Olympics Coverage on RTE

Radio Telefís Éireann (RTE) is the Irish national broadcaster, and it is my source for the 2008 Olympics on television. Its coverage consists primarily of three programs: Olympics through the Night, Olympics AM, and Olympics Today. All three consist of live broadcasts as well as overviews and highlights. At any time from about midnight to 4pm, the Olympics is broadcast on one of RTE’s two television channels — but never both to this point.

I record all three programs every day, so I see all the events that RTE chooses to show — although I see many of them at 12x or 30x speed. RTE’s choices are shaped by the sports for which Irish athletes qualified and the events of (putative) Irish interest. These are quite different from what I remember of US coverage, but that should be no surprise.

Still, I am surprised by what I’ve seen. Here are the sports that overwhelmingly dominate the schedule to date, in order of prominence by my rough estimation :

  1. Boxing (several Irish competitors with medal chances)
  2. Swimming (few Irish competitors)
  3. Equestrian (several Irish competitors)
  4. Soccer (no Irish competitors)
  5. Cycling (few Irish competitors)
  6. Rowing (Irish teams with some chances)
  7. Badminton (few Irish competitors); Shooting (one Irish competitor)
  8. Sailing (few Irish competitors); Kayaking/Canoeing (one Irish competitor); Fencing (one Irish competitor)
  9. Basketball, gymnastics, judo, field hockey, volleyball and miscellaneous others

Boxing, swimming and equestrian dominate the coverage, beyond the interest in Irish athletes. Given the number of Irish competitors in athletics, I expect track and field to start to dominate in the next few days.

The television coverage, aside from the live broadcasts with RTE’s commentators, consists mostly of an anchor or two sitting in one of two studios, with an expert or two giving analysis. Here is a screengrab of the blue studio:

The analyses are quite lengthy by US standards, and there is almost none of the gimmickry of American sports broadcasting. No telestrators, very little slow-motion — in fact, the replays that illustrate each analysis are usually a simple playback of the entire performance rather than a series of edited and isolated “crucial” moments. I put a short clip on YouTube of the analysis that immediately followed Irish paddler Eoin Rheinisch’s two K1 runs yesterday. You can click on the image below to see it.

There are almost no mini-documentaries, vignettes, montages or music videos. There are very few interviews with athletes, Irish or otherwise. I haven’t watched much of the round-up show that airs in the evenings, Today at the Olympics; it may have more of that kind of thing.

As with many experiences here in Ireland, I’m getting a not-quite-familiar perspective on the Olympics. I’ll follow up with more impressions as the week goes on. Feel free to post any questions or curiosities you think of, as Dave did. Your comments may help me notice and articulate some other interesting features of the Olympics from an Irish point of view.

4 Comments to “Olympics Coverage on RTE”

  1. Dave said...
    13 August 2008

    Very interesting. Katherine would love the lack of human interest stories, given that she’s completely tired of “Michael Phelps eats a three fried eggs sandwhiches, pancakes, and french toast for breakfast”, “Bob Bowman starting getting Michael ready for the olympics at age 11”, and “Michael Phelps plays guitar hero.” I love that kind of stuff.

    Speaking of Phelps and his quest for eight golds, are the Irish people rooting for him, against him, or just don’t care?

    Is K1 one kilometer? Seems like the letter is in the wrong place. Do all of your distance abbreviations have the letter in front?

    Out NBC prime-time coverage at this point is Michael Phelps, the rest of the swimmers, more Michael Phelps, Gymnastics, and some more Michael Phelps. Not that I’m complaining, it’s what I want to see. The rest of the NBC channels have every sport imaginable on at any given time. They advertised dedicated soccer and basketball channels (temporary channels showing every game) but I haven’t figured out what channels they are yet.

  2. Brendan Downey said...
    17 August 2008

    Regarding the analysis by Jerry Kiernan, Eamon Coughlan and Gary O’Toole on Sunday night, 17-08-08, I would like it to be recognised by RTE that I very much agree with Jerry that the 1500 mtrs is hard to win in Olympic standard although Eamon seems to think that this years finalists are not of decent standard. As everyone knows, Eamon reached 4th in this event, which is a fantastic achievement, I think he should know better than to make comments like that. Ask Eamon how did Jim Ryun only finish second to Kip Keino in Mexico in 1968 and Jim Ryun could always beat him until the olympics. Places, altitude, weather and most of all the human body and human brain have to come into play. This is the Olympics! The Olympics is supposed to be wide open for people to be individual. The standard is always good. Everyone, every place, every time is different but these Olypians are the highest of our times.
    I would also like to comment that after listening to Eamon regarding the drugs issue, I must say that he is either naive or gullible regarding this issue. The comments made by Gary O’Toole and Jerry Kiernan I must admire as they were very honest and open and maybe Eamon should reflect on his comments made on RTE Radio last week regarding drugs.
    I also must, while I am writing this, comment on Bill O’ Herlihy in 1967, talking to a horse owned by CIE, on whether he should be on the road or not! Is this really who is of standard to present any sporting activities?
    Regards Brendan

  3. Yinglong Jiang said...
    18 August 2008

    I couldn’t understand why is Bill O’Herlihy so bitter about the host team. After Zige Liu win the woman’s 200m buttlerfly with a new WR, Bill and Gary O’Toole openly suggested that it’s with the help of drug. It turns out that the help is from Aussie swimming coach Ken Wood. And after today’s withdraw of Liu Xiang from the 110m hurdle, Bill O’Herlihy suggested with a wide smile that this is a all just a hyped up soap opera. Why couldn’t he see the work and pain these athletes endured throughout their career. I really doubt any person with such a narrow mind should be given an anchor position in RTE.
    As a Chinese have been living in Ireland for the last 7 years, I found myself cheer for Irish athletes and feels the dissappointment when they didn’t perform. But it hurts to see Mr. O’Herlihy’s so called synicism to dominate this Olympic’s screen in Ireland.

  4. Joanne said...
    19 August 2008

    I have to agree with Jiang. I tried to watch any of the coverage whenever I can. I did find Bill O’Herlihy a bit biased towards the host team. I noticed that whenever China won a gold medal there was never any good comments/congratulations from him. For example, when the Chinese won the women’s team gymnastics, they show the clip and he went straight onto comment with the underage scandal. He could have start with “Great performance, but……”, I just didn’t expect the harsh comment considering this is the Chinese first Olympic gold medal for this event. Regarding Liu Xiang, I thought Bill O’Herlihy were kind of insensitive calling it a “soap opera” and having a laugh at it, then Eamon Coughlan dismissing it all as “Chinese propaganda”. Surely, they understood the tremendous pressure what Liu was under(or any olympian), not being able to perform on his home turf, considering he was the first Chinese male ever to win gold in athletics in the Olympics, which Jerry Kiernan seemed to understand and was trying to explain this to them. Fair enough, the clip on the coach bawling his eyes out was a bit much. I just thought it was in bad taste that they were laughing at this and calling it a soap opera. If that was the case, stop talking about it and stop showing the clips(Liu kicking the wall repeatedly etc.). They could have just inform the viewers regarding this news and get on with it. You know a more neutral approach.