Analysis: London put on a great show—NBC didn’t

The Olympic Park in the East End of London, through the vision of Danny Boyle, dazzled and amazed spectators July 27.

The Olympic Park in the East End of London, through the vision of Danny Boyle, dazzled and amazed spectators July 27. The vision of Boyle creatively told the story of the United Kingdom, and showed the country’s uniqueness in the world. With the UK watching the ceremony on BBC One and listening on Radio 5 live, the BBC and broadcasters around the world ensured the story of Britain was told as it unfolded, all of them but one.

As the parade of nations progressed, Twitter users in the United States dealt criticism against the US broadcaster NBC, as through their Olympics Twitter account the opening ceremony was being live tweeted, despite the fact that coverage wasn’t due to start until 7:30pm New York time. By that point, the cauldron had been lit, and the ceremony had been concluded.

Many had expressed criticism of the move to not air the Olympics live like their international broadcasting counterparts. “The London Opening Ceremony sounds awesome,” one person tweeted according to a report from The Guardian. “Wish I could have watched it with the rest of the world.”

The issue of delaying the ceremony was however not the only gaffe for the network. During the ceremony, one of NBC’s commentators, Bob Costas, made this remark during the entrance of the North Korean Olympic Team. “Kim-jong Il recorded eleven holes in one on the first round of golf he ever played,” Costas said. “I’m guessing the ones off the windmill and the clown’s nose were especially impressive.”

Additionally, during Boyle’s programme, NBC’s other commentators, Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira, spoke over parts of it, distracting viewers who were trying to enjoy the spectacle that Boyle created, from moments of the Industrial Revolution to a nod to the BBC with the theme tune to Radio 4’s The Archers. NBC also paused for advertisements during Boyle’s show and the parade of nations, therefore omitting key parts of these events.

A spokesperson for NBC did not respond to Kettle’s request seeking comment, but according to a report from the Wall Street Journal, the spokesperson said there were difficulties with live streaming the ceremony. “They are complex entertainment spectacles that do not translate well online because they require context, which our award-winning production team will provide for the large primetime audiences that gather together to watch them,” the spokesperson said.

The United Kingdom, with Danny Boyle, actors and volunteers from across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, put on a marvelous show and showed to the world the greatness of its people, its culture and its country. NBC merely botched it, putting a stain on what was an outstanding night. NBC has a lot to make up for as the Games continue.


This article is part of a series for Kettle on London 2012 and the press.