#nbcfail [Episode one-and-a-bit: The Opening]

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Chinese leader Mao Zedong's 1938 statement that "Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun" was true as far as it went- but it is important to understand that power, even tyrannical power, over ordinary people, can grow by investing and nurturing any form of power one happens to possess.

The Twitter hashtag #nbcfail, which became inextricably associated with the 2012 Olympic Games, was already being used at least two days before the Games started, when alert fans noticed that NBC's theoretically wonderful live multi-channel streaming of the sport would only be available to viewers with "a cable, satellite or telco TV subscription that includes MSNBC and CNBC" (and, in particular, was not offered as a special package deal or pay-per-view). By the end of opening day, 27 July 2012, many people found many other reasons to adopt the derogatory hashtag, and it remained in frequent use throughout the Games. Nonetheless, despite (or as some of the "all publicity is good publicity" persuasion might argue, because of) the continuing social media storm, the 2012 Olympics overall brought more viewers in the US than any other event, ever. As a direct result of that, they brought NBC both impressive revenues (30% up year-on-year, with a profit on the supposed "loss-leader" Olympic coverage) and huge promotional opportunities which seem to have paid off in the subsequent TV season.

And that is the nature of this particular tyranny. NBC was able to use its expensive monopoly agreement with the International Olympic Committee in any way it saw fit, and made the most of it for its own benefit. #nbcfail and #nbcconquest are tags for exactly the same series of events. Due to problems with Google Drive, I have given some of my webspace for Mark Snow's detailed analysis of the 2012 Olympic opening ceremony and cultural presentation, "... By strange conveyance ...", which contains various sections studying the ways NBC used its monopoly power at the very start of the Olympics on 27 July 2012, to its own ultimate advantage but to the disadvantage of ordinary American citizens (who, judging from online reactions, seem on average to have derived significantly less enjoyment from the show than viewers in other nations). Not only was the event time-delayed (this is unlikely to happen for Rio in 2016, unless the Brazilians try to start their Opening before European midnight) and riddled with commercial breaks; NBC also imposed its own ideas over the intentions of the London organisers, both positively in the commentary by Matt Lauer, Meredith Vieira and Bob Costas, and negatively in its omissions of material.

Here, under the copyright arrangements stipulated for Mark's study (see end of page; if any right-holder of material quoted by Mark objects to my use of it, I will of course remove it from this page), I have collected his main #nbcfail items together (with his additions to 19 March 2013):

Extracts from "... By strange conveyance ..." compiled by Mark Snow

The camerawork in Beijing had concentrated on the big picture (and the even bigger frame), with many wide shots and a fairly dignified pace of viewpoint changes. There certainly were some closer shots of individuals, particularly those who were performing within the "picture" area, but even those were more about composition than intimacy. London attempted, within its theme of creative disorder, to convey the scale of the event by rapid cutting between wide shots and many different close-ups. This, ironically, seems to have been the most upsetting aspect of the London presentation for American viewers, who of all people on the planet should be best able to cope with a fast-cutting style. Faced with, in effect, a combination of two completely different shows (fast-cutting drama with its propulsive soundtrack obscured by NBC commentary more suitable for the leisurely pace of Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade) many missed the emotion entirely and found the dynamic event "boring". Of course there's also the problem that fast intercutting is normally between different viewpoints on the same action, whereas the London Opening cut between shots which were often only conceptually related. / 93.9fm / am 820
London's Opening Ceremony Gets Rave Reviews; NBC, Not So Much
Saturday, July 28, 2012

NYCmom from New York City, Jul. 28 2012 08:42 PM
... Pathetic, intrusive and way too much commentary. I also hated the camerawork. Why are they afraid to just pull back and let us watch it unfold instead of unrelenting, disjointed close up filming? There sure were a ton of commercial breaks, too, that killed the flow. ...

Note there how the commenter implicitly blames NBC for the fast-cutting style!

Here's a small sample (about 77 seconds) from NBC's presentation of the Industrial Era ( based on screen-shot footage posted on Youtube by AllAccess181, )

