Sochi 2014 Link Roundup: We’re Up All Night to Get Lucky

That's gonna leave a mark in your mind, isn't it?

That’s gonna leave a mark in your mind, isn’t it?

The problem with the Olympics is for the most part, I’m too busy watching the Olympics to write about the Olympics. So I’ve been reading and watching at the same time. As I write this, some Canadian my age is bringing it on television.

Did you read all those tweets from journalists about the dire conditions of their housing in Sochi? Well according to Russian bathroom cameras, it’s not that bad. Be mindful of the #SochiProblems hashtag, though — it’s both undependable and wrought with privilege. At first I figured it was the Sochi Organizing Committee’s problem, not prioritizing media housing before I realized it was likely they didn’t care to impress the American media anyway.

Please tell me you watched the Opening Ceremony! I was disappointed this clip of the Russian police choir singing Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” wasn’t part of it, but Anne Helen Peterson brought up a good point:

While there was some dramatic irony present with the official Sochi gloves having rainbow fingers, this article from GQ on what it’s like to be gay in Russia is a sobering reminder of what has been the loudest contention with these Games.

NBC edited out way more than they needed to, and the commentators were frustratingly biased.

But the Parade of Nations were a delight as always BRINGING IT with the fashionable clothing and drop dead gorgeous athletes. The Chinese President came, while our American president abstained, even if he spoke to Bob Costas minutes before the Opening Ceremony premiered.

Of course, the Olympic athletes have been bringing it! Loved how Jamie Anderson and Sage Kotsenburg are representing the USA after winning gold in slopestyle — which is an Olympic event for the first time ever. Especially since Sage decided to try a technique he’d never done before seconds before his last race.

I also found out Curling is a much harder sport than it lookshow Olympians get their intense motivation, and got down about how Indian athletes can’t play under their country’s flag.

Finally, I’m announcing my event, “MEDAL-HEADS: A DAY AT THE OLYMPICS.” If you’re anywhere near Brooklyn this Sunday, come to Videology to watch some Olympics, play Olympics trivia (if you’ve been reading this blog, you’re already ahead), and finally, FINALLY watch my Medal-Heads documentary in London! If you want a preview, check out this article on Olympic failure: “Here’s the first difference between watching the Olympics on television and watching them in person: It is devastating when someone falls down.” If you’re nowhere near Brooklyn, I’ll post the trivia up after the event and you can plan your Olympics party with some great Russian food.

One last thing:

Oh, COME ON.

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NBC Intern Files: Emilie, Part II: “There was a photo to be taken at almost every moment”

Emilie Mateu, a USC undergraduate senior, was an NBC intern during the London Olympics this past summer. She shared her experiences on her blog, An American Frog in London. She answered several questions on her amazing experience. This is Part II; read Part I here!
The Tower Bridge (from Emilie's blog)

The Tower Bridge (from Emilie’s blog)

I saw you have some pictures from instagram! I saw a lot of pictures from the Olympics on there. Did you notice that too? Were there any you liked in particular?
The Olympics is one of the few things that almost everyone watches, so naturally all forms of social media (including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram) were inundated with Olympics related content. For those of us that were lucky enough to be at the Olympics, there was a photo to be taken at almost every moment. One of my favorite photos that I took, aside from those that I took at the many events I attended was of the big Olympic rings hanging from the Tower Bridge. The Tower Bridge is so iconic of London and to see the rings hanging from it made the whole scene seem even more unreal than it already does.
Watching Phelps and Franklin win gold (from Emilie's blog)

Watching Phelps and Franklin win gold (from Emilie’s blog)

You wrote that now you prefer sports over the news. Can you expand on why?

NBC Intern Files: Emilie, Part 1: “It still seems surreal”

Emilie Mateu, a USC undergraduate senior, was an NBC intern during the London Olympics this past summer. She shared her experiences on her blog, An American Frog in London. She answered several questions on her amazing experience.

from American Frog in Paris

USC Interns fight on in Bob Costas’s Studio (from Emilie’s blog)

Why did you want to take this internship?

I would say that I was lucky to have been offered this internship! How could I not take it?! As a Broadcast Journalism major, it doesn’t get better than being offered an internship working with NBC for the Olympics. I had just studied abroad in London so I was really excited to be going back to such a fantastic city for such an epic world event. I have always loved the Olympics because it is one of the very few events that peacefully brings together people from all over the world and it still seems surreal that I was able to play a role in bringing the Olympic experience into people’s homes.

