"Before Olga Jennifer Grunwald-Garcia-Wang takes her turn in the shot put, let's see how far she's come to reach Barcelona."
(Swell of strings.)
"In her little village hard by the Rollinonda River, nestled among the Sugar Mountains, young Olga grew up poor. Each day, her father rose at 4 for a back-breaking job at the local tongue-depressor factory. Her mother cleaned homes for the wealthy families of nearby Geltsville.
"Olga's only toy was a tin-foil ball. She'd scavenge bits of foil and add to her ball, then see how far she could throw it. Eventually, the tin-foil ball was heavier than a sack of stones, but Olga still was throwing it, farther and farther each day.
"Spotted by a coach from the national track program when her tin-foil toss landed on his foot, breaking several toes, Olga
became a shot putter. Her talent lifted her beyond that little village. But she's never forgotten her humble beginnings. Not that she's sent a dime to her parents, but at least she hasn't forgotten."
The first thing you should know about the Olympics TripleCast is that you get none of those syrupy features. In fact, you get no features at all.
It's all action. Looking for perspective, stage-setting, dramaticlose-ups, a chance to get up and make a tongue sandwich (with cole slaw and Russian dressing, please)?
Then don't look at the TripleCast.
For viewers weaned on the commercial-network version of the Olympics, the pay-per-view presentation is a revelation.
Turning on the Red Channel at 11:50 a.m. yesterday (for Sun readers, I'll get up at the crack of noon), I see the shot-put portion of the heptathlon. There are Brigit Clarius and Sabine Braun of Germany heaving the shot. Then, off to triple-jump qualifying -- it's Leonid Voloshin of the Unified Team and Lotfi Khaida of Algeria.
And then back to the women shot putting again. Before a women's 100-meter semifinal at 12:13, it had taken less than a half-hour for me to see more women's shot-put throws than the total shot-put throws viewers are likely to see in the next three Olympics.
I suppose that is a good thing.
Off goes a women's 100 semifinal. Announcers Marty Liquori and Bruce Jenner keep talking. Jenner says something about "top-end speed." And off goes the second semifinal. Liquori and Jenner still are talking.
It is 12:26. I dare not turn to the white or blue channels -- the $$ women's marathon is beginning. Now, George Hirsch and Liquori are talking.
Back to the track stadium, and Mike Conley easily qualifies in the triple jump.
In addition to hearing the track announcers, who almost never shut up, viewers could hear producers talking to the announcers. "Three-two-one, take it, George," we hear, and it's over to Hirsch the marathon.
At 12:41, the second men's 100 semifinal takes off. American Mark Witherspoon falls, clutching his leg. Jenner: "His Achilles' tendon just snapped." Liquori: "This injury is devastating, not just for this race, but also for his career." Why don't I hear a producer telling these guys not to speculate about an injury minutes after it occurs?
(We rejoin the TripleCast action after a flip over to MTV for a They Might Be Giants video.)
It's 2:47, do you know where your marathoners are? They're heading up a hill, looking very tired and making me feel guilty that I left them.
I stay to the finish. The top runners enter the stadium to ovations. And to the running commentary of the announcers, who are showing off their stamina, also.
At 3:23, I work up the courage to change to the White Channel. Gymnastics medals are being presented -- a Chinese girl wins gold, a Ukrainian takes silver and our Shannon Miller gets bronze. The TripleCast versions of the medals ceremonies don't cut to the chase, but I find them all the more moving. You see the three tiny girls walk to the platform. They are introduced in several languages and step up to the cheers of the crowd.
Unlike on the NBC telecast, where it's, boom, on the stand and here's the anthem, the moment builds. Then, the TripleCast follows the girls' walk from the medals platform.
But enough savoring, let's go to the Blue Channel.
It's 3:29 on the Blue Channel and Spain is playing the Netherlands in water polo. Look, that Dutch guy just bounced a shot off the crossbar. This really could swing the momentum.
It swung mine, all right. At 3:34, it's back to the Red Channel for a women's 10,000-meter semifinal.
After the heat, a marathon runner limps home, receiving cheerequal to those of the medalists. In the same vein, a woman from Papua New Guinea completes her 10,000 about 10 minutes after everyone else to the same kind of cheers.
At 4:17, over on the Blue Channel, Spain is facing Czechoslovakia in women's basketball. Here's a neat touch: A picture of Olympic mascot Cobi holding a placard bearing 1, 2 or whatever is used to keep track of personal fouls.
It's 4:39, time for a White Channel check. Boris Becker is playing tennis. Hey, it's daylight. This is taped. Later, Boris.
Back on the Red at 4:50, the channel leaves the track for boxing. Oscar de la Hoya saves the day for the Americans.
Finally, it's 5 p.m., and the TripleCast ends its live broadcasting.
I switch to NBC. It's the women's marathon, with better camera angles and better commentary, shown in condensed fashion. So what? Click.
This morning, NBC offers Olympics to go with your bagels (8-11, channels 2, 4). Lots of cold water will help wake you up -- diving, white-water canoeing, and water polo.
During the afternoon (noon-6) and night (7-midnight) programs, NBC will go heavy on track and field.
Ratings information was unavailable yesterday because the Nielsen people took off for the beach, got stuck in traffic on the Long Island Expressway and were forced to eat their data sheets to survive.
But ratings still measure the percentage of all homes watching a program, and shares continue to measure the percentage among homes where television is in use. In a world of constant change, it's nice to have something to hold on to.