London Olympics: To foreign eyes, NBC is all about U-S-A, U-S-A

I am a German following the London Olympics from Boston. Or trying to, anyway.

Aiming for gold, Team USA finished at a frustrating fifth place in men’s gymnastics after struggling in several routines. Morning news in the States was full of questions how that was even possible. 

But as I watched the analysis, I kept wondering: Which country got the gold medal? Fifteen minutes on CNN – no word on that.

Smart move

Focusing on the national team at the Olympics is the smart move in any country. That’s what viewers are most interested in. In Germany, everyone heard everything about the men’s gymnastics team seventh place performance. But journalists overseas don’t forget to mention the medalists who don’t come from their own country. So they learned that China won the event, followed by Japan and Great Britain.

Watching NBC two nights in a row, I can hardly remember any coverage of a discipline that US athletes had no chance of winning. Sure, competitions promising a national medal come first – that is true for the US as well as Germany, where there's huge coverage of swimming, equestrian, or rowing. But stories do not just revolve around Germany’s athletes. There is this 15-year-old swimmer from Lithuania? Sure, cover it. And what about that funny-looking guy who is London’s mayor?

German viewers just get the broader picture. They learn about their nation’s athletes, but once the specific competition is over, people turn off the TV with the big picture, too – from the weirdest, funniest, most unlikely athlete to the big win in the 100-meter men’s final.

"Sponsor of moms"

What you would be missing, of course, in German coverage, would be the highly detailed home stories on the athletes and their families. Getting a closer look at the personality behind the athlete is nice. But in the end it should be about the sport, not the high school sweetheart.  Let’s leave that for the cheesy patriotic commercial like those from P &G, the “proud sponsor of moms.” At least there you can tune out if you want – without really missing a thing.

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