Saturday, February 8, 2014


NBC is notorious for some rather heavy editing in its coverage of the Olympics, and nowhere is this more visible than in the Opening and Closing Ceremonies. Americans with sufficient Internet savvy, who have not been supplied a live feed by NBC, rush at the appointed hour to find a foreign feed, either straightforwardly or using an unblocking app, so that they can watch the ceremonies live with the rest of the world... and then they tune in to NBC later in the night for what can only be described as a hatewatch. They want to see exactly how badly NBC butchered the raw feed, what they left out, what they replaced with interviews and reaction shots of American athletes, how much and how insensitively they talk over what it is that they do air, and when they catch something that NBC missed, they make sure to let the people who didn't see a live feed know all about it.

I didn't catch a live feed of the Opening Ceremony, so I'm relying on the reactions of others here, but from what I gather, NBC, while they did cut content, actually didn't cut nearly as much as they have been in recent Olympiads. Far from the virtual gutting of London's Opening Ceremony, in Sochi it appears that not all that much actually got cut. While in Vancouver, Uzbekistan was left off camera in the Parade of Nations, and Barbados and Ukraine suffered the same fate in London, this time NBC managed not only to get every nation on camera but to actually feature them, as opposed to their usual 'while we were away' montage of several minor delegations in succession coming back from commercial breaks.

That said, things did get cut. One thing cut was a choir of Russian officers singing 'Get Lucky' by Daft Punk, though NBC would explain to the Los Angeles Times that this was considered part of the pre-show and not the ceremony proper. A portion of IOC head Thomas Bach's address to the athletes was also cut; the linked article can fill you in there, and that appears to be taking the brunt of the ire from viewers.

I, however, wish to note something else that was cut: the oaths. Between the segments featuring the spinning dancing 'jellyfish' and the athlete constellations, an athlete, a judge and a coach, all from the host nation, took the oaths in which they pledge to play fair, on behalf of the rest of the participants.

The athlete's oath, taken ever since Antwerp 1920, reads: "In the name of all the competitors I promise that we shall take part in these Olympic Games, respecting and abiding by the rules which govern them, committing ourselves to a sport without doping and without drugs, in the true spirit of sportsmanship, for the glory of sport and the honor of our teams."

The judge's oath, taken since Munich 1972, reads: "In the name of all the judges and officials, I promise that we shall officiate in these Olympic Games with complete impartiality, respecting and abiding by the rules which govern them in the true spirit of sportsmanship."

The coaches' oath, first taken in London 2012 (though really since the 2010 Summer Youth Olympics in Singapore), reads: "In the name of all the coaches and other members of the athletes' entourage, I promise that we shall commit ourselves to ensuring that the spirit of sportsmanship and fair play is fully adhered to and upheld in accordance with the fundamental principles of Olympism."

This year, the athlete was short-track speed skater Ruslan Zakharov, who will be part of the men's 5,000-meter relay. The coach was Anastassia Popkova, and the judge was Vyacheslav Vedenin.

Who else has taken it over the years? I won't get into the coaches and judges, but here are the athletes, and how they ultimately did:

