How can I relax when I’m watching the Olympics Games?

Chris Hamble, Gazette Columnist

OK, before I get started this week, I want to address something I heard on television a couple of nights ago. I don’t remember exactly the program, because it was on during those so-called “wee hours” of the morning. I believe the name results from the fact that old folks have prostate issues, or so the following commercials lead me to believe.
But this first commercial irritated me to no end. It told me to take “five minutes a day for ‘me time’ to relax.” Five minutes? Do these people have any concept of time? I make bathroom trips in the middle of the night longer than five minutes.
What can one really do in five minutes anyway? I could get myself a glass of iced tea, sit down, and have just enough time left to look at the clock and realize my break is up and I have no time left to relax. Ugh. Take it from me folks, if someone tells you to take “five minutes to yourself,” do it, but give yourself 30 minutes. That’s about the bare minimum you would need to relax a bit. Now, where were we? Oh yes, Olympic-lazy-week, number 2.
On my quest to watch nearly all of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London — because I have nothing better to do — I have been sorting through the cluster of television and Internet sources and have a bit to say about each.
As I pointed out last week, I like the Olympics, but the television coverage since the day I was born has been, in a word, terrible. NBC shows sports no one cares about while neglecting the classic sports that everyone not only associates with the Olympics, but actually wants to watch. So how does this year’s coverage hold up? Well, not great. In fact, I’d say terrible.
My first issue is fact that the presenters aren’t up to snuff, and on a couple of occasions, since nearly everything we see on this side of the Atlantic is on tape-delay, they have spoiled the outcome before even showing the event. Brilliant work, folks. The coverage on the cable channels is better, simply because there is less commentary between events, and they tend to show more of the event themselves. The coverage of the fencing events was good, but I’ve gotten sick of equestrian, which — I’m sorry horse-lovers, — I just don’t understand how this even qualifies as a sport. Give the riders a javelin and have them start jousting and we’ve got a deal, but really, the horse does all the work. And if I never see another game of water polo it will be too soon.
So, how about the what’s online? This is the kind of coverage I wanted, in theory of course. Every event gets full coverage from start to finish, in full 1080p high definition. Awesome.
But wait, the first caveat comes from the login screen. Well, it turns out in order to watch all this content you have to have cable or satellite. Irritating, yeah, but these feeds aren’t paying for themselves so I can forgive them for charging something to providers to bring us the coverage. The second issue is the fact that most of these events were not covered on television, which is very easy to tell on the “replays” that are available for only 20 hours or so, because they are mostly dead-silent. There is the ambient noise of the crowd and the athletes, but that is it, no commentary whatsoever. I can’t decide if that is a good thing or a bad thing, but it made me think, so I’m calling it a bad thing.
The next two issues with online playback have ruined the experience for me completely. The first is, the so-called “1080p” playback is not. Sure, you get a 16:9 presentation in increased resolution, but you are not getting all 2,073,600 pixels. No, you get black bars on three sides, and an ugly, static, Olympics logo on top. I’m not impressed. And to top it off, connection issues are abundant. I have a top of the line connection and it doesn’t matter. Playback stutters, quality is inconsistent, and it seems the particular event I want to watch is never available to re-stream.
It was a great idea, that I hope they expand on in future Olympics, but a few tweaks are necessary to really make it worthwhile.
On the plus side however, I did watch more than three hours of javelin, which is more than I have during the entirety of my life. And I have had, at the very least, something to watch during this summer of excessive heat.

Chris Hamble is a freelance writer and humor columnist serving newspapers in Minnesota and Wisconsin, and is a lifelong Stillwater resident.

  • Guest

    “Give the riders a javelin and have them start jousting and we’ve got a deal, but really, the horse does all the work.”
    Right. The rider doesn’t do any work. It doesn’t take a lifetime of commitment and effort to master such a simple sport. How about you actually try the sport and ride a nervous, excitable, 1200 lb animal with a will of its own? You know what makes this sport look so easy is the riders. If the rider was flopping around on the horse’s back and the horse was missing poles or had a really sloppy, unengaged canter, you would think the sport was hard. Have some respect for the olympians (the horses and the riders) that have dedicated their lives and countless hours to perfecting their technique and their endurance. There are so many dimensions to riding, whether western or english style, that the difficulty and intricacies of the art cannot be adequately explained in one paragraph. Please do not judge this unique, timeless sport by the way it looks unless you have actually tried it outside of walking a dead broke mule on a trail at some Mexican resort. It’s extremely offensive and disrespectful to those that take the sport seriously and truly are passionate about it.

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