Thanks to the expanded coverage at nbcolympics.com, we’re not just seeing more sports, we’re seeing sports differently. The podium training for men’s gymnastics, for example, was a behind-the-scenes view that you’d never see on TV.
Now that we’re into the team competitions, another new perspective is emerging — and it’s been a revelation. As we see all the performers, not just the top echelon, I’m struck by the number of blown routines. I’ve felt for years that the sport has been emphasizing extreme difficulty at the expense of form, grace, amplitude, style, and rhythm. Watching the whole competition on high bar has confirmed that. I think you should approach an apparatus with a high degree of confidence that you can complete your routine. It shouldn’t be a crapshoot. And yet, apparently, that’s what it has become for many of these performers.
Did audiences vote for this outcome? If so, they’ve probably done so without full knowledge of the consequences. It’ll be interesting to see whether an expanded view might change attitudes.
As things stand, it’d be hard to compile a full analysis of all the routines, and to annotate the outcomes. It’s great that NBC is making these long feeds available, but there’s a lot of dead time in a 2.5 hour team competion on high bar, much of it spent watching judges discussing what they’ve seen and deciding how to score it. NBC doesn’t have the resources or motivation to distill and annotate all the footage it’s providing.
But fans and practitioners do. In high school we studied Super-8 films that our coach shot at an Olympics. With the video feeds now coming online, along with link-based editing that creates annotated playlists and a MTurk-like task allocation to distribute the work of annotation, that analysis could become a crowdsourced activity.
So this is the Olympics where I finally get to at least see so much of what formerly was hidden, and it’s a great thing! For the first time, online video has displaced TV as the viewing experience of choice.
Next time, I hope and expect, I’ll get to participate in the co-creation of views that will add value to the expanded coverage, and that might support a conversation about what kinds of gymnastics people really want to see.