With a high-profile event like the Olympics, it's hard to imagine a world in which everything runs smoothly. There's also the fact that everyone is watching, and everyone is waiting to turn any incongruous moment into a meme. Add to that the pageantry of the Olympic games, and you have a recipe for broadcasting disaster.
All things considered, NBC does a remarkable job of bringing the global competition to the silver screen for fans back home. Yet it's hard not to marvel at the slip-ups, especially as so many of them piled up in the first weekend of the games. Reporters have mispoken, events have been rescheduled, and a few producers in the edit bay need to keep their fingers closer to the bleep button.
Here's a look at the most shocking moments in the Olympics' first four days.
During Friday's opening ceremonies, Katie Couric had a puzzling explanation for why the Dutch are "really, really good at speed skating.
“All but five of the 110 medals they’ve won have been on the speed-skating oval,” Couric said. “Now, ‘Why are they so good?’ you may be asking yourselves. Because skating is an important mode of transportation in a city like Amsterdam, which sits at sea level."
"As you all know, it has lots of canals that can freeze in the winters. So, for as long as those canals have existed, the Dutch have skated on them to get from place to place, to race each other, and also to have fun.”
If that sounds too ridiculous to be true, that's because it is. The Dutch people were quick to point out that they don't commute to work on skates, and on social media, viewers began to wonder whether Couric was handed a faulty cue card.
The most inflammatory mishap came when NBC analyst Joshua Cooper Ramo made an unfounded assertion about Japan and Korea. Japan occupied Korea for several decades, and Ramo made a bizarre inference from that historical fact.
“Every Korean will tell you that Japan, as a cultural and technological and economic example, has been so important to their own transformation.”
Ramo faced immediate backlash for the comment, and the Korean people felt that this was an ommision of some of the less savory parts of the military occupation. A report in The Korea Times said, “His incorrect and insensitive comment about Korea’s history has enraged many of its people. Tens of thousands of Koreans and non-Koreans alike have criticized Ramo and NBC Sports on their social media, urging them to correct this misinformation and apologize.”
Ramo was removed from the air on Monday, and the network had to apologize for him. “During our coverage of the Parade of Nations on Friday, we said it was notable that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe made the trip to Korea for the Olympics, ‘representing Japan, a country which occupied Korea from 1910 to 1945, but every Korean will tell you that Japan is a cultural, technological, and economic example that has been so important to their own transformation,’" NBC said in a statement. “We understand the Korean people were insulted by these comments and we apologize.”
In a statement to The Washington Post, the network added, “We’re very gratified that [the Pyeongchang Olympics] has accepted that apology.”
NBC heavily promoted Mikaela Shiffrin’s milestone giant-slalom run on Sunday, which made it all the more frustrating when it was delayed. Just three hours before the event's scheduled start time, it was announced that the race would be postponed due to dangerously cold and windy-weather conditions.
Delays like this are actually quite common at the Winter Olympics, but the scheduling shuffle was front and center as the network had devoted so much advertising to it.
Shiffrin’s debut has been moved to Thursday (Wednesday in the U.S.). NBC sportscaster Dan Hicks said it will be “sandwiched around the Men’s Downhill.”
Shiffrin will now have to complete her slalom and her newly rescheduled giant slalom on consecutive days. Past gold-medal skier Bode Miller described how nerve-racking this can be on NBC. “I think it is tough physically and probably a little bit mentally to have back-to-back races. But the reality is, Mikaela is the best racer out here.”
The U.S. picked up its first gold medal of the year on Saturday, when Redmond "Red" Gerard won the men's slopestyle snowboarding event. The 17-year-old Olympian got a little over-excited when he realized he'd won, shouting "holy f—!" right into an NBC microphone.
The Olympic broadcast is played on a several second delay to allow for censoring if needed, but apparently the producers in the booth weren't prepared for Gerard's enthusiasm.
3rd & final — Mike Tirico apologizing for the kid’s language 🥇 pic.twitter.com/vSy8Z70kIi— J.D. Durkin (@jiveDurkey) February 11, 2018
NBC's Mike Tirico appeared onscreen afterward, begging America's pardon for the profanity.
A South Korean figure skater suffered a wardrobe malfunction on ice on Sunday. 22-year-old Yura Min's top came undone early on in her routine, nearly leaving her exposed to the entire world on live TV.
The skater later said she was extremely nervous, but it didn't show in her performance. With a calm smile, she held it together long enough for her partner to partially re-hook the outfit in the middle of a spin, ensuring that it would stay on until the end of their routine.
While fans applauded Min and her partner, Alexander Gamelin, for dealing with the nightmare gracefully, some thought that NBC exploited the incident more than necessary to keep viewers engaged.
While NBC has done everything in their power to reach every person on Earth with advertisements for their Olympic coverage, some were surprised to find that their favorite NBC shows were on hiatus during the games.
Fans of This Is Us, The Voice, Chicago Med and many others were dismayed to learn that they'd have to go weeks without their TV fix. Even shows on other networks, including The Good Doctor, Modern Family and The Goldbergs are off for a couple of weeks.
While the break is a bummer for TV junkies who watch the Olympics, those who don't are outright furious. They'll have to take solace in the reality TV shows that are trying their best to compete with the biggest month in sports.
Check out a full list of which shows are on a break and when they're coming back here.
Whichever NBC producer picked out wardrobes for Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir is probably feeling pretty embarrassed right now. Viewers have been marvelling at the commentators' outfits all weekend, comparing them to characters from The Hunger Games series.
As mean as it sounds, the comparison isn't hard to draw. The broadcasters' garish outfits look like something ripped right out of the dystopian films. It's one thing to embrace the pageantry and showmanship of the Olympics, and another to lean into it this hard.
Really enjoying NBC’s coverage of The Hunger Games. pic.twitter.com/iE3J4RfqG7— Pat Tomasulo (@pattomasulo) February 12, 2018
Maybe Lipinski and Weir will take the hint from Twitter and come out in something more subdued this week, but the chances aren't looking good. The two have become arguably more of a spectacle than the athletes, and they might want to keep it that way.
An NBC cameraman got up close and personal with Olympic spectators on Thursday, and was welcomed to Korea with an affectionate kiss.
Early breakout star of the Olympics is the small child who really wanted to know what an NBC camera tastes like pic.twitter.com/PFKEO2VGXL— Josh Billinson (@jbillinson) February 9, 2018
The young boy who tried to taste test one of NBC's cameras was labelled an "early breakout star of the Olympics." Social media had a field day with the clip, though NBC executives would doubtlessly be happier if they had cut the feed to something else.
The biggest issue with NBC's Olympic coverage this year is that not enough people are watching it.
For whatever reason– misplaced advertising, spotty coverage, lack of interest or any number of other things, NBC can't get the ratings for the 2018 Winter Olympics up to the stature of the 2014 games in Sochi. This is especially frustrating for those at the network, as the Sochi games weren't even at the level they expected for the global event.
It seems like people are generally engaged with the Olympics, as it's the topic of conversation on social media, yet spectators may be paying more attention to the highlights than the non-stop coverage on NBC.
Hopefully, the network can find a way to monetize this longstanding tradition.