Sunday, July 29, 2012

Oh, those Olympic moments. The three-hour opening ceremony was full of them, everything from James Bond escorting the Queen to the stadium (via helicopter and parachute!) to a 10-story-tall Voldemort and giant baby (don’t ask) and, perhaps best of all, the beloved Mr. Bean, a.k.a. Rowan Atkinson, losing himself in a “Chariots of Fire” montage. Spectacular, memorable, viral and mostly, wholly unavailable.

NBC and the International Olympic Committee have tried to make this one of the most connected, social and widely available Olympics ever. It’s on the web, on my iPad, on your smartphone and running 24/7 on TV. Or so it seems. However from the moment the opening ceremonies kicked off in London Friday afternoon to the not-so-instant replay in the United States some three hours later, something’s been off.

Why, for example, didn’t NBC simply run the ceremonies live in the afternoon (at around 2:30 p.m. ET) and then run it again in the evening instead of trying to pretend that the opening ceremony hadn’t happened yet?

NBC and the IOC’s attempt to control the flow of content and information failed almost immediately as participants and audience members started tweeting and Instagramming and, worse yet, at least one website started streaming pristine video live from the event.

Annoying? Yes, but many of us were willing to swallow it and did, in fact, hunker down later that night to watch the opening ceremony rerun.

As one memorable moment after another flickered before our eyes, we began to search for and share memorable moments. The Bond video, we found. It was cute watching the Queen play along as an equally dour-faced Daniel Craig gave his best stoic Bond performance as he led the aging monarch to a live appearance at the stadium in London.

NBC made sure to squeeze dozens of advertisements into the rerun. Again, we were fine with this. At least the spectacle was good and performances like Atkinson’s silly synth player, were viral gold.

Because it had been hours since the live performance, multiple versions of the Atkinson segment appeared on YouTube. None of them, though were official.

Other videos appeared, but soon succumbed to the same fate. It was a digital game of whack-a-mole.

In all this time, no official video from NBC. What were they thinking? Network execs had to know this was a gem and yet they couldn’t offer it.

Here’s why it really galls me, though. A major portion of the opening ceremony festivities was devoted to a tribute to…wait for it…the Internet and social networking. It was all about how the Internet connects us and lets us communicate, how social media influences our lives. To illustrate, the IOC used the charming story of a young couple meeting and then using a variety of digital and social media to stay connected. Facebook doesn’t make an appearance, but there is something on screen that looks a bit like it. There was also a lot of dancing, music and even a house party with a real house. If the message wasn’t clear enough, the IOC hammered home the message by lifting up the giant house to reveal a lone figure sitting at a computer Tim Berners-Lee. The father of the Internet.

Did I say it was live? This tweet went out around the world while a good portion of the world could not see the event. By the time I saw it, Berners was just a digital ghost and his tweet was three hours old. Hours later, that portion of the ceremony was still unavailable on YouTube or any other digital medium.

Ensuring that these videos clips are available to share as soon as possible is in the IOC and NBC’s best interest. If people find the links, they’ll share them on their social networks, building even more buzz for the games and the myriad little human dramas played out within it. If NBC sits on its hands, or the IOC forces it to sit on its hands until hours or days after the viral moments, they pretty much ensure those moments won’t become viral and will have little or no impact on building Olympic-sized engagement.