[SHOW: aerial shot showing a large part of the arena, with the floor like a map of east London, including the great meander of the Thames at Greenwich]
No commentary
[SHOW: A platoon of elderly men in red military uniforms march past the camera]
Vieira: "All of the energies unleashed by the Industrial Revolution are now trained on the centre of the stage"
[SHOW: High-angle view of centre of the stage, where molten metal appears to be flowing}
Vieira: "And the forging, of a massive ring"
[SHOW: Molten metal appears to flow into a ring-shaped mould; this process, incidentally, should probably be called casting, not forging]
Lauer: "Here's one of the magic moments especially for the people"
[SHOW: Performers work on the mould for the new ring with large hammers]
Lauer continues: "actually uniquely for the people in the stadium tonight because not only are you watching"
[SHOW: More performers appear to drag the last of the molten metal along the channel into the mould with large paddles]
Lauer continues: "this ring being forged by these workers, but here in the stadium you can smell it."
[SHOW: Smoke billowing from the huge chimneys]
Lauer: "They have found a way to pump that smoke that sulfur smell that factory smell out to the 65,000-plus people in attendance.
[SHOW: Close-up on "Brunel" surveying the work with satisfaction.]
Lauer: "They're getting an eyeful an earful, and now a noseful.
Vieira: (Small laugh, pause) "The one time you want smellovision"
[SHOW: Back to workers at the mould, now in close-up; quickly followed by a tracking shot showing various machines at work, and lots of drummers (this was substituted by NBC- the original shot of workers in close-up had been longer. The same cuttting to wide shots happens during various long close-ups throughout the show., and is one of a few decent things NBC did with their transmission delay)]
No commentary
[SHOW: Men, women and children in clothes decorated with thousands of pearly buttons are shown parading.]
Lauer: Looking down there now and you can see the floor of the stadium what was once grass and maypoles is now,"
[SHOW: High angle shot, showing much of the arena floor, but somewhat obscured by smoke]
Lauer: "a rendition of, a map, of the city of London"
[SHOW: Another close-up of workers with hammers]
Lauer: "complete with the River Thames running through the middle of it"

Basically, when viewers needed context (explanations of appearances such as the red-coated Chelsea Pensioners, retired from the Army, or the Pearly Kings and Queens of London's East End) they got a rudimentary form of Audio Description of the main scene. No; hang on- it was worse than that. Because of the delayed broadcast, the commentary team had time to make notes on the individual shots, so again and again you hear them describing what will be seen in the NEXT shot.
Daily Kos
topic: NBC Didn't Show Us the Whole Olympic Ceremony - Updated with NBC response

28 Jul 2012, 01:00:05 PM PDT, vacantlook
That's what bothered me most about NBC's broadcast: most of the commentary was nothing but statements of the most obvious. "And now the smokestacks are rising." Really? Is that why they're going upward? I would have never known if they hadn't told me! And during the girl-loses-phone-and-finds-boy segment, Viera couldn't shut up about what music she herself listens to. And then there was the what-do-we-do-now setup to Mary Poppins arrival that for me just totally ruined the moment.

Not to mention ....
28 Jul 2012, 07:30:27 AM PDT, Giles Goat Boy
Worst comment of the night...
The delegation from Uganda enters the stadium, one NBC commentator reads from his notes that Winston Churchill called Uganda "The Pearl of Africa." Bob Costas then blurts out "Churchill never met Idi Amin...." Ba-dum-bum!
Freaking hilarious, Bob. I'm sure that's the image that Uganda wanted to present to the world considering Amin was exiled from Uganda in 1979 and has been dead for 9 years.
I hope the Ugandan commentators said something like "...and here comes the United States. Remember they had legalized slavery until the 1860s, legalized racial segregation until the 1960s, and they still imprison a disproportionately large percentage of African-Americans! Good luck to them!"

No hang on, it was even worse than that! The first, and most fundamental aspect of #nbcfail was the delayed broadcast, which simply failed to acknowledge that the USA is part of the world. As a result, the land of the free was locked within itself for several hours while people partied together via television and social media in Singapore and Sydney, Toronto and Tokyo, Reykjavik and Rio, Lisbon, Leipzig, Lille and especially London. Woe betide any American who tried using a smartphone or computer during those hours- unless of course they were sneakily tapping into live TV feeds from Canada or the BBC. There's a major difference between knowing vaguely that James Bond will be featured somewhere, and knowing in detail, with Instagrams to prove it, that he and the Queen are seen parachuting from a helicopter over the stadium. This led to some interesting direction of blame:
Expat Mum: Observations from the U.S. of A. (blog)
NBC massacres the Olympics Opening Ceremony
29 Jul 2012

... Piers Morgan (in London) took to Twitter and, despite his Translaticness knowing that American Tweeps couldn't yet watch the proceedings, tweeted the big surprise about who would be lighting the torch! If there was a twit and a wazzock of the 2012 Olympics, it wasn't Mitt Romney as the newspapers claimed, it was feckin' stupid Piers Morgan. Unbelievable.
Montreal Gazette
NBC upsets Olympics fans by running opening ceremony on tape delay
by David Bauder (Associated Press)
28 Jul 2012

... NBC Sports spokesman Christopher McCloskey said the ceremonies “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 prime-time audiences that gather together to watch them.”
CNN’s Piers Morgan, who was tweeting details about the ceremony in the late afternoon, tweeted shortly before 7:30 p.m. ET: “Laughable that America is yet to start watching the Olympic ceremony on TV. Seriously.” ...

