The Summer Games have wrapped up after reminding us of the value of the Olympics in fostering the ideal of a global family.
The North Country, of course, has a warm place in its heart for the Olympics since Lake Placid has twice hosted the Winter Games: in 1932 and 1980. The village is still alive with activity year-round, partly due to the fame it achieved from those competitions.
Every four years, the Olympics seem to grow in spectacle and viewership. The recently concluded Summer Olympics in London set a record as the most-watched “event” in American television history, with NBC reporting that 219.4 million people saw at least six minutes during the 17 days of competition. Prime-time coverage averaged 31.1 million people per night. It was the most-watched Olympics staged outside the United States since 1976, according to industry reports.
But criticism of the broadcast is growing along with viewership. As the world becomes increasingly more technology-oriented and as social media claims a bigger role in the spread of information, more grumbling is heard about the tape delays used by NBC to save the best U.S. moments for prime time. By the time the network got around to broadcasting some of the events, most people with an Internet connection already knew the results. You can’t keep secrets from a world that demands its information right now.
NBC certainly can’t be blamed for trying to make the most of its investment. The network pays an enormous amount for the rights to broadcast the games. Last year, NBC signed a $4.38 billion contract with the International Olympic Committee to broadcast the 2014, 2016, 2018 and 2020 games. But you have to wonder how long the network will be able to sustain its broadcast-delay strategy.
The Olympic Games is said to have started in 776 BC in Olympia, Greece, as one short footrace. Now, more than 70 countries compete in a multitude of events. And though it is surely a competition — who didn’t feel some national pride at the medal-leading performance of Team USA? — it is also a vivid example of how nations can get together in a spirit of camaraderie and caring.
The strongest and finest athletes of every country meet in friendship — a easy mix of races, cultures and viewpoints — in the Olympic Village and on “battlefields” of water, land and air where violence and politics have no place.
It is idealistic to believe that that sense of global community could spread through the whole world, but as we watch the emotions of competitors, and see how alike we really all are, one can’t help but hope.