Beijing Olympics Coverage = Awesome

OK, so I’ve got Gymnastics on the TV and Table Tennis early rounds on the computer.    HUGE kudos to NBC and Microsoft for providing such a superb streaming and downloadable video environment – this is definitely NOT your father’s technological Oldsmobile Olympics.

Effective with Beijing we are seeing how powerfully technology can cover major events.  In this case the coverage was very expensive, but as these technologies mature and bloggers become more adept at webcasting we can expect a lot of visibility where there was little before.


Erick at TechCrunch has a problem with the coverage and is calling NBC lame, but he’s very wrong about compatibility and lameness.    Bob Kostas’ deadpan nonsense notwithstanding, NBC rules.

Olympics Opening Ceremony Fireworks Coverage Faked – sort of…

Wow, when I first read this I thought it was a conspiracy theory but the UK Register report appears true.  Some 55 seconds of fireworks during the opening ceremony were computer generated.    The fireworks *really did happen* and presumably looked very similar to the clip, but fearing they could not film this in all it’s spectacle NBC spent about a year creating the fake clip.

Of course this would be crazy if the fireworks did NOT happen, but given that they did it clouds the issue of misrepresentation.   ie they didn’t do this to “fake us out”, rather to better represent a reality that would have been hard to capture in real time.    Still, I don’t like it.   When you fake something like this it is incumbent to present it as a simulation or animation.    Not doing so raises a lot of credibility questions, which are particularly unsavory for the main reporting agency in the world’s top sporting event.

Sheesh – I was prepared to be very complimentary of NBC ever since I heard their great presentation at CES Las Vegas where they talked about Beijing coverage.     C’mon NBC – let’s provide transparency in coverage and distribution and everybody can be happy!

Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony

Wow, I just finished watching the opening ceremony (recorded) which was absolutely spectacular.   It was fun to see the Birds Nest having just been there a few months ago, though I just missed getting a tour of the insdie by having to leave a few days before it was open for visits.

China’s presentation went off flawlessly and in super spectacular fashion with a historically unprecedented, stunning and breathtaking blend of technology, humans, and history.  Wow.

NBC = Not Broadcasting Cleverly

First I want to say how I really appreciate the fact NBC is going to place all of the Olympic sports content online – a real boon for those of us who follow sports like Table Tennis and Badminton.   Those sports don’t make prime time NBC TV – in fact historically they are simply left out of the TV coverage.

But reading in NYT about how they spent much of the past few days keeping the opening ceremony offline makes me wonder how well they thought this out.    I really love watching the opening ceremonies – even the boring parts – and for the audience that would have watched this online live I think they could have targeted some great advertising – for example I would have been happy to sign up for “Olympic Specials” and give more demographic info than I normally would do in exchange for the privilege of a real time or short delayed webcast.     As an advertisers how would you like it if NBC offered you the ability to slice and dice your audience according to a survey you helped produce?

As it happens my daughter’s play conflicted with the first few hours of the ceremony, so I’ve taped them on media center and will watch them tonight or later.   But you can bet your bottom NBC dollar I probably will FF through most if not all of the ads – in fact through the boring parts and ads  which I would have *had* to watch if they’d let me see this live on China’s 8/8/8

I can’t help but think NBC’s approach was shortsighted.  Why squelch all the videos they could find rather than work to provide us with coverage of one of the the greatest events humanity has to offer at the time we want to watch it?    In this case wouldn’t choice have been more profitable?

Olympic Stadium from Pangu Plaza

Olympic Stadium from Pangu Plaza
Originally uploaded by JoeDuck

Wikipedia has a great summary of the Beijing Olympics.   I’m a little concerned about the delayed coverages by NBC since I’m a night owl and would enjoy sitting back and watching in real time, but I’m thrilled that NBC will have all the events online so I can watch the Table Tennis, which generally is hardly touched by TV coverage.    China is favored to take most if not all of the Table Tennis medals, but the champion has had a bad prior two major tournaments so he may not take the gold.