Bob Costas at London 2012 (via USA Today)

Bob Costas at London 2012 (via USA Today)

You said in your blog post, “I was called on to do everything from finding and buying 50 identical Sony headphones from three different stores, to picking up the gymnastics Director from the hospital. Andy and I would always joke that our skill sets were being used to their fullest capacities.” What are the weirdest assignments you had and why?
As far as weirdest assignments, buying 50 identical headphones was perhaps one of the most time consuming tasks I had because I had to go to three different electronic stores around London – in traffic – to find all of them. Another memorable moment (though there are many) was on a news shoot with Bob Costas. I got to go out on a lot of fun shoots and actually had to hold an umbrella over Bob Costas once when it was raining…Naturally I was the one getting rained on!

Every Participating Country in the Olympics Is Entering Women This Year

The past six months, all eyes have been on Saudi Arabia on whether or not they will enter women in the Games as part of their National Olympic Committee.

And I’ve been trying to write this story every week since May, but the answer keeps changing.

From the HRW website

In February, Human Rights Watch condemned Saudi Arabia publicly and called out the IOC in an extensive report called “Steps of the Devil: Denial of Women’s and Girls’ Rights to Sport in Saudi Arabia.”

In a press release:

“‘No women allowed,’ is the kingdom’s message to Saudi women and girls who want to play sports,” said Christoph Wilcke, senior Middle East researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The fact that women and girls cannot train to compete clearly violates the Olympic Charter’s pledge to equality and gives the Olympic movement itself a black eye.”

The International Olympic Committee demurred, stating they don’t issue “ultimatums,” even though they have done so before with a ban on South Africa entering the Games until the end of apartheid. In March, however, the possibility of Saudi Arabia bringing in female athletes looked promising. Then in April, they weren’t. In June, things looked good once more, with an actual woman in mind — show-jumper Dalma Rushdi Malhas!

Dalma Rushdi Malhas

This is amazing.

Then last week, a female delegation from Saudi Arabia was “not guaranteed.”

On Monday, Malhas has become unable to compete thanks to injury to her horse, and no other women qualified to compete.

BUT YESTERDAY WAS DIFFERENT. Because finally, Saudi Arabia announced it would send two female athletes to London.

Sarah Attar, who will run in the 800-meter race.

So, the answer at this very moment is yes! Hooray! But there are two weeks until the opening ceremonies. The promise of Saudi women competing won’t be fulfilled until we see them on the field ourselves.

According to the IOC, this decision came after months of ongoing dialogue. Saudi Arabia is not the only country who is entering women in the Olympics for the first time.

Qatar’s Noor Al-Maliki via the Guardian

Qatar was easily convinced as they plan to bid for the 2024 Olympics (having failed to get the 2020 Olympics) and Brunei was not even able to send a delegation in 2008, so added a woman to their delegation this time with their list of qualifying athletes. Despite the fact that she would not qualify under normal standards, the IOC included her because the Olympic Charter dictates that “National Olympic Committees have the possibility of entering unqualified athletes in athletics and swimming should they not have athletes qualified in these sports.”

While the IOC’s ambiguity on the subject was definitely frustrating, Saudi Arabia’s back-and-forth in the face of international criticism was even more egregious. However, I believe that Saudi Arabia’s wavering on this has shown two things: first, that the government is holding tight to their values of restricting women’s rights, but also — also! That those values can be challenged if they are put under an international microscope like the Olympic Games.

What does this mean for the fans? Well, I feel that any sports where these three delegations are entered in are going to imbued with political justice. They’ll be the underdogs in their sport, but rooting for them will be even sweeter thanks to the political ideals they represent, and no matter how they do, they will be highly respected for it. That also means that the national broadcasters will (hopefully) see this crazy amazing thing for what it is, and hold on to that news narrative throughout the Games — women’s track and field will be an especially exciting no-more-than-15 seconds.

The “First” “Social Olympics”

This year is the “Social Olympics.” No, it doesn’t mean the Olympic athletes suddenly get together and act like college students as they get to know each other in their dorm-like habitats. They already do something of the sort already. And in years past, the Olympics has been social, to a certain extent — Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr were all invented before the 2008 Beijing Olympics. However, a lot has changed with social media in that time. We are more connected than ever, as shown in these infographics comparing past Olympics:

And all that is change is being utilized to the point that the already ubiquitous Olympics will become inescapable:

Many more people now have smartphones, so they can react immediately to something they have seen in a stadium, arena, court, pool, ring or velodrome. Clearly the London Games will be tweeted, tagged, liked, blogged, mashed and rehashed like no previous Olympics.

