I'm so thankful I was able to watch the woman's gymnastic team final on the iPad Olympic Live Extra app this morning. I've been making use of this app the past few days and it's great to 1) see the events live, 2) view sports with minimal and sometimes no commentary, and 3) watch international coverage that has no clear bias for any country. The international coverage shown live in the app for the woman's competition this morning was very balanced and provided an honest, moving representation of the competition as it took place.
Almost all the teams involved received some amount of airtime. I learned how Romania had won team metals in something like 10 straight Olympics. Canada was having one of their best gymnastic finals competitions, moving up to 5th place and in the process helping to ensuring more money from their country's sports committee to continue development of their gymnastics program. China was not the dominant force it had been 4 years ago but was in close competition with Romania throughout for the final podium spot. Russia was close to the US through the first half of the competition but disaster struck on their final two floor exercises, with the last girl almost falling on her head when landing one tumbling pass.
Perhaps the most emotionally charged moment of the event occurred after the last American gymnast finished her final routine as the final standings were slow to be revealed. The American team was all smiles and held hands tightly while looking up at the score board waiting for the results to become official. Only feet away, the Russian team was a complete disaster, tears streaming down all their faces in disgrace as they waited for the bad news. On the other side of the stadium, the Romanian and Chinese teams were dead silent, waiting anxiously to find out which of them would be on the podium and possibly have a chance to overtake Russia for the silver.
Of course, if you had only watched NBC's prime time coverage, you wouldn't have seen any of this.
Canada flat out didn't exist. Not one routine from a Chinese and Romanian gymnasts made the entire telecast (okay, I think I remember one Chinese bar routine was shown but I could be imagining it). Russia's final floor exercise routine (in which the third Russian gymnast fell on her final tumbling pass) wasn't even aired or acknowledged. And that highly emotionally charged moment before the final placements were revealed? In the NBC coverage, the camera never once left the American Olympians and the drama all around them (crying Russians and the uncertain outcomes of the silver and bronze metals) was completely and utterly ignored.
The live international broadcast was informative, dramatic, and emotionally charged. The NBC coverage? It seemed like nothing more than a two hour advertisement for the 'Fab Five.'
I understand any national broadcast will naturally focus on their own athletes, but should it do so at the cost of completely disregarding all other story lines and competitors? It was great watching the American woman win gold and it will certainly be a defining moment of these Olympics. But gosh darnit NBC, do you really have to pretend only two Russian gymnasts performed floor exercise? This is why I don't trust your television coverage and why I'm re-watching as much coverage as I can through the Live Extra app.