Piers was just expressing in philosophical terms what every network news broadcast, including NBC's own, and every news liveblog or Twitter feed, again including NBC's own, was making very apparent. A live event is a live event, and you can't just pretend that it's not happening. Hence Americans knew almost as soon as everybody else, for example, what the spark-showering Olympic Rings looked like, because stills or short clips were shown in news bulletins- but not until hours later did they see the quarter-hour drama which created those Rings, a quarter-hour which they spent waiting for the shot they had already seen.
Wall Street Journal
The Daily Fix- Opening Ceremonies: Still Quite Delayed
by Shira Ovide
23 Jul 2012

“We are live streaming every sporting event, all 32 sports and 302 medals,” said Gary Zenkel, president of NBC Olympics. “It was never our intent to live stream the Opening Ceremony or Closing Ceremony.”
Mr. Zenkel also said the opening ceremony is not a sporting event with a score or a winner that is difficult to keep secret, but rather an entertainment spectacle that should be seen by family and friends gathered around the TV in prime-time hours.
NBC’s Mr. Zenkel has said he knows people are going to turn to services such as Twitter for an unvarnished look at the Games, and the Comcast Corp. unit plans to seed links to stoke excitement for TV viewing.
“They are complex entertainment spectacles that do not translate well online because they require context,” said Mr. Zenkel. “We will be providing clips and highlights of each ceremony online so viewers know what to look forward to in prime time on NBC.”
NBC Nightly News
27 Jul 2012

[Includes shots of the Guardian and Daily Telegraph front pages for the next morning's editions, with the Olympic Rings image. Newscaster describes it as "part of the pyrotechnic show inside the stadium tonight" and brief footage of the moment, with cascading fire, is shown as the newscaster confirms there will also be "an unusual James Bond moment, and a first for the Queen of England"- video of Bond's discreet cough in the presence of the Queen is shown.]
NBCOlympics’ Opening Ceremony Tape Delay: Stupid, Stupid, Stupid
by Ryan Lawlor
27 Jul 2012

Now, tape delays are nothing new, but they do seem archaic at a time when online video and social media bring an air of immediacy to live events. The existence of the NBC Olympics Twitter account is evidence of this, but the account seems totally misused in this case: NBC live tweeted the whole ceremony, with no apparent sense of irony around the fact that its target audience couldn’t actually watch the events it was describing. Instead of building excitement around the ceremony, and engaging with its viewers, all NBC ended up doing was frustrating its audience ...


[27 Jul 2012]: Juan Carlos
In México we saw it live. It's amazing yhat the dinosaurs that run NBC have made such an idiotic decision

[28 Jul 2012]: Prasannaa Ravi
... Its not 1980. Its 2012 ... In my country, they showed the event at 1.00 in the morning. I still watched it. And they are going to show the edited/highlighted version that evening.

[29 Jul 2012]: Tony Grossman · Senior Integrated Producer at Leo Burnett PR
... there is something to be said for the shared experience, and that's all fine and good for those that want to share it in prime time in the US. BUT if we wanted to watch it live (which is actually kind of exciting, and also a SHARED worldwide experience), we COULDN'T because NBC had exclusive US rights. There was no official live stream, just a ridiculous NBC twitter feed. So US residents were forced to either find a pirated live stream, or wait for NBC's packaged event coverage that featured the insanely clueless team of Matt and Meredith. It is 2012, but its NBC that still thinks its 1980. ...

Hang on yet again- it was even worserer than that! NBC broadcast most of the show in "pretend real time", so that some inconvenient moments (and quite a few parading nations) could disappear into the commercial breaks. Among these were the Arctic Monkeys rocker "I Bet You Look Good on the Dance Floor", the Sex Pistols' "Pretty Vacant" and, at the opposite end of the apple-pie scale: / 93.9fm / am 820
London's Opening Ceremony Gets Rave Reviews; NBC, Not So Much
Saturday, July 28, 2012

28 Jul 2012, 04:19 PM, Brian from Olympia, WA
Most of all, they cut out the taking of the oath by all Olympian participants. This is something that should have been shown so that all athletes of the future can learn from the best that good sportsmanship is also part of the game.
Expat Mum: Observations from the U.S. of A. (blog)
NBC massacres the Olympics Opening Ceremony
29 Jul 2012