Squid on a Stick – Wangfujing Street, Beijing China

Squid on a Stick – Wangfujing Street, China

Originally uploaded by JoeDuck

My China travel pal and I were talking about how we missed all the foods we sampled in China. At the time I was not all that impressed. We ate at many different places of various prices and quality, and although most of the meals were good none really stood out to me as “great”. Charley did like the Beijing King Wah Restaurant, a fairly nice place that specialized in Peking Duck (aka Beijing Duck). Duck is enough of a treat in China that you can expect to pay about $15 per person – an exceptionally high amount when alternative large meals will run $5 – $10 per person for a huge selection of food.    Street food – much of which is very good – is practically free.   These squids on a stick were 5 yuan= .75    In fact my favorite meal of all was Won Ton Soup in Shanghai. The hand made Won Ton were fresh and spectacularly good, served to the bowl after boiling in a huge pot of delicious broth along with deep fried bready things. 75 cents for a meal sized bowl.

Model of Olympic Village Apartments in Beijing

Model of Olympic Village Apartments in Beijing
Originally uploaded by JoeDuck

It’s fun to start to see so much Beijing stuff on TV after just being there.   The Travel Channel is playing Samantha Brown china visits and the news increasingly features Beijing Olympics items.   I have yet to see much about the three major big ticket Beijing buildings though.  These are the “Birds Nest” Olympic Stadium, the big blue Aquatic Center, and my favorite feature which is just off the new Olympic Green – Pangu Plaza apartments and the Pangu Plaza‘s brand new seven star hotel.    I’m trying to find my picture of the Olympic Media Center which really had an ominous look from the outside as the rumors swirled about how restrictive the Chinese Government would be with respect to Olympics coverage.

Here’s a New York Times article suggesting the internet will be censored (as it is during normal times in China) for Olympic journalists.

However I think people have the wrong idea about both the extent and the effectiveness of censorship in China. In Beijing we were watching CNN international’s coverage of the Tibet protests around the world and I even brought up the topic with several people who, rather than sympathetic, seemed more nationalistic about Tibet, suggesting it was part of China and the protests were not representative.

Certainly some of this view was helped along by China’s own government news coverage which is very propagandistic, but I didn’t get the idea people in China are too far out of touch with the rest of the world – rather they are proud of their country and defensive about the criticism.

No VC for you! Zero IPOs in Q2 2008

The New York Times is noting that there have been no VC funded IPOs in this second quarter of 2008, which appears to be the first time that has happened since 1978. I haven’t done enough research to suggest this is a huge anomaly but I think it is another mildly ominous happening in the world of US business economics. Last night on Charlie Rose a key guy a Llyods of London Insurance was suggesting that in his view the mortgage crisis here in the USA is not at all over, and also noted how business things are blooming and booming in Asia and India while they appear to be wilting here in the USA and Europe.

In my opinion the best we an hope for is a fairly soft landing as China, India, Vietnam, and other parts of the developing world take their (rightful) place as players in the global economy. We’ve had it pretty easy for the past 60 years after WWII reconstruction rescued many economies from post-war ruin. Unfortunately that beneficence has been long forgotten (and it helped our economy along anyway).

So tighten up that belt and start spending less, because business isn’t what it used to be and it’s not going to be back anytime soon – perhaps forever.

Yu Yuan Gardens, Shanghai

Yu Yuan Gardens, Shanghai

Originally uploaded by JoeDuck

Shanghai’s Yu Yuan Gardens were one of my favorite China attractions. The surrounding area is filled with shops, restaurants, and is very crowded but the Gardens were quiet and very beautiful. Unlike European gardens most of this area was buildings and walkways with some trees and vegetation that were very carefully landscaped.

Great Wall of China Tours

Although we were lucky enough to have Kevin’s* cousin as our Great Wall Guide for our trip to Simatai, if you don’t have contacts in China you’ll want to hire a taxi or take a Great Wall Tour.   Always use caution with this type of business agreement and make sure you negotiate and understand the costs *beforehand*.   Generally, it is acceptable form in China to clarify costs.

I was surfing for pictures of Simatai and and found this travel agency which runs camping/hiking/lodge trips along the wall.   I expected the prices to be *much* higher so although I can’t directly endorse these guys this really looks like a reasonable price for a great trip.    I should say you could probably get lower if know somebody in the area or have a good hotel concierge that could find you a combination of driver, guide, and lodging, but if you want the comfort of a quality experience this place might be a good choice.

In any case they have a great panorama of the Simatai Wall at their website:

* Dr Kevin, my friend and in my opinion the best Medford Oregon Dentist