Monday, January 6, 2014

The challenge of watching Olympic sports live

With a month to go to the 2014 Olympic Games, so many Canadian athletes are peaking at the right time. There have been amazing results recently, they are almost too difficult to keep track of.
  • Erik Guay - 2 podiums incl. a win to break the Canadian record for most podiums - alpine skiing
  • Jan Hudec - podium - alpine skiing
  • Travis Gerrits - 1st World Cup win - aerials
  • Alex Harvey and Devon Kershaw - first time for a Canadian 1-2 World Cup finish
  • Alex Harvey - 2 more podiums in first 6 stages of the Tour de Ski
  • Dave Duncan - 1st World Cup win (and then 2nd) - ski cross
  • Dominique Maltais - podium in Lake Louise - snowboard cross
  • Sarah Reid - World Cup podium - skeleton
  • Alex Gough - World Cup podium - luge
  • Tristan Walker and Justin Snith - 1st career podium in doubles luge
  • Alex Gough, Tristan Walker, Justin Snith and Sam Edney - podium - team event luge
  • Justin Dorey, Noah Bowman, Matt Margetts - Canadian World Cup podium sweep in Calgary - ski halfpipe
  • Mikael Kingsbury and Alex Bilodeau - 1st and 2nd in moguls WC in Calgary
  • Justine and Chloé Dufour-Lapointe - 1st and 3rd in moguls WC in Calgary
That's just off the top of my head. I'm sure I am missing some.

Being a huge fan of Olympic sports, all these great results should have me quite excited, but I was actually feeling sad on the weekend. Why? Because most of these events were not shown live on television or livestreamed by a Canadian (or reputable website). I was learning about the results on Twitter.

Even the world cup events in Calgary were not shown live and are being televised next week.

I find it sad that the demand in Canada isn't bigger for Olympic sports. There are so many sports stations now, it amazes me that more amateur sports are not shown. This begs the question, what comes first? If the stations showed amateur sports, would people become more interested or does the audience interest have to come first before stations show the sports?

I talked about this topic before in a post "Do Sports Organizations and Athletes Want Us to Follow Them Year Round or Only During the Olympic Games?" You can read that post here.

That post was more about live events around Canada and letting people know they are happening, but the same thing can be said about television coverage. It's not easy to find amateur sports coverage. I'm not sure how the average sports fan does it. Do they check the guide to see what is on and plan accordingly or do they just turn on and watch whatever is on?

I have to give CBC and Radio-Canada credit with the continual coverage whether it's CBC Sports Weekend, Objectif Sotchi, Olympic commercials or athlete interviews.  I'm thankful to Sportsnet for covering alpine skiing, bobsleigh and skeleton. So I don't want this to sound like I'm not thankful. I just wish there was more variety (like last week when ski jumping was aired on CBC - I don't think I have seen ski jumping on television outside of the Olympics). I'd love to see all amateur sports get some coverage, even if it's not every event.

Rather than showing skeleton and bobsleigh every weekend, could we mix in some luge or speed skating? Rather than alpine skiing every weekend, could we mix in some cross-country skiing, freestyle skiing, snowboard or biathlon?

Alpine skiing, bobsleigh and skeleton are not shown live, so if Canadian results aren't up to par one weekend, couldn't they show another event where our results are better? (Yes, I know television rights comes into play so it's not that simple). And really, in Europe, I believe they show most Olympic sports so why would we have to mix it up?

SportCafé also have a great new video player that is showing some of the highlights. It's great that some events are at least shown delayed or highlights available online, but there is nothing like live sports. Imagine hockey, basketball or football games being shown 8 hours or a week after they were actually played. Would viewers be as interested in those sports if there wasn't the excitement of not knowing what will happen?

Although I was sad to not see our Canadian athletes compete this past weekend, I will get to see them compete at the Olympics in one month. One of my goals for the 2014 Winter Olympics is to manage my Olympic viewing better.

Technology has changed Olympic viewing in the past 5 to 10 years. PVRs capable of recording multiple channels and livestream coverage of every event available on computers, tablets and phones makes it more difficult to manage. It's no longer as simple as watching the evening highlights.

In 2010, I missed most of the first 5 days. Not that I'm complaining. Having travelled to Victoria to attend a couple of events in Vancouver meant that I wasn't glued to a television or computer screen. When I returned, I was trying to catch up on what I had missed and keeping up with current events which made it difficult and not ideal.

In 2012, I used two PVRs to try to capture as much as I could. I would wake up and watch the telecasts I had recorded, while keeping away from social media and news. It was overwhelming.

I'm hoping to stay on social media this time which will mean understanding the schedule better and choosing which events I really really want to see live and which ones I'll be okay with knowing the results before seeing it. This was the mistake I made in 2012. I would be watching one recorded channel that would tell me the result from a different channel I had recorded that I cared more about.

Although the Winter Olympics schedule isn't as daunting as the Summer Olympics (here it is from the official website)...

and hovering over an event will give you more detail including the local time...

It's still not enough for me to ensure that I will see the events I want without finding out the result beforehand, so in the next few weeks, I will be uploading the schedule in SportCafé's events calendar with as much information as I can like the time of the event (local and Canadian), Canadians competing and which channel will be showing the events. So if you're like me and want to choose the events you're most interested in, check the SportCafé calendar in the coming weeks for more detail.

It's the one time of year that amateur sports fans are guaranteed to be able to watch any Olympic sport live. I'll be taking advantage of it and can't wait to see Canadian athletes "Give Their Everything!"

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