Bearing in mind that the entire thing was pre-recorded, our commentators kept saying "While you were away..." then telling us what we'd missed; as if, a) we had gone to make a cup of tea when really, we'd been sitting still, waiting patiently for the ceremony to return, and b) it was not a pre-recorded event and they couldn't have shown us anything they wanted to.
Outrage At NBC For Cutting Olympic Music

... 24 ad breaks were shown during the broadcast. The twitter hashtag #NBCsucks became a trending topic when US viewers realised they would not be able to see the full event, according to NME. ...
Wall Street Journal
Zombie Blog: NBC’s Opening Ceremony
Jeremy Gordon offers commentary from Chicago, Christina Binkley from Los Angeles, and Geoff Foster and Sara Germano from New York.
28 Jul 2012

2:33 am [during the Parade of Nations], by Jeremy Gordon
Lauer says "We'll be right back after this" as we cut away and go to commercial -- so, wait, is he narrating to a tape delay? There are so many wormholes of spatial possibilities.

[Bear in mind also that NBC insisted on showing the ceremony in primetime on the west coast too- three hours later still:]
2:36 am, by Christina Binkley, in Olympics-less LA
My friend Maggie in Shanghai just posted to her Facebook that she's watching the Opening Ceremony. So that just makes just me and the entire MIDWEST AND WEST COAST that has to wait another hour. NBC, I have a beef with you.
ScreenRant: TV & Movie News Without The Sugar Coating
2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony – How Did NBC Do?
by Anthony Ocasio
c28 Jul 2012

Continuously cutting to commercials throughout, the subtle, nuanced program that Danny Boyle planned out was all but eviscerated, as a need to recoup some of the money spent on the Olympic rights took its toll on a ceremony that the world was raving about just hours before.
London Olympics: The Most Embarrassing Opening Ceremony?
Anthony Wing Kosner ("I explore the art and science of producing and consuming content")
27 Jul 2012

[comment] Maythinee Washington c1 Aug 2012
Wow. I wonder if there’s a difference in terms of NBC vs. BBC coverage and I wonder too about the influence of whatever commentary was done. Because I’m a finicky American, and I watched it here in London (on the BBC) with an international audience that included many other Americans. And I unabashedly LOVED IT as did the people round me- including the other Americans. I thought it was beautiful, thoughtful, and heartwarming. I loved that it celebrated so many of the contributions to a global popular culture in music, literature, etc. And I tend to deem myself a tough critic. I just felt I needed to comment because I’m very curious about that issue of coverage and of audience environment.

Adam Smith, the first great philosopher of capitalism, was not at all keen on monopolies, except as a way to get new ventures off the ground (e.g. the granting of limited-term patents on inventions). In his day the big bugbear was the East India Company, but the principle behind the Olympic deal with broadcasters is the same: to aid long-term planning, quality control comes second to financial guarantees. So, congratulations to London for putting on a Games that continued the trend of rising Olympic ratings for NBC ( ).
Yahoo Canada: Eh Game
Gold medal for Canadian broadcasters: London 2012 opening ceremony sets record with 16.6 million viewers
by Don Landry
29 Jul 2012

"Not so fast, though.

If there was the notion that showing the ceremony live, much earlier than prime time, would harm the Canadian broadcast consortium that showed the event in this country, that notion is dead.

An average audience of 6.4 million watched the show and, overall, 16.6 million tuned in at some point, according to a media release from the broadcast consortium. The latter number, of course, is about half of everybody in Canada. Those are records for summer Olympic viewing in Canada, besting the opening ceremony for the 1996 games of Atlanta."

Extracts from Mark Snow's timeline of the show (h-m:s)

4:10: "Jerusalem" sung by choirboy in audience as rural life continues,

American viewers may like to know that most of the world saw more of the "green and pleasant land" during the singing; NBC's coverage spent a fair amount of time showing British power couple David and Samantha Cameron (and some other presumable VIPs behind them).

...followed by 3 other national songs (film inserts from scenic locations in Ireland, Scotland and Wales), all juxtaposed with scenes of the nations' Rugby triumphs

Off-screen recording ( by logan jones at ) shows that NBC also had commentary over about half of the Irish choir's rendition of the Londonderry Air.

7:50: Kenneth Branagh, in the character of 19th century engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel recites a speech by the character Caliban from William Shakespeare's "The Tempest"

On the BBC DVD he gets a caption explaining that he's supposed to be Brunel; but for the live broadcast no caption was provided, so individual broadcasters had to make their own arrangements with the help of the Media Guide. The BBC chose to make a quick explanation of the speaker and the speech immediately after Branagh had finished; NBC put up a helpful caption saying "Kenneth Branagh", and cut to commercial immediately after he had finished.

