to wax poetic is always a plus.
But the real reason NBC should enjoy strong ratings is the content they have to broadcast — it would be hard to screw this up.
Three things I’ll be sure not to miss:
The skeleton. Just look at the name! Do I really need to say anything more? Well, since I have to fill this space, and because the event hasn’t been in the Olympics in 54 years, I will. The skeleton, making only its third Olympic appearance, will be the coolest event of all, hands down. Racers lie stomach down on a sled, and slide head-first down a bobsled run with their chins only two inches above the ice. At speeds approaching 80 miles an hour. With no brakes. They steer with their feet. The danger is real. Just this past October, a Latvian skeleton competitor was killed during practice when he plowed into an empty bobsled that had drifted into his path. The bone-chilling event takes place on only one day — February 20. If you only watch one event, make it this one.
16 straight days of hockey. That’s right. Ice hockey, men’s and women’s everyday for over two weeks. The U.S. squads are legitimate medal contenders, with many experts projecting the women for Olympic Gold. One word of caution: NBC’s schedule has some games starting on NBC itself and then moving to CNBC – thankfully part of the basic Yale cable plan — for the second and third periods, which is asking for trouble. But those games occur relatively early in the schedule, and the on-ice action should more than make up for the inconvenience. The men will experience stiff competition from Canada and Russia, but hey, we believe in miracles. And with Team USA playing for the pride and spirit of our entire nation, there’s no counting them out. Don’t be surprised to see the U.S. men’s team playing in the title game on February 24.
The opening and closing ceremonies. If you enjoyed the Super Bowl’s patriotism, you won’t want to miss these occasions, which have so much more meaning in light of recent events. With what is sure to be a strong display of unity not only among the United States’ representatives, but also amidst countries from around the world, the symbolic meaning of this Olympiad is very high. It will be interesting to see what exactly has been planned to kick-off and end the games. And how great would it be to see that the United States has accumulated the most medals come closing time on February 24?