I am at a table in a Chinese restaurant, inside a Chinese shopping center. Both entities are crowded with Chinese shoppers. Opposite is Todd Anderson, gnawing on a pork rib. Todd says, “This is a lonely time for me.”
I think, Where did that come from? I ask, “Why?”
“I hate the Olympics. I may be the only person on the planet who hates the Olympics.”
Chinese restaurant, Chinese shopping center, Chinese Olympics – I get it. I lean back, relieved, and consider his statement. “Well, I hate the Olympics too,” I say. “Wasn’t always that way, only since NBC began televising it.”
The first full-on NBC Olympic broadcast was the 1988 summer games in Seoul, South Korea. Back in those simple, pastoral times, NBC televised 179 1/2 hours of Olympics. This year, they plan to broadcast 3600 hours.
When you’ve got 3600 hours to fill, sports consumers are not going to be seeing a lot of sports. Instead, we’ll get endless human-interest drivel featuring little Anna Badfeoalpv, the Armenian one-legged gymnast, or little César Gualala, three-time cancer survivor, orphan, and slum dweller. The Olympics are transformed into daytime reality TV. Unwatchable dreck. But – and here’s the good news – this year there might be a loophole.
But first, we should stop right here and give thanks to the People’s Republic of China for:
Rounding up 500,000 cats, hauling them to cat death camps on the outskirts of Beijing.
Rounding up 15 million residents…just joking. Rounding up 300,000 residents, telling them to move along, there are Olympic beautification projects to build where you used to live.
Kicking 50 percent of the population off the highways. The government announced, “From July 1 to September 20, Beijing-registered automobiles with license plates ending in odd numbers will be banned from the roads on even-numbered calendar days, and those with plates ending in even numbers will be banned from the roads on odd-numbered days.” Bingo, no traffic jams.
Instituting a fine of up to 50 Yuan ($7.27) for spitting.
Hiring 8000 toilet cleaners.
Teaching citizens how to stand in a line. Since February 2007, Beijing has been putting on a monthly “Learn to Line Up Day” to show residents how to, well, how to stand in a line. In addition, 5000 Beijingers will be employed to make sure residents do not walk across the street against the stoplight.
In Beijing town there’s a 50-50 chance it will rain on any given day in August. Bad for outdoor sports. Much more bad for TV scheduling. China’s new National Stadium, known as “Bird’s Nest,” is a 91,000-seat stadium that will be used for the Olympics’ opening and closing ceremonies. Said stadium is roofless.
You see the problem. The solution revolves around the application of money, the Chinese Meteorological Administration/Weather Modification Office, an IBM p575 supercomputer (the one with 9.8 trillion floating point operations per second), specialized airplanes, and at least 20 artillery sites dug in on the outskirts of Beijing. Battalions of weather changers will fire volleys of silver iodide and dry ice into invading rain clouds, thus causing premature rain to fall down upon locals and sparing Olympic spectators wet stadium seats.
All right, the People’s Republic of China has done their part, now it’s time for us to do ours. Here’s how you can make your trip to the Olympics more enjoyable.
Buy your airfare, hotel, and Olympic tickets the day after the Olympics were awarded to China on July 13, 2001. On that day, the Canadian dollar was worth 65 American cents; today it’s worth 98 cents. Back in 2001, the Euro was worth 85 cents; today, one Euro is worth $1.55. The British pound was worth $1.40; now, the pound is pegged at $1.96.
What else? Beijing imported 120,000 Chinese migrant workers to crank out 300-plus office towers, built new subway lines, built a modest airport terminal that, by itself, is bigger than any airport in the world – over 3,000,000 feet of floor space, making it the world’s largest building and creating a worldwide steel shortage along the way.
But, I promised a loophole, a path to see the Olympics, a place where you can actually watch the best people in the world compete against each other in arcane and little-understood sports.
NBC Universal is going to be video-streaming 2200 hours of Olympics. You can watch up to four video streams at once. It’s free. A lot of it is live.
Either NBC Universal loves us or it hasn’t figured out how to make money on video streaming. Either way, this much free won’t last, but while it’s here, perhaps we’ll finally get to see Olympic summer games.
Hie thee to nbcolympics.com and video.msn.com.