Second to the Right, and Straight on Till Morning

34:30: the audience pixels show a heart-monitor pulse circling the stadium; announcement "Please welcome Mike Oldfield, with the staff of the United Kingdom's National Health Service and our very special guests this evening, patients and staff from Great Ormond Street Hospital."

The announcements in both French and English use the words "National Health Service" and "Great Ormond Street Hospital" so there's not much excuse for missing the significance of the initials "GOSH" and "NHS" displayed in the next few minutes, unless your local TV commentators talked over them. Oh .... really? NBC? Well that is a surprise ...

Frankie and June

52:55: as mum & son move from car to house, weather forecast is heard, and seen on top screens (and some audience pixels show lightning); forecaster then appears full-screen, assuring viewers that a hurricane is not about to hit Britain

53:07: cloudburst from the inflatable cloud over the house, mum hurries in (boy remains on doorstep with pocket video game)
music: "Black and White Rag" played by Winifred Atwell on her Other Piano (reminiscent of silent comedy music; more recently known in the UK as the theme to former long-running snooker show "Pot Black")

At this point occurred a notorious (but actually widely misunderstood) #nbcfail. Let's take a closer look (with the help of NMWebstudio's little clip: ):

[SHOW: Mini car, with number-plate TBL 2012, pulls up, old-fashioned British radio music playing]
Lauer: you the opening ceremony divided into major sections we have already seen the transformation the transition from the agrarian era in this country, to the industrial revolution we're in the middle of another transition now, one that we're actually still living through
Vieira: (little laugh-type sound)
Lauer: this from industrial to the digital age
[SHOW: woman and boy have got out of car and walk]
Vieira: Yeah the title of this section is "Frankie and June say Thanks, Tim"- Tim being Englishman Tim Berners-Lee if you haven't heard of him, we haven't either.
[SHOW: as woman reaches house, voice of a British TV weather presenter is heard (almost completely drowned out by Vieira's next comment); he appears full-screen for a moment.]
Lauer: (short laugh)
Vieira: (stumbles) You certainly know what he's credited with creating however, the World Wide Web.
[SHOW: Silent-comedy type piano music plays- also buried in the NBC sound mix- as a fluffy inflatable cloud above the house provides a deluge.]
Vieira: Frankie and June are the characters in this ...

If you study the transcript above, you'll see that the basis of the widespread complaints at the time (Meredith Vieira's apparent ignorance) was itself slightly flawed. Vieira was aware that Berners-Lee is "credited with creating" the World Wide Web, so clearly she had heard of him (she could not fail to, as the official Opening Media Guide provided a very straightforward summary). It may be that she and Lauer had decided to make a subtle point about the real, somewhat complex story of the web's practical development, most of which took place in the United States (hence perhaps the later suggestion to Google him). However the mendacious "if you haven't heard of him, we haven't either" is the opposite of subtle, and it's blatantly disrespectful to a man who has spent decades encouraging the development of the Web, and the freedoms it represents.

The real point of my transcript, though, is to make it clear that the commentators are also being blatantly disrespectful towards the ceremony itself. In just 15 seconds they managed both to ruin a joke by talking over it, and to reveal the identity of Tim, thus hinting at a personal appearance (as indeed occurred in typically unpredictable fashion a frenetic quarter of an hour later, his name and significance being clearly stated at the appropriate moment by the stadium announcers).

57:30: music change to the Rolling Stones "I Can't Get No Satisfaction" (1965, UK #1, US #1; also #2 in the "Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Songs of All Time" [2004, 2010]) (footage of them shown on big house, after a brief shot of comedian Tommy Cooper)
Letters From Hannah, blog (she's American, and her likes include "shenanigans")
Keep Calm and Corgi On-With Kenneth Branagh. At the Olympics.

“My Generation” by the Who! Love it! They have NAILED the soundtrack. But now Meredith Viera is singing-oh please no!

