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Originally published Wednesday, August 13, 2008 at 12:00 AM


Ron Judd

Things aren't always as they seem on NBC telecasts of Games

We suspected from the start that the voice of that little girl in the opening ceremony was fake. And now that the rest of the world is in...

Seattle Times staff columnist

We suspected from the start that the voice of that little girl in the opening ceremony was fake. And now that the rest of the world is in on the secret, it's time for some other hidden truths to finally be told, especially about NBC's sleight-of-hand Olympic broadcasting. To wit:

Top 10 Other Things in Beijing That Are Not What They Seem on NBC:

10) The "Water Cube" is actually a rhombus.

9) All beach volleyball recorded inside secret warehouse in New Mexico desert.

8) Final torchbearer Li Ning didn't really circumnavigate the top of the Bird's Nest stadium on wires before lighting the cauldron; the stadium rotated around him.

7) The Chinese never actually invented paper; they claimed the honor out of spite after inventing the paper cut.

6) Broadcasts in Bible Belt states inexplicably show women's beach volleyball players wearing long wool skirts.

5) New historical footage shows 1989 Tiananmen Square protester clearly provoking that tank driver.

4) That guy breaking all Mark Spitz's records? Dara Torres with fake sideburns.

3) Every Chinese vase on NBC's main set is sunk 12 inches into the floor to make Bob Costas look at least 5 feet tall.

2) Early rounds of fencing conducted entirely on Nintendo Wii.

1) NBC unearths footage of construction of 2,000-year-old Great Wall of China, broadcasts it with "LIVE" bug in corner of screen.

Questions, you've got questions

Q: I'm watching NBC. When I see that "LIVE" bug in the top right corner, is it really live?

A: No, it isn't. Not unless you're watching from Hoboken. NBC prime-time telecasts in the Pacific time zone are NEVER live. Never. Never. The bug is a blatant lie. NBC, hounded about this by journos everywhere, responded today that it is impossible for them to remove the bug before rebroadcasting their East Coast programming to the West Coast. Seriously.

Perhaps this is why Richard Sandomir of The New York Times has taken to calling us West Coasties "viewers in disadvantaged time zones," which we are going to officially adopt. (We know what you're going to ask; we already did, and no, it doesn't get us a good parking spot at the mall.)

Q: Why are there so many empty seats at arenas? Didn't the Chinese promise to fill every event?

A: Indeed, they did. The Chinese have been bragging for months about selling all 6.8 million tickets in advance. Yet large banks of empty seats have been seen at some places unexpected, including tennis matches with stars like the Williams sisters, as well as boxing, basketball, field hockey and handball.

It's gotten so bad that the International Olympic Committee, which to date has been a complete lap dog to the Chinese government, yesterday expressed concern, saying more people were needed in the stands to maintain a "proper atmosphere."

The Chinese, saying they'll look into it, are blaming sponsors for buying large blocks of tickets (for which they qualify, through "Olympic family" private sales) then simply not distributing them for preliminary rounds of competition. The same issue has plagued the past several Olympics; it's not unique to China.

Q: Where can I find the exact time of a TV broadcast of a specific event?

A: You can't. It doesn't exist. TV jumps around and doesn't know from one day to the next exactly when it will be broadcasting a particular sport. And even if they could, you'd have to deal with the tape-delay issue. However, for a major event you expect to be broadcast live, you can find a specific start time online. Try going to, click on the header for the sport, then look for "results and schedules."

Q: Why do divers shower after every jump? Are they sweaty?

A: They do it for warmth. The water in the pool is cool, the water in the showers is warm. They need the warmth to keep their muscles loose. (Some divers say they believe they go into the water "cleaner" while wet, but most towel off before jumping for fear their skin will be too slick for tucks and grabs, etc.) Also: If you're a glamour-girl or guy diver, you really want to stay supple.

Q: We're watching rowing. With every race, cameras follow the boats down the course and behind them, on the opposite shore, a bunch of people are bicycling along a path, following the boats on bikes. Who are they?

A: They're coaches, says Brett Johnson of U.S. Rowing. The teams didn't schlep their own bikes over there, but they can rent them at the venue. It's the best way to get from one end of the long course to another, and watch the action at the same time.

No Hall pass for Beijing

U.S. swimmer Gary Hall Jr., who did not qualify for Beijing, but remains one of our favorite Olympic athletes ever, is blogging for the Los Angeles Times. Yesterday, he was observing the snarl of traffic in Beijing — despite government restrictions keeping about half the city's cars off the roads.

"In Miami, the flow of traffic can be compared to the movement of a pack of birdbrained, caffeinated chickens," Hall writes. "Here, it's the same, except maybe a little less caffeine. Then throw in a bunch of buses that are trying to run over the chickens."

Gary always did have a way with words.

Ron Judd: Read his Olympics Insider blog at:

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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