As a former gymnast, I’ve been quadrennially frustrated by TV coverage of the Olympics. I don’t need the “up close and personal” portraits of a few popular gymnasts. And I don’t need Elfi Schlegel and Tim Daggett to point out some subtle things I already know, or to state the obvious that anyone can see for themselves (“oops, a little hop on the landing”). Most of all, I don’t want to be restricted to the minimal subset of gymnastics performances that was historically all that got televised.

I’ve always dreamed of being able to watch raw footage of every performance, and even — why not? — all the warmups.

Finally that moment is at hand. A colleague writes:

It is midnight and we now broadcasting the gymnastics trials live from Beijing. —  click here to watch men’s gymnastics trials, then the woman’s trials & if you want the soccer game at 5am.

It has been a crazy ride!

As I write this entry on one monitor, a Silverlight viewer on my second monitor is displaying a 2.5-hour replay of the podium training for men’s gymnastics. That’s the one chance for the teams to practice on the floor of the venue, before competition begins.

It’s like nothing you’ve ever seen on TV. The gymnasts are in their competition uniforms, but the hall is mostly empty — except for other gymnasts. You see the warmups, and you see the practice routines. And you hear whatever there is to hear. At the moment, I’m hearing members of the US team calling out “Go Raj” as Raj Bhavsar practices his parallel bar set. I’ve been there. I know what goes on behind the scenes. Well, the high school and college scene, that is, not the Olympic scene, but … tuning in like this is a dream come true.

If you’re not deeply into men’s gymnastics this won’t matter to you. But it’s certain that, for whatever Olympic sports you do care about, the televised coverage has in the past always fallen far short of what you would have liked to be able to see.

In an NBC press release, Dick Ebersol said:

For the first time, the average American will be able to create their own unique Olympic experience whether at home, at the office or on-the-go.

It’s staggering to me to be involved in a Games where we are producing 2,900 hours of live coverage – especially from an Olympics half-a-world away. It’s more live coverage from a single Olympics than the total of all previous Summer Olympics combined. The enormity of what we’re doing just blows me away.

Me too. This is the Olympics I’ve been waiting for since the dawn of the Internet.

Go Raj!