1-00:40: as patterns within dance star continue to flow; music changes to Sex Pistols "Pretty Vacant" (1977, UK #6); close up (in red half-light) of weird black-clad punk figures, with huge model heads, pogoing on spring-heels

[NBC cuts to commercials here, and, despite not being live, returns to the show at the end of the Sex Pistols segment]

1-02:25: music, Soul II Soul ft. Caron Wheeler "Back to Life (however do you want me)" (1989; UK #1, Netherlands #1, Sweden #3, Switzerland #2, US #4) as we return to the house, where the young lad is trying on a dress

[On NBC, Matt and Meredith chose this moment to begin a lengthy "explanation" of the audience pixels: "One more thing I don't understand" says the pretend-ditz]

1-05:10: music, intro to Dizzee Rascal "Bonkers" (2009; UK #1, Belgium #6, Australia #13- but it ended up with Platinum sales there) as the party invite goes rather viral

1-05:15: Dizzee shown live as he starts his spiel
Bonkers lyrics

I wake up everyday it's a daydream
Everything in my life ain't what it seems
I wake up just to go back to sleep

All sorts of people (but not those watching NBC, for whom Lauer and Vieira helpfully talked over a substantial portion of the song's beginning) quickly spotted something there:
quiteirregular (blog)
29 Jul 2012
Caliban and Brunel: Kenneth Branagh’s Speech at the Olympics Opening Ceremony

Duncan, July 29, 2012 at 4:37 pm
Caliban’s words were picked up towards the end of the evening by another artist: “I wake up just to go back to sleep” from Bonkers by Dizzee Rascal.

quiteirregular, August 5, 2012 at 5:31 pm
A very suggestive one if it is! Great spot…

1-08:00: as we approach the house, it rises into the air, revealing not partygoers, but an office desk

Continuing the #nbcfail from the start of this section: (see from Tammy Kerschner)

[SHOW: Camera moves towards small house]
Lauer: You know we told you a little bit earlier about the title of this, "Frankie and June Say Thanks, Tim".
[SHOW: House begins to rise]
Lauer: That refers to Tim Berners-Lee we mentioned as the creator of the World Wide Web,
[SHOW: A person sitting at a desk begins to be revealed]
Lauer continued: and in just a second as the house is raised you will see the man himself.

Do houses routinely get raised into the air to introduce the guests on US chat shows or something? We just saw about 300 people entering this little house; now we see it rising into the air with all the partygoers apparently vanished, but NBC don't care- they just want to tell us what the next surprise will be. Yet again, they put a damper on one moment while giving a spoiler for another.

1-09:00: the stadium announcers introduce Tim, and he waves to the crowd

[NBC trims Tim's appearance, and ends it here]

1-09:25: filmed sequence, focusing first on the 1948 Games (including a shot of then-Princess Elizabeth in the audience), then showing scenes from the 2012 torch relay- very fast cutting, but very heartwarming. music: David Holmes (from Belfast) "I heard Wonders" (2008, album track).

[this section was omitted by NBC]

1-12:25: shots of torch-bearer on the London Eye ferris wheel (not in, on- perched atop one of the passenger pods)

1-12:35: the Eye by night, then Tower Bridge by night, rapidly approached by a dramatically-lit speedboat

[NBC cut directly to this speedboat shot from Tim Berners-Lee, which in my opinion digs a surprisingly large hole in the thematic progress of the presentation]

1-13:45: shots of boat & Tower Bridge & Beckham

[I think we get another commercial on NBC just after this point- certainly the following announcement is not heard:]

1-13:50: aerial pull-away from boat, followed by aerial shot of Stadium, as we hear announcer, "Ladies and gentlemen; please pause to respect our memorial wall, for friends and family of those in the stadium, that can not be here tonight. Thank-you."

Abide With Me

1:14:20: screen shows montage of hundreds of photos of individuals, none identified, but including, according to press reports, all 52 who died in the 7/7 bombings.

This sequence, with the subsequent singing of "Abide With Me" was not aired by NBC, who showed instead an interview with Michael Phelps
Daily Kos
topic: NBC Didn't Show Us the Whole Olympic Ceremony - Updated with NBC response

Cali Scribe on Sat Jul 28, 2012 at 09:36:00 AM PDT
When they went to the Phelps interview, I commented on that to the spouse, who said, "There's probably not much going on right now." Little did we know.
NBC Cut A Memorial Tribute To A Dead U.S. Marine From Its Opening Ceremony Telecast. Here’s His Story.
Timothy Burke
Aug 23, 2012

Three weeks ago we brought you the story of U.S. Air Force Academy cadet Andrew Chin. Chin's friends and family submitted his photo to be included in a memorial segment of the London Olympics opening ceremony, only for them to realize when the program aired on NBC in tape delay that the memorial segment had been edited out. ... We noted in that piece another U.S. serviceman, a Marine, could be seen in the Wall of Remembrance section and that we were working to identify him. Today, we can, as well as identifying another American NBC cut out of the opening ceremony broadcast in the name of "tailoring programming to its American audience."
There were probably other Americans featured in the opening ceremony memorial whose friends or family eagerly gathered to see their departed loved one, only to have NBC cut the minute-long segment out in order to make room for a Ryan Seacrest interview of Michael Phelps. If you know them, tell us their story.

