Saturday, July 21, 2012

Olympic Fever

Short of Obama and Romney having an arm wrestling contest on David Letterman, they are about to fade from the front pages. Likewise, JP Morgan, Barclays and Goldman will all be able to get back to some serious market manipulation away from the recent glare of media attention. And if Tom and Katie waited just a bit to split up, there's a reasonable chance no one would actually know about it until Tom was suddenly seen on the town with Katy Perry on his arm. 

That's because next week is the start of the 2012 Olympics from London. And it's a fair bet that the myriad of stories coming out of the games will squeeze out just about everything else in the news. Not to worry, though; all your favorite categories will still be represented. Security issues? Got it. The company handling the hiring of guards has come up woefully short, and some of those they have trained reportedly can't pick a grenade out of your luggage. Fashion? Covered. Ralph Lauren has outfitted the US team in the finest from Guangdong Province. Food? Major kerfuffle. McDonald's, the official junk food supplier to the games, mandated that only their fries can be served, unless the chips come with fish. Diplomacy? It's in there as well. Mickey D's and the London Committee reached an accommodation, so you should be able to find a shop that enables you to satisfy your craving for a Chip Butty (if you didn't know , that's a buttered-bread and French-fry sandwich).  

As for the events themselves, they will be covered like white on rice. Back in 1960, when CBS had Walter Cronkite host the opening ceremonies from Squaw Valley CA, the total on-air time was 15 hours. A little more than half century later, NBC is going all out and then some. Of course, every night will be a non-stop packaging of the best of the games, with heavy focus on gymnastics, swimming and other marquee sports and events. The networks' cable properties like MSNBC, CNBC and Telemundo will be given over to games programming as well. And on you will find the Olympic World Feed, which carries every second of every competition, including the awarding of all 302 medals. All in, we're talking about 5,535 hours of coverage.  

You're also about to be subjected to a mind-numbing collection of completely useless information. Not just the records and back-stories of any number of the athletes, but a million bits of fluff that the London Committee and the NBC have spent years gathering to fill any moment of dead air. This goes well beyond the fact that this is the third time that London has hosted the games (1908, 1948 and 2012), or the names and origins of the official mascots (Mandeville and Wenlock, who "depict two drops of steel from a steelworks in Bolton"). If you didn't know, you will also soon find out that the Equestrian events are the only Olympic sport in which men and women compete on equal terms, that the Olympics site will have 525 bird boxes and 150 bat boxes and that there have been free condoms in Olympic villages since the '92 Barcelona Games. 

Then there's the "official." The games are a marketers dream: a worldwide audience that cuts across every demographic, be it age, sex, politics or religion. There are the big names, to be sure: GE, Panasonic and Coke are just a few of the "worldwide partners" supplying money and support. More specifically, you have the official Olympic Song ("Survival" by Muse), the official Olympic Car (BMW) and the official Olympic Phone (Samsung Galaxy S3). There is even an official Olympic Treat Supplier (Cadbury Chocolates) and an official Olympic Smoothie (Innocent Smoothies, available in a variety of flavors including their newest, Blackberries, Strawberries & Blackcurrants). 

In short, it's about to be all things Olympic. Somewhere between all the hype and commercials and feature stories about a 15-year-old archer from Bhutan who trains by shooting birds off the horns of yaks, you may even see a race or two. All you need to do is find out where in that five thousand hours of coverage it is, and plant yourself in front of a screen. Good luck: you'll need the same kind of endurance the athletes have to catch it all.


Marc Wollin of Bedford isn't sure how much if any of the games he'll watch. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at

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