High hopes for Canadian Winter Olympics TV coverage

A view from the athletes village, where the Canadians will stay during the 2014 Winter Olympics in...

A view from the athletes village, where the Canadians will stay during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, on Tuesday February 4, 2014. Al Charest/QMI Agency

Bill Harris, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:16 PM ET

Here's what I want from Canadian TV coverage of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia: The right tone.

But as with all grey areas, I know I will get arguments as to what the right tone is.

The issue is that Canada is changing, or has changed. Do we want that to be reflected in TV coverage of the Olympics? If so, how?

The opening ceremonies will be broadcast Friday on CBC in Canada and NBC in the United States. CBC will cover the ceremonies live in the morning hours, North America time, and then repeat in the evening, whereas NBC will show the ceremonies on tape-delay in the evening only.

I guess when I think about it, therein lies the point I'm trying to make. Which is, I expect “more” from Canadian coverage of the Olympics than I expect from other countries. And I don't just mean volume. I mean, “more” balance, “more” objectivity. I mean being “more” than cheerleaders and homers.

I've sensed a shift in the tone of our coverage over the past few Olympics, and it's not just that some of those Games mainly were televised by CTV instead of CBC, and it's not just that the 2010 Winter Olympics were on our home turf in Vancouver. Our coverage definitely has become more Canada-centric. Many will argue that's a good thing. What I'm asking is, how far do we want to go with that? Do we want to become what we regularly make fun of other countries for being?

Canadians always have had intense pride. But unquestionably, it has become more cool, or acceptable, or encouraged, to be publicly over-the-top with our pride. Personal experience: After Canada won the men's hockey gold in the final over the U.S. in Vancouver four years ago, every American I spoke to about it said, “Obviously we were hoping the U.S. would win, but if another country had to win, we're glad it was Canada, because we know how much it meant to Canadians.” But I regularly would see fellow Canadians, when encountering an American, essentially saying, “HA HA HA, WE WON, IN YOUR FACE!”

Afterward those Canadians would be defensive, justifying their behavior by explaining, “I was just having fun.” But were we? Or was it a little more boorish than that? It leads to a debate about how we perceive ourselves, and how we want to be perceived.

We tend to snicker at how other countries cover the Olympics, thinking they're way more jingoistic than we are. There always are jokes that when NBC shows the Games, Americans have no idea other countries are competing. But in my humble opinion, the gap between what other countries do TV-wise and what Canada does has narrowed considerably.

If that's what we want to be, and it's what Canadians demand and expect now, then fine. But simply observing that "other countries do it” isn't automatically a reason for us to do it, too.

Again, my hope for TV coverage of the Olympics on CBC and TSN is that we strike a balance between a reasonable focus on Canada, and an understanding that we have a reputation around the globe for handling this stuff better than other nations.

I would prefer that we prove the world right.

Twitter: @billharris_tv

Bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

 


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