1-15:05: the great bell sounds, heralding the dance by Akram Khan, initially just to a heartbeat rhythm, with the "sun" disc sliding slowly above, then Emeli Sandé, now live, starts singing acapella, later joined by quiet strings, which fade again towards the end
CNN International
London 2012 Olympics Live Blog
27-28 Jul 2012

22:18 BST, Jonathan Stevenson
'Abide With Me' is sung quite beautifully inside the Olympic Stadium in London by Emeli Sande. Spine-tinglingly beautiful, as a matter of fact.

22:18 BST, fulmerspot
Abide with me. Tears welling.

22:20 BST, rmt1982
This is fantastic. I'm actually crying at this. I'm 29 years old, and I'm crying like a little child. This is beautiful

The Parade of Nations

1-20:40: parade starts

A final neat trick was used at the end of the parade, where instead of fireworks after the marching was finished, London had a live rock performance which began while half of Team GB were still on the track (so people could still wave at the athletes as they passed, rather than gazing skyward). Total time to this point from the parade announcement was about 1 hour and 40 minutes- still 10 minutes longer than the organisers had hoped for, but so fast that NBC's Bob Costas (who replaced Meredith Vieira from the parade onward) actually made a lighthearted complaint about not having time to say everything he wanted. Mind you, NBC had a trick or two of their own:
Oh No They Didn't (ONTD)
Olympic Opening Ceremony 2012: Best and Worst Moments from London Extravaganza!

sparkfactory 28th-Jul-2012 07:28 pm (UTC)
omg it was so bad, and they were skipping countries during the parade of nations by being like ~oh here's what you missed during the commercials~ when it was pre-recorded and they could've let every country have their moment. flop network tbh
NBC Olympics Coverage of Parade of Nations 'Ruined' by Commercials, Commentary?
Christian Post
By Nicola Menzie , Christian Post Reporter
July 27, 2012|10:46 pm

U.S. viewers who tuned into NBC's coverage of the 2012 Olympics in London Friday night were displeased by the commentary provided by Bob Costas and felt the constant commercial breaks "ruined" the much-anticipated "Parade of Nations" segment.

"Memo to NBC: New #openingceremony rule: No commercials during Parade of Nations. Let us enjoy the geography lesson w/o the network promos," tweeted @edatpost.

Elizabeth Gunther (@scifigirl1986) added: "Seriously. I'm all for politics, but can't we leave them out of the parade of nations? Pakistan may not be our friend, but come on."

Bike am

3-01:25: with half of Team GB not yet in the assembly area, the announcers speak
3-01:35: Arctic Monkeys begin

References in this song, "I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor" (2005, an instant #1 in the UK) to 1984 seem to indicate the actual year, not the famous novel which George Orwell finished writing in the Olympic year of 1948, but Arctic Monkeys are as good as anybody when it comes to triple-meaning lyrics.

- bursts of fireworks round the stadium roof accompany each chorus of the song

Let the Games Begin

3-24:45: introducing Sir Steve Redgrave, and a kiss of torches, then he runs towards the stadium

[apparently there was another commercial on NBC at this point]

3-25:55: the Olympic oaths begin, athlete, then judge, then trainer

3-28:20: the oaths end; pause for effect & announcements

[welcome back, US viewers]

There Is A Light That Never Goes Out

3-34:55: the cauldron is lit

3-35:50: the petals rise

[NBC choose this moment to discuss the fact that the cauldron is not sited where it can be seen from outside the stadium]

During discussions in February 2013, I tried the experiment of comparing the official Olympic Broadcasting Services (YouTube Olympic channel) presentation of the cauldron lighting with NBC's ( ). Here's what I found:

[VISUAL]: The young athletes turn off the running track towards the heart of the stadium
[STADIUM SOUND]: Most elements of the music fade away, leaving a repeated falling six-note sequence dominated by synth strings (meant to suggest the similar sequence of notes rung on church bells for celebrations, and already heard in the later stages of "Pandemonium").
[OBS COMMENTARY (Barry Davies)]: "I should tell you that when the competing delegations arrived in London, they each received a copper petal, we saw them being carried around during the Parade. Those petals are inscribed with the name of their country and the words 'XXX Olympiad, London 2012' "
[NBC COMMENTARY (Lauer)]: "Now these young athletes will move to the centre of the stadium, passing through the heart of the athletes gathered from all two hundred and four nations."

[VISUAL]: The youngsters reach the open area containing the cauldron
[STADIUM SOUND]: Over the continuing six-note sequence, the great Olympic Bell chimes once
[OBS COMMENTARY]: [after the bell] "They will now have a part to play, as the bell, the Olympic Bell, rings out."

[VISUAL]: The youngsters arrive at the cauldron, and turn to display their torches
[STADIUM SOUND]: The synth strings fade, and we hear the same six-note sequence played repeatedly on actual, very small bells
[NBC COMMENTARY (Lauer)]: "Copper leaves we talked about that were brought in with each delegation, and were placed, at the center of the stadium; [pause] now, in that array, will play a prominent role here."

[VISUAL]: The youngsters lower their torches to their chosen individual petals on the cauldron
[STADIUM SOUND]: Still the six-note sequence dominated by small bells
[NBC COMMENTARY (Costas)]: "Each of the seven igniting a single flame within one of the copper petals."

[VISUAL]: The seven petals catch fire, and the flames begin to race around the outermost of the five concentric rings
[STADIUM SOUND]: Still the six-note sequence dominated by small bells, but getting quieter. Just after the flames start their race, there are some whistles and applause from the audience. Shortly after the first ring is completely lit, the Olympic Bell rings again.
[OBS COMMENTARY]: "Well those copper petals are now alive, and are the cauldron of the London [Bell rings at this point, Davies pauses a beat] 2012 Games. [longer pause] In a very different way, fire, has brought life, to the games."
[NBC COMMENTARY (Costas)]: "And that will shortly trigger the ignition of more than two hundred of them."

[VISUAL]: The rings are fully lit, and then the petals begin to rise
[STADIUM SOUND]: The six-note sequence fades away, the audience applauds and cheers as the petals start to rise, and a soprano voice starts singing a slow, wordless, rising tune (which had earlier been part of the backing to the main "Caliban's Dream" song)
[NBC COMMENTARY (Lauer)]: "Bob, in cities in the past, the Olympic Cauldron has been placed high atop the stadium, [(Costas responds) "Mh-hmh"] so that it was visible in the surrounding area; and unless something dramatic happens and this, does a lotta rising, this will be, near the floor of the stadium."

[VISUAL]: The rise of the petals finishes, and the flame is turned up, so brightly that it threatens to leave a permanent mark on the image tubes of some audience video-cameras.
[STADIUM SOUND]: The soprano tune ends on a falling note, sustained and fading away. As the flame is then turned up, the audience applauds and cheers.
[OBS COMMENTARY]: [over the audience cheers] "A very spectacular sight in the end."
[NBC COMMENTARY (Lauer)]: "And those two hundred copper leaves now form, the Olympic Cauldron."

[OBS VISUAL]: Various shots of the cauldron, the flame from below, etc.
[NBC VISUAL]: The cauldron, gradually zooming out to show some of the surrounding mass of athletes, with a brief cutaway to a close-up of some female members of Team USA [I think these visual changes were a good idea, except that focusing on US athletes breaks the principle of neutrality for the "protocol" elements of the ceremony]
[STADIUM SOUND]: A long, low, synth note, building in intensity
[NBC COMMENTARY]: "Tears in the eyes of some of the athletes"

Davies spoke a total of 95 words, by my word-processor's reckoning. The NBC total, 151 words, plus one "Mh-hmh". They mentioned copper objects (leaves to Matt, petals to Bob) three times, and the number two hundred, three times (plus, of course, all the times earlier in the evening when they had stated how many nations were taking part). Matt thought the climax of the ceremony (rather than the post-show discussion) an appropriate point to raise the question of the cauldron's location. Note also that, apart from the number, the copper, and the 45-word cauldron-site comment, nearly all the NBC commentary is actually just describing what can be seen on screen (by the way, the BBC commentary, which had become increasingly garrulous in the later stages of the evening, came in at 140 words for this section).

Although NBC's policy of promoting its fall (autumn) shows during the Olympics paid handsomely, there just weren't enough watchable shows in the network's portfolio to keep the momentum going:
Deadline Hollywood
NBC To Finish 5th In Sweeps For First Time; Network Falls Behind Univision
Dominic Patten
21 Feb 2013

For the first time in sweeps history, the network is projected to finish fifth in the key adults 18-49 demographic. That’s a crushing blow for NBC, which went from flying high in November with a sweep win & Steve Burke breaking his usual silence last fall to brag to the New York Times about the network’s performance to its shows cratering and ratings plunging. ... it is the first time the Spanish-language network has beaten NBC ...


... By strange conveyance ...

lots of stuff about That Opening Ceremony

compiler: Mark Snow

Draft 0.8; compilation & linking text © 2012/3, Mark Snow

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