The Joys And Pains Of Covering The Olympics

My name is Tim Lewis and I love the Olympics. I’m not afraid to admit it. I don’t care if it’s the summer or winter games; the Olympics grab my attention for two weeks every four years — and they refuse to let go. The competition, the athletes, the stories, the emotion — I love it all. The Olympics are what sports should really be about.

Tim Lewis KOMO In London

Me in front of an Olympic countdown clock in London

The Olympics do what most sporting events can’t — they flow out of the sports world into normal society. Take my mom for example: she won’t sit around watching Major League Baseball, but she’ll watch Olympic diving. If I say the name Albert Pujols in front of her, she thinks I’m making up some childish name; if I bring up Michael Phelps, she knows exactly who I’m talking about. The Olympics just seem to bring everyone, from all walks of life, and from every country, together like no other sporting event can.

My love for the Olympics started when I was a kid. I was absolutely addicted to the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway. I remember the athletes (speed skater Johann Olav Koss from Norway, figure skater Oksana Bauil from Ukraine, downhill skier Alberto Tomba from Italy, etc.) and the storylines (American speed skater Dan Jansen going for his first gold medal and, of course, the Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan situation). I watched countless hours of those Olympics, and was truly bummed when they came to an end. The next Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, couldn’t come soon enough.

That was then — this is now. There’s plenty of frustration covering the Olympics. I don’t say this to complain; I only say this to explain what I’m going through. NBC makes it impossible for local news stations to cover the Olympics. They pay a ton of money for the rights to the games, so I understand why they’re so protective. At the same time, NBC severely limits the Olympics’ reach. Ryan Lochte won the 400m individual medley yesterday afternoon (Pacific Time), and thanks to the internet and social media we all knew that right away. NBC didn’t show the race until their primetime coverage, meaning hours and hours and hours later. That just isn’t conducive to society today. Everything is immediate — not tape delayed.

The other thing that stinks about the Olympics is the restrictions on the highlights we can show. I have a sporstscast every night at 5pm, 6pm and 11pm. I can’t show any Olympics highlights until NBC’s coverage of the games is done for the day. Their coverage ends at midnight — every single night. That means I can’t show Lochte — or anyone else for that matter — winning a gold medal until the following day. At that point, Lochte’s gold medal is really old news (and chances are he’s already won another medal in a different event by then). That means you won’t see me showing many Olympics highlights, which is unfortunate because these athletes deserve all the attention they can get.

Ariana Kukors From Auburn, Washington

Ariana Kukors (on the right in light blue) at her Olympic sendoff

Unlike professional athletes, Olympians only have a chance to shine every four years. That’s crazy when you think about it, especially when they have such a small window to qualify. Take swimmer Ariana Kukors for example: She made it to the 200m individual medley finals of the US Olympic Swim Trials back in 2008. Only the top two finishers in every swimming final advanced to the Beijing Olympics. Kukors finished third — just eight-hundredths of a second (less than the time it takes the average human to blink) behind the second place finisher. That was her tiny window, and she missed it. Kukors had to wait four long years for another chance. She made the most of her second opportunity though, qualifying for the London Olympics.

Stories like Kukors are what make the Olympics so special. We’re introduced to incredible athletes like American Lopez Lomong. A long-distance runner, Lomong was born in Sudan. At just six-years-old he was abducted by rebels during a brutal civil war in his country. After unspeakable treatment, Lomong eventually escaped from the rebels’ hands and ran for three days through the African wilderness toward safety. After making it to Kenya, Lomong lived in a refugee camp for nearly ten years, making him one of the “Lost Boys of the Sudan.” After writing an essay in 2001 about what he would accomplish if he lived in the United States, Lomong was given a chance to come to America. He became a citizen in 2007, and he’s now competing for the US in the 5000m race in London. How can you not root for this guy?

I won’t be glued to the television over the next two weeks, but I’ll definitely be watching the Olympics. I’m sure there will be several times I’m lured into watching an event I know nothing about like canoe slalom or water polo — it happens every Olympics. I’ll enjoy every second of those obscure events, say to myself “I should watch more of this when the Olympics are over,” never watch those sports after that, get reeled right back in four years later, and then start the cycle all over again. I guess that means I’ll always love the Olympics, but I’m more than OK with that.

Are you a fan of the Olympics? What is your favorite event(s)? Who is your favorite Olympic athlete? I want to hear from you! Please leave a comment below or connect with me on Twitter, Facebook and Google+. You can also find me on LinkedIn, YouTube and Pinterest. In other words, you have no reason not to reach out. Let’s talk about the Olympics!

Comments

  1. Kellie says:

    Hi Tim :)
    My solution to your problem…work in Canada! CTV paid $63 mil and is broadcasting the Olympics live!
    NBC paid $1.8 bil for almost everyone to watch it on tape delay! CTV ran opening of the Olympics live and then on a tape delay for those who couldn’t watch it live! CTV rocks and well NBC…
    Kellie:)

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  1. [...] you want to root for someone in the Olympics, make it Ariana Kukors. I met her yesterday while covering her send-off for my television station [...]

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