The BBC is a following a strategy in particular that will keep you glued to a screen during all times of the day:

“One, ten, four” was introduced in early 2011 to simplify and bring greater discipline to the BBC’s online strategy which, in preceding years, had seen the organization develop 400 different web sites. Its aim was to deliver “connected storytelling” through the delivery of one service (the BBC) with ten products (including TV, News, Weather and Sport) across four screens–mobile, tablets, PCs and connected TVs.

Facebook is working with the IOC to expand their social media outreach, because you really can’t ignore Facebook, especially since they’ve added 800 million people to the site since the last Summer Olympics in 2008. They have a special page collecting all Olympic “footage” that covers everything from specific Olympic pages to athletes’ updates.  NBC is also pairing up with Facebook so your friends will know what you are watching (even if they really don’t care). And the Washington Post is using the Socialcam app to create “London Eyes” all over the Olympic Games through their reporters and specific fan uploaded content as well.

Of course, in creating this project, I did a lot of outreach with Tumblr and blogs and Twitter, trying to find fans all around. With Twitter and Goole Hangout, I also found NBC reaching out to fans with specially allotted times with the athletes, like their #AskMegan initiative a couple weeks ago with Megan Rapinoe from the US Women’s Soccer Team.

Of course, the main reason this is the “first” social Olympics is the restrictions and guidelines put in place with social media in mind.

All this sharing and connecting has also created some new headaches. There is grumbling, for instance, about the restrictions that the organizers of the Games have imposed on this most freewheeling of media formats.

Local Olympic organizing committees always go to great lengths to protect sponsors, who sometimes shell out hundreds of millions of dollars to associate their brands with the Games, from so-called ambush marketing by companies that try to get free rides. Sometimes, as in the case of the London Games, special legislation is enacted.

This time, the guidelines include provisions for social media, detailing what marketers may and may not do. Among the banned actions are the use of certain word combinations in social media content: Nonsponsors have been warned not to try putting, say, “twenty-twelve” and “gold” in the same tweet.

Athletes and spectators face restrictions, too. Neither will be permitted to post video footage of sporting events to online forums. Participants are allowed to post on blogs or Twitter, but the postings must be in a “first-person, diary-type format and should not be in the role of a journalist,” the guidelines state.

“They must not report on competition or comment on the activities of other participants or accredited persons, or disclose any information which is confidential or private in relation to any other person or organization,” the rules say.

NBC v. BBC: American and British Olympic Ideals

Both the British broadcaster BBC and the official American broadcaster NBC released their trailers for Olympics Coverage this past week.

The BBC went with the sweet electric voice of Ellie Goulding and a girl in gold going to a rooftop party for the Olympics Opening Ceremony:

I can understand them wanting to fit with the LOCOG’s idea of branding London and the UK in a new light. But I also love the fact that the girl gets dressed up to watch the opening ceremonies in real life as opposed to a TV. I mean…this is a TV commercial for primarily a sports event. But because the BBC is a public service broadcaster, the commercial is about getting the public excited that the Olympics are in their town.

NBC went with cheering, yelling, and Michael Phelps (also Ryan Lochte as a possible usurper!):

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Are You A Fan of the Olympics?

Chris Savage's Alternative Logo

via BBC’s alternative logo contest in 2007

Why?

Oh, sure, the sports. Surely that’s not it. You can go to local game. Or join a team and play yourself — or if you used to play, I bet you have some old tapes of you doing so. Maybe you can switch to digital and get nostalgic for an afternoon.

But no, it’s important to you to watch the OLYMPICS. IN LONDON. IN 2012 (only half a year left till the end of the world, everyone!).

Well, of course! It’s the most prominent, public international event ever — and definitely the most fun. In this case, a fan can be anyone who watches the Olympics for the sports, the athletes, or perhaps something else: the idea that playing games together brings the international community together. It’s an amazing display of diplomacy as associated with one of the top five things that makes us happy: sports.

Well, that’s supposed to be the point, but then McDonald’s is the official Olympic restaurant (?), NBC is going crazy over it being Michael Phelps’s last Olympics (!), and Saudi Arabia apparently has No Female Athletes — wait no now they do — wait, nevermind (?!). And then the LOCOG is telling fans they can’t make free commemorative pillows for the athletes, while Ryan Lochte is going to dazzle us all with his…swimming. Then there’s the IOC, who are like the Dumbledore of the Olympics (but only if you read the last book).

But what are the “medal-heads” in it for? Why are you a fan of the Olympics?