Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony: CBC (2) vs NBC (98)

2008 Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony

2008 Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony

Me and my better half got up at 5am MST to watch the 2008 Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony on CBC TV live. Here is a bit of live blogging from CBC. Zhang Yimou is a first-rated film director and his creativity was in full display in the ceremony from the first opening moment onwards. Even the “manual” countdown was beautifully done with the massive number of people doing the show. The show is spectacular.

When I watched the ceremony live on CBC, I thought the sound was very bad (it was so bad that when British singer Sarah Brightman and Chinese star Liu Huan sang, I couldn’t figure if Brightman had sang a few words in Chinese as I thought, I later confirmed that she did) and the picture quality was not great.

And then tonight when I watched the NBC Olympics coverage, wow, my thought was “holly cow, this was not the same show I watched this morning!” NBC’s coverage was so much better than CBC‘s. In comparison, NBC’s audio sounded beautiful, the picture was shot and shown beautifully, the colours were spectacular, and the commentaries were insightful, informative and so enjoyable.

Now, why was CBC’s audio recording of the opening ceremony so awful? What was the colour so dull and picture quality so grainy compare to NBC? Why was the CBC commentary so lack of good info (was it a matter of lack of research or the lack of diligence to use the information the Chinese host must have provided)?

If CBC’s Olympics coverage doesn’t improve, I recommend Canadians do their homework and don’t blindly assume CBC will have better coverage (especially if both stations are covering the same event).

Now, some great complements should be given to CBC for their China news/short documentary coverage. Great job CBC on the news coverage (even your opening ceremony coverage makes me so embarrassed to call myself a CBC lover).

P.S. Check out this Telegraph piece about Zhang. Here is this New York Times piece, “Even the Cynical Succumb to a Moment of Real National Pride“.

23 Responses to Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony: CBC (2) vs NBC (98)

  1. tracy says:

    I think Ron MacLean replacing Brian Williams made a huge difference for the worse.
    MacLean adding nothing to the broadcast and was butchering his way through the entire ceremony. Mansbridge had to carry the entire load. I loved how NBC had a ‘china expert’ to help explain Chinese culture.

  2. kempton says:

    Thanks Tracy for your comment. Brian Williams was great before but I don’t know was it just Ron or Peter. You see, after all, lots of those info NBC explained must have been in the briefly notes from CCTV or the show producer (I hope).

    Now, I don’t know NBC has a “China expert” on hand, I think the good commentaries show.


  3. viniciuswerneck says:

    I saw the openings from Brazil, thefore i can`t comment about cbc or nbc… anyway, it was a great event! i wrote a little about it in my wordpress blog….
    se ya!

  4. I am pulling for much success for the USA in the competition, but I am sick that we are even in China for these games. China is an oppressive regime who squelches opposition to their own evil ambitions within their own borders.

  5. mort says:

    I agree. I watched both broadcasts – the first being CBC then later the tape delayed NBC broadcast. It was night and day. The CBC coverage was bland, lifeless…almost indifferent and didn’t match the quality performance on the field.

    I was surprised when I tuned in to NBC. I had previously always assumed CBC is where it’s at when it comes to events like these.
    In comparison the NBC broadcast added so much more to the show especially the symbolism and history with commentation by the NBC crew ( Bob Costas?) came through clearly to the viewer. At first I thought it was the benefit of having tape delay but the commentation was live just as CBC’s. NBC’s broadcast was so good it kept me watching where normally I would have tuned off.

  6. kempton says:


    I hope the coverage from Brazil was good. And most important of all, you enjoyed the show.

  7. kempton says:

    @The Citizen Cane

    Good luck to the your country’s team. I am cheering for mine. May the best team or competitor wins. :)

    Now, there are many problems with China but I think, in the long run, it is more beneficial to Chinese and people from around the world to see China do well.

    Look at it this way, because of Olympics, thousands of foreign journalists are reporting in China and that would not have been possible with the Olympics in China.

  8. kempton says:


    Since you used “bland, lifeless”, to describe CBC”s coverage of the opening ceremony, let me share with you that I had wanted to use “soulless” in my original posting but ended up without it..

    In NBC’s show, it showed a few extra close-up shoots of the faces of the Chinese performances which I think really made some of the performance so much better to watch.

    Here is my guess. Because Olympics is such a large production, I would be very surprised if the Chinese CCTV didn’t (or whoever in charge of producing the show) did not provide the visiting foreign journalists with some background research materials to help them report on opening ceremony. I may be wrong though as I don’t know for sure.

  9. midori01 says:

    NBC has the money and power to put forth the resources for the Olympic coverage. Do not forget BBC Spots, they are very aggressive on the Olympics coverage too.

  10. kempton says:

    You are right that NBC has the money and extra resources. At the same time, I think there are areas in the opening ceremony that CBC could have done better even with the limited resources that they had to produce the show.

  11. […] Olympics: CBC vs NBC (Day 1 & 2 coverage) After taking my own recommendation to compare the Beijing Olympics coverage by CBC TV and NBC TV (my views here are based on Day 1 and […]

  12. […] Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony: CBC (2) vs NBC (9 [image]2008 Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony Me and my better half got up at 5am MST to watch the […]

  13. Billy says:

    Totally disagree with most of you. CBC coverage is far superior as it shows all the athletes competing versus NBC only focusing on Americans. Besides CBC shows the events live throughout the country while NBC tape delays to the 2 western timezones.
    Read the uproar in man blogs how the American West had to wait 3 hours to see Phelps win the gold medals while lucky American viewers near the Canadian border got it live from CBC. Plus NBC has about twice the commercial interruptions compared to the CBC.

