Living outside of the US during the Olympics is a very different experience. This time, we aren’t able to watch most of the events at all (we no longer have cable, so we get all of out TV through iTunes, which is great for everything except live sporting events) so we’re getting most of our information about how things are going from the internet and from the newspapers.
Most of the internet news I read is from the UK, and for newspapers I tend to peruse the headlines and main pictures in the Austrian papers. In both cases, I’ve learned a lot, and I’m much more aware of how skewed of a perspective American Olympic coverage can give.
It was easy to get caught up in the idea of American Olympic dominance when I lived in the US and watched US news coverage of the games. But, that’s in large part because the sports that are focused on are those where Americans are expected to excel. And then, within those sports, the coverage emphasizes American athletes. Back when we had it, we learned that Austrian news coverage focuses on completely different sports. You almost wouldn’t know that figure skating and hockey exist, but the downhill skiing events might as well be the Super Bowl. And when the sports are broadcast on Austrian TV, they generally cover the ENTIRE event. I was surprised to learn how MANY athletes compete in some of the events. The way I’m used to seeing things, it felt like there were a dozen or two athletes competing … not 70-100 (or more). When we would watch the coverage of Men’s Downhill Alpine Skiing, for example, we would watch ALL of the competitors do their runs . . . and then come back for the second run. It would take hours to watch the entire thing — a very different experience from the pieced-together news coverage we were used to seeing at home.
But by far my favorite piece of living in Austria during the Olympics has to do with the way that all of the achievements of the athletes are celebrated. The other day, the top story in the newspaper was of a silver medal won at the Olympics. The very biggest newspaper headline of the day — a silver medal. I like it. I think it’s great that each accomplishment gets its own moment.
(But I really do miss the access to the variety of sports, and the numerous hours of coverage that we had access to in the States. I wish we were getting to watch it!)