Let the tape delays begin! And they will Ñ tonight Ñ with the opening ceremonies of the Salt Lake City Olympics.
OK, this won't be the grouchy column I write every Olympics É grumbling about how the networks never show the premier competition live. We all know by now that NBC sees the Olympics as a ratings-enhanced, prime-time extravaganza and will show events more than 24 hours after they happen if that's what it takes to pull in viewers.
During the 2000 Summer Olympics in Australia, the network really had no choice. But Salt Lake City has a friendlier time zone, so the competition we see via Bob Costas from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. will be less than a day old. Even if it's not, Portland consistently garners one of the highest Olympic audiences in the country, so obviously you love it, you really love it.
American athletes are expected to haul in the gold medals this time around, something that doesn't usually happen until the summer games. Combined with the post-Sept. 11 surge in patriotism, that means stories of American athletes will probably dominate all the warm and fuzzy personal vignettes.
If it's inspirational, bring it on. But please, some of these pieces tend to go on ad nauseum, squeezing out Ñ well, the Olympics.
This time, though, there'll be some new wrinkles in the TV coverage. NBC will be televising a record 168 hours, which is about 40 hours more than CBS showed from the last Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan. Combining Olympic coverage on NBC and its cable channels MSNBC and CNBC, you'll get a total of 375 Olympic hours.
Expect a higher profile for emerging sports such as snowboarding, but rest assured that old standbys such as figure skating, ice hockey, speed skating and downhill skiing will be keeping the women's luge and the four-man bobsled confined to the hours normally reserved for soap operas.
For its part, KGW (8) will be airing half-hour specials at 7 p.m. each weeknight with anchor Joe Donlon, sports guy Colin Cowherd, meteorologist Matt Zaffino and reporter Stephanie Strickland. The focus will be on local athletes and other features, but there will be no video of the day's events because NBC has the rights for that all to itself. The extra time must be special for Cowherd, whose sports reports on the news can be measured in seconds.
There's good news for the 14,000 households in the Portland-Vancouver area who have coughed up $5,000 and more for a high-definition TV: At last, you're in luck! You can watch an eight-hour daily block of Olympics in beautiful HD (on digital channel KGW-DT 8.1). The bad news there is that the coverage will be delayed by another day. Push it back any further, and you'd be watching goalie Jim Craig look for his dad again.
The thrill of victory. The agony of defeat. And with the spectacle of everything in between Ñ who's complaining?