Olympic coverage hits and misses



* Viewers of some events in the CBS coverage of the XVI Olympic Winter Games may be excused for suffering seasonal displacement. The peerless voice of expert commentator Phil Liggett is usually heard announcing European cycling events, particularly the Tour de France.

Englishman Liggett has been doing the luge/bobsled events, but on Wednesday also moved over to do a very nice call of the Nordic combined skiing event in which two Frenchmen, Fabrice Guy and Sylvain Guillaume, finished one-two.

Much as he does in cycling, the BBC-trained announcer gave American viewers a clear understanding of the tactics and drama of the decidedly European event.

* Does anybody else wish that CBS would add something to its 7 to 9 a.m. weekday live package from France? Some actual Olympic events, for example?

The six-hours-ahead time zone differential means that events are going on through the whole two hours, but very little live action has been seen.

Not only has weatherman Mark McEwen been doing ridiculous things all week, such as firing a rifle on the biathlon range, but even Greg Gumbel got pressed into the all-fluff-no-action yesterday with an interview with French chef Jacques Pepin. Is cooking a demonstration sport?

Worse, even when taped footage was available, we didn't see it.

Yesterday, for example, the network abandoned its earlier practice of letting viewers avoid learning about medal-winning performances and flat out told us American Donna Weinbrecht had won the gold in mogul freestyle skiing.

Did we see her in action? Nope. Harry Smith said to stay tuned for coverage in the evening show.

* Give a gold medal to the guy who got the familiar "John 3:16" biblical reference on camera ("For God so loved the world, as to give his only begotten son. . . ").

It happened yesterday morning as Mr. Gumbel was interviewing American skier Wendy Fisher. Clearly seen in the background, a short man turned to the camera and opened his coat, exposing the evangelical message written across his chest.

The camera switched to a close-up and you could hear someone hissing, "Get out of there!"

* Those "Olympic Updates" airing on the hour on WBAL-Channel 11, by the way, are being produced by the local sports staff. Seems CBS isn't providing affiliates such short spots.

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