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Past Olympics Media Coverage

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South Africa's SABC underwent its second Summer Olympics TV coverage ever and its first in the multiracial and truly democratic era with Nelson Mandela as President for Atlanta 1996 following its Olympic re-entry. Bear in mind that Olympic broadcasting with South Africa, especially, was still a very new thing then and in the formative stages with TV services there firmly established over two decades at that point--Africa as a whole wasn't going to get proper Winter Olympic TV coverage until two years later with Nagano. SABC sent about 90 people to Atlanta to do television and radio coverage. Actually, 87 people--48 from SABC Topsport, 15 Airtime staff, 11 from SABC Television News and 12 from SABC Radio. The SABC Radio crew comprises two co-ordinators, two news staffers, one technician and nine commentators who among them handle all 11 official languages. In addition to the team of 87 were the commentators for Radio Metro and 5fm who received commercial sponsorship. Budget for the staff was undisclosed. It was also under contract to assemble a daily hourlong Afro-centric highlights show that the International Olympic Committee broadcasts to the rest of Africa for free. 

SABC, which operated then three channels nationwide, is broadcasting 196 hours of Olympic coverage, about 25 hours more than NBC is serving up for Americans. There is a six-hour time difference with Atlanta, so SABC began its broadcasts at around 9 pm South Africa time and goes until dawn, favoring insomniacs in SA. Not to mention showing the same ads over and over. About 40 percent of the broadcasts are live--all under its three channels and broadcasted the Olympics in four (at the time): English, Afrikaans, Zulu and Xhosa that expanded since up to 11, which started a South African Olympic broadcasting tradition. SABC tries to match announcers to events that might be of interest to a particular culture. Frequently SABC assigns two analysts to discuss an event: one speaking in Afrikaans and the other responding in English. It's like listening to half a telephone conversation in what could be troublesome for monolinguists. Announcer Peter van den Berg delivered an impassioned description of the women's beach volleyball final the other day, all in Afrikaans, at the time. Oftentimes, in the thoughts of Andrew Maykuth living down there then, the SABC Atlanta 1996 commentary team was found to be quite charming in its amatuerism that would otherwise land a counterpart in hot water in a another nation. SABC would allow its coverage to be more raw and not under the packaged presentation with lots of the "schmaltz" that NBC is notorious for. Before NBC went much more comprehensive and utilized more Olympic sports through its cable TV channels MSNBC, CNBC, USA Network, the late NBCSN, and Bravo on the English side, SABC took the time to telecast Olympics sports ample coverage that were more obscure on American TV like team handball and field hockey. Coverage would, naturally, focus on the 1996 South African Olympic Team but with a small staff, it would show sports not involving South Africans with a more international feel than what NBC and ABC would offer at this point.  It even employed Australia's Seven Network for some of its commentary like for swimming when Heyns won gold or whenever a South African was competing, field hockey, and boxing, when its own sportscasters weren't qualified. 


But harsh criticism abounded from South Africa sports media pundits and journalists, and there was an ignorance in some of the sports the SABC's commentators was covering some found "shocking", "ill-informed", and "ill-prepared and inaccurate on the sports they don't understand". Apparently, presenters and sportscasters and analysts were selected "for their ability to do on-camera presentations, their competence at voice-overs on edited inserts, their aptitude for research, and their ability to do their own make-up for on-camera presentations." Even when they're commentating on one Olympic sport, there's actually footage of another sport showing Plus (not a criticism), "sometimes SABC just lets the cameras roll and follow athletes around, an approach that puts viewers more in the position of spectators in Atlanta. After the swimming finals, for instance, a camera crew trailed some of the winners as they took a three-minute walk around the pool, absorbing the accolades from the audience" with "no commentary from SABC, just the giddy giggling of young athletes at the greatest moment of their lives" in "trying to capture the atmosphere other broadcasters tend to ignore," said the SABC Topsport liaison Christo Anderson. Other moments include Adding that "lack of commentary in most cases was a 'hiccup' caused by a technical glitch or the unintentional absence of a commentator".

SABC glossed over the Atlanta Centennial Olympic Park bombing tragedy during its coverage, as if it didn't want to distract from the success of the likes of Penny Heyns. Maybe it was a reactionary numbness from its own political bombings within its borders for many years during apartheid. And this was 12 hours after the blast. 


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  • 2 months later...

Our newest installment of the gradually growing CTV Barcelona 1992 coverage collection. CTV invites Canadians to "win with the world" (its main slogan back then 30 years ago) in this promo announcing its (almost entirely live) coverage as the narrator speaks of what admirable athletic qualities Olympic athletes positively offer to the world in competition that brings "world spirit". In this "World Spirit" CTV Barcelona '92 promo, we see Seoul 1988 footage of Portuguese women's marathoner Rosa Mota, Romanian gymnast Daniela Silivas, Soviet rhythmic gymnast Marina Lobach, American heptathlete Jackie Joyner-Kersee, and Soviet gymnast Elena Shevchenko--all female Seoul 1988 gold medalists shown here--in keeping with the pro-internationalist theme. No male Olympians or even Canadians granted profiles, interestingly:

CTV wraps ups its Barcelona 1992 coverage with its final 7-hour Olympic segment prior to the Closing Ceremony on August 9 that went from 10am-4pm Canada/USA/Mexico CT with a Canadian focus on that day with high hopes of seeing Toronto's national boxing champion Mark Leduc strike gold to carry the golden streak set by Lennox Lewis in Seoul four years ago but would eventually get silver in light welterweight against Hector Vinette, marathon runner Peter Maher (who would eventually not finish his race), and individual show jumping equestrians Jay Hayes with Zucarlos and Jennifer Foster with Zeus  (neither would end up advance close to the medal stage, thus complete Canada shutting out altogether of any Barcelona 1992 equestrian medals). Co-hosted in Barcelona at CTV's IBC Olympic studios by Dan Matheson and Rob Faulds, who replaced this segment for Tracy Wilson as she prepared to later cover the Closing Ceremony with CTV National News anchor legend Lloyd Robertson. All to Chris De Burgh's Shine On beginning with the Leduc slo-mo boxing montage:

Rod Black, apparently the man in Canadian sports TV broadcasting during the 1990s, acted as the CTV Barcelona 1992 primetime anchor studio host. Matheson hosted apparently the CTV Olympic Daytime segments like here usually with Wilson. Jiggs MacDonald performed the Barcelona Olympic basketball play-by-play, which included the Dream Team matches (and, had they qualified out of Portland, Canada's games surely too--actually supposed to join Yugoslavia to expand the 1992 basketball field to 14 teams if the latter was allowed to play in team sports). Ron Reusch called Olympic baseball games, its Olympic debut as an official sport, in his third Olympics overall at that point for CTV. Faulds did some events, I think. There were others that I mentioned earlier (with others and additional info added subsequently) and will bring back as a reminder.

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