Highlights from coverage of the Sochi Winter Olympics:
IMPLAUSIBLY LIVE: We can deal with NBC’s ”plausibly live” format presenting competition unfolding on its tape-delayed broadcasts. It felt wrong, however, for Russian figure skating legend Evgeni Plushenko’s sudden retirement because of injury before performing Thursday. The broadcast presented a pre-taped intro about Plushenko as if he were about to start skating, and then came his ”surprise” withdrawal. By this point, it was already 10 hours old and the story of the day. It should have been covered in a more straightforward manner.
GETTING BACK UP: By contrast, the figure skating team of Sandra Bezic and Scott Hamilton was at its finest with the performance of American figure skater Jeremy Abbott. He took a hard fall on his hip and looked like he’d have to be helped off the ice when, almost miraculously, he got up and finished his routine. Hamilton, as is his signature, felt as if he were on the ice with Abbott and feeling his pain. Both he and Bezic properly and enthusiastically hailed Abbott’s guts. Just as nice, the microphone caught Abbott’s quiet aside, ”Well, that really hurt,” as he was coming off the ice.
UNIFORM CHANGE: NBC’s Steve Sands had an interesting story about the United States’ struggling speedskating team making an adjustment to the back of their uniforms, presumably to gain an aerodynamic edge. Then he made a reference to the Dutch press ”trying to make something of it.” That just raised questions that Sands frustratingly left unanswered: Was there an implication the Americans were cheating somehow? Or were they just being mocked?
UNIFORM SAG: Swedish freestyle skier Henrik Harlaut nearly left his baggy pants on the course. NBC analyst Luke Van Valin took note with a humorous jab about seeking sponsors for his undergarments.
MEDAL CEREMONY: It took a sweep of the three medals in men’s freestyle skiing to remind us of something missing from NBC’s broadcasts. As Thursday’s prime-time show ended, the network played the event’s medal ceremony as three American flags rose and the national anthem played. That’s always been a nice Olympics tradition and it’s a shame it is seen so infrequently now.
TWEET OF THE NIGHT: ”Why has NBC not aired any of the medals ceremonies? I want to see grown men cry.”
NO GLOATING ALLOWED: There was no mistaking the grin on Savannah Guthrie’s face as the ”Today” show juxtaposed pictures of a sunny Sochi with snow falling on empty, slush-filled streets outside of the show’s Manhattan studio Thursday. ”We’re not gloating, we’re just reporting the news,” Guthrie said. The ”Today” team was dressed in sweaters on their outdoor set in Sochi.
RATINGS: An estimated 20.8 million viewers watched Wednesday night’s prime-time Olympics on NBC, the smallest audience of the Sochi Games so far. And for the first time, that was significantly lower than the corresponding night in Vancouver four years ago, which had 29.4 million viewers. In fairness, that same night in Vancouver was a blockbuster, with Shaun White, Lindsey Vonn and Shani Davis all winning gold medals; White and Davis’ competitions were televised live in the eastern United States. This year, only Davis competed on Wednesday, and he finished off the podium in a race shown on tape delay.
STREAMS: Worldwide, the busiest time for people watching live streams of Olympic competition happened Tuesday, a tie between cross-country skiing in the morning and figure skating and snowboarding in the evening. That’s according to the company Akamai, which is helping more than 20 broadcasters deliver live and on-demand video online. The company won’t reveal the countries where it is providing the service, with the exception of France and Norway.
EYE ON COSTAS: Bob Costas took his third sick night from NBC’s prime-time broadcast because of an eye infection.
David Bauder can be reached at dbauder(at)ap.org or on Twitter(at)dbauder. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/david-bauder.