  14. kempton says:

    Hi Billy,

    I actually agree with your comments.

    If you read my posting again, you will notice my critiques here are about the Opening Ceremony. In fact, I have good words about CBC’s events coverage,

    Thanks for your feedback (e.g. American West had to wait 3 hours to see Phelps win the gold medals).


  15. Dave C. says:

    Just to play a bit of devil’s advocate here, have a look at Karl-Eric Reif’s blog on the NY Times:

    On CBC hosts Ron McLean and Peter Mansbridge:

    “They were both admirably low-key and often simply silent for long stretches as the opening ceremonies began, appropriately letting the images from the Bird’s Nest speak for themselves. Let’s see anyone on NBC match that tonight.”

    On CBC vs NBC coverage:

    “At about 9:45 the Canadian team made the scene, and here was the sharpest example of the contrast between the Canadian and American approaches to Olympic coverage. CBC went to split-screen, so we could almost see the other countries marching in on the lower right as we focused on the Canadians at the upper left.”

  16. kempton says:

    Thanks Dave for your feedback and the NYT blog link.

    I like the split-screen and CBC broadcasting the opening live. Some stretches of silence may be good but for me there were may be just a little bit too much in various areas.

    In few of the scenes where there were a ton of people in the field, NBC went close up on a few of the faces and that made a night-and-day difference. If I may be poetic for a moment, I think those close-up of the performers’ faces added souls to the performance. Looking afar, we saw the scale but looking into the faces and the eyes of a few of the performers gave the performances their well deserved souls.

    Just my thoughts.

  17. Michael says:

    Remember NBC had 12 hours to fine tune their coverage, I.E, color, sound , etc.

    Don’t you think that NBC used those 12 hours to edit and re-edit the opening ceremonies.

    I can see comparing both if they went live at the the same time, but they didn’t, only CBC went live.

    To me the big difference was on was heavily edited and the other wasn’t.

  18. kempton says:

    I see your point Michael.

    NBC does have the time to fine tune the colour. Now, as for the sound, I suspect the source sound may have been better but I can’t be sure. And for images, NBC had to have those close up of the performers so that they can cut to, but again, they do have more time to edit.

    Sure, we can let CBC off the hook on some of the weakness but the commentary is one I think CBC could have done a better job.

    By the way, if anyone can confirm how much (or little) NBC has fine tuned the colour, sound, and images? Or enhance the commentary. Michael got me curious now. Thanks.

  19. […] Olympics TV Coverage: CBC (98) vs NBC (2) I stand by my harsh words about CBC’s Olympics Opening coverage and praises of NBC’s good work. Although I do […]

  20. Janelle says:

    I am extremely disappointed with NBC’s biased coverage of the Olympic games. I understand the pain they felt as a result of America’s defeat in the 100m by Usain Bolt but nontheless it was a huge accomplishment from a third world country that deserves recognition. I also notice that the commentators refer to his performance as ‘distasteful’ but what they must realise is that he was not aware that his performace was WORLD RECORD WORTHY until he had finsihed.

    I hope the Olympic committee learns to avoid monopoly’s on covergae the next time and I hope NBC realises that USA is not the only country in the world to achieve greatness. NBC DO BETTER NEXT TIME.

  21. kempton says:

    Janelle, I haven’t watch much of NBC’s Olympics coverage other than the Opening ceremony. I watch CBC because it provides much more live Olympics coverage. For example, we watched Phelps won his eight golds live.

  22. Kris K says:

    Most of the opening and closing ceremonies are taped by one production and fed to all the other networks and they broadcast based on what they are seeing on TV as well. It is like a parade and they commentate based off of watching a little monitor. CBC is by far a much nicer Olympic experience than the total American bias that NBC provides during their taped delay information. Thank god for time shifting. Americans are poor sports and do not want to have anything to do with any other nation other than their own…therefore, you only see sporting events that involve at least one american participant unlike CBC that will show LIVE events for medals or prelims that are exciting for the viewing population. It is time that NBC and Bob Costas stop thinking they know what the viewing population want. They do not want some little baseball nut trying to make it seem like he knows anything about any of these sports. This is the biggest difference that I notice between the coverage of Winter and Summer Olympic coverage. At least with the Winter Olympics CBS covers for American TV is a much better production that rivals CBC in a live format with interesting interviews and they tend to cover all of the events even if americans are not the centre stage of the event. CBS should try to get alkl the Olympic Games instead of just the Winter ones

  23. kempton says:

    Thanks a lot for your comments Kris.

    I agree with your view on the American centric views the US broadcasters seem to be taking.

    Now, I still love the few extra closeup that NBC had in the few big crowd scenes. And CBC didn’t have (or didn’t use?) enough of those.

    Actually, during the parade of nations, NBC had much better and closer angles of the names of the countries. You see, I was trying to read the Chinese on the signs and trying to figuring what Chinese calligraphy style did they use. :)


%d bloggers like this: