I miss Bob Costas.
Even though he had a tendency to get pinkeye, throat problems or some other disease during the course of the Olympics, he brought a sense of urgency to the international event.
Mike Tirico, the new host, almost seems like he’s the voice of a car commercial. Thursday night, he showed off all the desks, stands and what-not in his Krypton-like home base in Pyeongchang. Friday, he blandly went through the parade of nations for the opening ceremonies.
Although Katie Couric was along for a little color (“a white tiger makes powerful people humbled”), Tirico had the reins and spent the better part of Friday telling us we had to see the two Koreas marching in together. The moment was powerful but it didn’t need as many “coming up nexts” as he gave it.
Oddly, NBC has hired an Asian expert to provide trivia and “context.” Why he was hired and not someone who could get in the Olympic village and show what fun they’re having is beyond me. The guy – Joshua Cooper Ramo – is like a college lecturer. When he returned at the end of Friday’s broadcast I almost expected him to tell us a quiz was coming Monday.
The opening ceremonies had the usual parade of nations, notable this year because the two Koreas walked together. It was a good moment made even better when dancers formed doves and John Lennon’s “Imagine” was sung. The idea that the Olympics could inspire peace was strong – particularly since the drumbeat of war is much too loud.
Organizers did much with drones (creating the Olympic rings in an interesting way) and had one of the best cauldrons for the flame. Figure skater Yuna Kim got to light it after skating around and taking the torch from North Korean and South Korean athletes.
While NBC made the most of the marquee names in the event (Shaun White is practically an NBC employee), it didn’t dispatch anyone to talk with them in the stands. Apolo Ohno interviewed a few before the march, but there was more to learn. Dressed in Ralph Lauren duds (the coats included heaters), they seemed to be the most styled of all the athletes. Latvia had better hats and that greased guy from Tonga (remember him from Rio?) was back, now as a cross-country skier. He lost weight but hadn’t gained a shirt.
Producers had plenty of South Korean cultural hallmarks in their presentation and some high-tech stuff that was fun to watch. But the announcers admitted we were getting “augmented reality” that wasn’t visible to those in the stadium. In other words, the network had enough time to add special effects to the presentation.
Because there haven’t been many preview specials to fill us in on the venues, the countryside and the people, the Pyeongchang games may be difficult to embrace.
Thursday’s figure skating team event was a good primer. But it’s going to take more than quadruple spins to give us complete buy-in.
Even with the opening, the 2018 Winter Olympic Games don’t seem like they’ve begun.
Bob wouldn’t have allowed that to happen. Get him on the plane, stat.