Antwerp 1920: Victor Boin, who competed in fencing in Antwerp, taking silver in team epee, but who had also competed in swimming and water polo in London 1908 and Stockholm 1912; getting a water polo silver in London and a water polo bronze in Stockholm. Go ahead, anyone today. Try doing three different disciplines without the aid of a multisport event like the decathlon. Dare you.
Paris 1924: Runner Geo Andre, who came in 4th in the 400 meter hurdles.
Amsterdam 1928: Soccer player Harry Denis; the Dutch lost in their opening match 2-0 to eventual gold medalist Uruguay.
Los Angeles 1932: Fencer George Calnan, who took a pair of bronzes in the team foil and team epee.
Berlin 1936: Weightlifter Rudolf Ismayr, who took silver in the middleweight division.
London 1948: Runner Don Finlay, who DNF'ed in his opening heat of the men's 110-meter hurdles.
Helsinki 1952: Gymnast Heikki Savolainen, who finished 29th in the men's all-around and whose best individual discipline was 4th in the horizontal bar.
Melbourne 1956: Runner John Landy, who won bronze in the men's 5,000 meters.
Stockholm 1956 (remember they were split that year): Equestrian rider Henry Saint Cyr, who won gold in both individual and team dressage.
Rome 1960: Discus thrower Adolfo Consolini, who finished 17th.
Tokyo 1964: Gymnast Takashi Ono, who won gold in the men's all-around.
Mexico City 1968: Runner Pablo Garrido, who finished 26th in the marathon.
Munich 1972: Track and field athlete Heidi Schuller, who was knocked out in the semifinals of the women's 100-meter hurdles and finished 5th in the long jump.
Montreal 1976: Weightlifter Pierre St. Jean, who DNF'ed in the light heavyweight division after failing to record a valid snatch.
Moscow 1980: Gymnast Nikolai Andrianov, who won gold in the men's team all-around, silver in the individual all-around, gold in the vault, silver in the floor exercise, and bronze in the horizontal bar.
Los Angeles 1984: Runner Edwin Moses, who won gold in the men's 400-meter hurdles.
Seoul 1988: For the only time to date, two athletes took it at the same location at the same time. Basketball player Hur Jae took it for the men; South Korea went 0-5, finishing last in their group. Team handball player Son Mi-Na took it for the women; that team won gold.
Barcelona 1992: Sailor Luis Doreste Blanco, who won gold in the mixed two-person heavyweight dinghy (Flying Dutchman).
Atlanta 1996: Basketball player Teresa Edwards; the United States won gold.
Sydney 2000: Field hockey player Rechelle Hakwes; the women's team won gold.
Athens 2004: Swimmer Zoi Dimoskhaki, who swam four events and placed no better than 15th in the women's 4x200 meter freestyle relay. She is also the only oath-taker to be disqualified from an event, the women's 4x100 meter freestyle relay. It wasn't her fault, though; as she completed her leg of the relay, the next swimmer, Martha Matsa, took off before Dimoskhaki had touched the wall and Matsa's false start caused the disqualification.
Beijing 2008: Table tennis player Zhang Yining, who won gold in both the women's team and individual events.
London 2012: Taekwondo athlete Sarah Stevenson, who lost in her opening match to Paige McPherson of the United States.

Chamonix 1924: Military ski patroller Camille Mandrillon, who won bronze.
St. Moritz 1928: Hans Eidenbenz, who finished 19th in the Nordic combined.
Lake Placid 1932: Speed skater Jack Shea, who won gold in the men's 500 and 1,500 meters, and DNS'ed the 5,000.
Garmisch-Partenkirchen 1936: Willy Bogner Sr., who came in 12th in the Nordic combined and 6th in the men's 4,10 kilometer relay in cross-country skiing.
St. Moritz 1948: Ice hockey player Bibi Torriani; the Swiss won bronze.
Oslo 1952: Ski jumper Torbjørn Falkanger, who won silver on the men's individual normal hill.
Cortina d'Ampezzo 1956: Alpine skier Giuliana Minuzzo, who tied for 4th in the women's downhill, finished 4th in the slalom, and 13th in the super G.
Squaw Valley 1960: Figure skater Carol Heiss, who won women's individual gold.
Innsbruck 1964: Bobsledder Paul Aste, who finished 7th in the men's four-man.
Grenoble 1968: Alpine skier Leo Lacroix, who finished 20th in the men's downhill.
Sapporo 1972: Speed skater Keiichi Suzuki, who finished 19th in the men's 500 meters.
Innsbruck 1976: Bobsledder Werner Delle Karth, who finished 6th in the men's four-man.
Lake Placid 1980: Speed skater Eric Heiden, who won gold in all five events he entered: the men's 500, 1,000, 1,500, 5,000, and 10,000 meters. He set Olympic records in the first four, and a world record in the 10,000.
Sarajevo 1984: Alpine skier Bojan Krizaj, who finished 7th in the men's slalom and 9th in the super G.
Calgary 1988: Cross country skier Pierre Harvey, who entered five events, doing best in the men's 4x10 kilometer relay, where he came in 9th.
Albertville 1992: Figure skater Surya Bonaly, who finished 5th in the women's singles.
Lillehammer 1994: Cross-country skier Vegard Ulvang, who won silver in the men's 4x10 kilometer relay, finished 7th in the 10 kilometers, 10th in the 50 kilometers, and DNS'ed the 10/15 kilometer pursuit.
Nagano 1998: Kenji Ogiwara, who finished 5th in Nordic combined in the men's team event and 4th in the individual.
Salt Lake City 2002: Skeleton rider Jimmy Shea, who won gold.
Torino 2006: Alpine skier Giorgio Rocca, who finished 5th in the men's combined and DNF'ed in the slalom.
Vancouver 2010: Hockey player Hayley Wickenheiser; the Canadians won gold. Wickenheiser had also competed on the women's softball team in Sydney; they came in 8th.

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