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Ron Judd's Olympics Insider

Ron Judd, an Olympics junkie and Seattle Times columnist who has covered Olympic sports since 1997, will use this space to serve up news and opinion on the Summer and Winter Games -- also inviting you to chime in on Planet Earth's biggest get-together.

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August 13, 2008 8:45 PM

Olympic prime time -- Disadvantaged Time Zone Edition

Posted by Ron Judd

22:15 Men's overall gymnastics goes on, with Yang Wei of China leading the way. He win China's 20th gold medal.

The first hour was fairly excruciating, as it presents a worst-case scenario for the U.S. viewer: America's two competitors, halfway through, are not in the top 10, yet not mathematically eliminated. That means Americans must watch, in excruciating detail, the two adjust their tape on the bench, take off clothes, but clothes on, change gloves, etc. etc. etc., as the crowd reacts loudly to other nation's competitors actually doing gymnastics somewhere in the background. Will never understand the need to spend every single waking second with the U.S. athletes sitting on the bench and mugging for the camera.

It gets better later, as the two fade from contention, forcing NBC to show other competitors.

It's a bit better on CBC, where Canada's athletes are still shown disproportionately, but not in a way that's out of line. And at least we don't have to listen to them whisper sweet nothings in the camera to all their friends back home.

Al Trautwig, at 1:08 a.m. ET, announces, in a major concession to all 12 east coast viewers still watching: "We are commercial free until the end of the competition." Man, NBC just gives and gives and gives. Think what they could've pulled in for that prime, 1 a.m. ad position.


20:42: Women's 800 freestyle relay final
Australia wins at 7:44.31. China takes the silver. The U.S., which formerly owned this event, takes the bronze, with Katie Hoff unable to make a dent in a large deficit she inherits at 600 meters.

20:15: Over at the Water Cube, Michael Phelps swims 1:57.70 to advance to the final, but the big news is, HIS SPEEDO GOGGLES FAIL HIM AGAIN!

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20:02: We go now to men's individual gymnastics. Right off the bat, add this one to the list of classics from NBC's Al "Every-Chinese-Cliche-In-The-Book" Trautwig:

"All around gymnasts are like the Chinese panda."
-------------------
19:55: Men's 100 free final
Alain Bernard of France wins a drag race with Eamon Sullivan of Australia, swimming 47.21 to Sullivan's 47.32. America's Jason Lezak ties for third place, earning his first individual medal after six relay medals. Defending champ Pieter van den Hoogenband of the Netherlands is out of the running.

Women's 200 butterfly
19:50: Liu Zige and Jiao Liuyang, two Chinese swimmers who have raised eyebrows with sterling performances in Beijing, despite not placing in worlds competitions in prior years, finish one-two, swimming 2:04.18 and 2:04.72, respectively -- both under the WR. Jessicah Schipper of Australia, who loses her WR, swims 2:06.26 to finish third.

19:37: NBC yukster Chris Collingsworth (who is in Beijing ... why?) has a taped interview with Jason Lezak, which Bob Costas crows is something "the competition" couldn't get. What competition? You own the Olympics, you summon someone, and they show up. Good grief.

19:29: Men's 200 backstroke, semi heat two
Ryan Lochte swims 1:55.40, right on Peirsol's heels for the final. Markus Rogan of Austria is third seed.

19:24: Men's 200 backstroke, semi heat one
Aaron Peirsol of the U.S. swims 1:55.26 to win, looking very relaxed.

19:18 Women's 100 free semis, heat two
Jiaying Pang of China wins the heat, and Libby Trickett, WR holder of Australia, appears not to make the final -- major upset. Seconds later, Pang is DQ'd for a false start. Trickett will swim the final -- from lane 8. Coughlin goes in as top seed.

19:12: Women's 100 free semis, heat one
Natalie Coughlin, with a gorgeous turn at 50 meters, wins at 53.70. WR holder Libby Trickett of Australia swims 54.11, is in danger of not making the final.

19:07: Men's 200 breaststroke
Kosuke Kitajima of Japan hits the double jackpot, sweeping the 100 and 200 breast with a time of 2:07.64. Silver to Brenton Rickard of Australia. Bronze to Hugues Duboscq of France. Mike Brown of Ontario flirts with third, but keeps Canada's medal-less streak alive.

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18:55: Sorry. Had to take a break there. I was losing my mind.

NBC is showing a montage of all of Michael Phelps' gold medals, starting in Athens. It will take a while.

A rumor is floating around that NBC might show Phelps' eighth gold-medal race on Saturday live, in all its markets, even here in the Disadvantaged Time Zone (DTZ). Stay tuned, but don't hold your breath.

---------------------------
17:42: This just in: China has now won 17 gold medals. We're not saying their athletes are underaged, but 14 of those are going to show-and-tell on Monday morning.

17:37: Alexandre Despatie and Arturo Miranda of Canada, in a brilliant play to keep Timbit Nation's medal-free streak alive, just made a decidedly non-synchronized dive to drop to fifth place.

We observe that the hometown Canadian crowd is getting a bit cranky about the medal drought. Take this summary of the Canadian duo's efforts, by Dave Stubbs of Canwest News Service:

BEIJING - For too much of Wednesday's six-dive contest, Canadians Alexandre Despatie and Arturo Miranda were synced about as well as a dubbed Godzilla movie.
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17:18: NBC is now doing a big takeout feature on... Kerri Walsh and Misty May Treanor. I kid you not. More beach volleyball. They're back live at the top of the hour, Bob Costas says. Perfect. We were looking for time to defrag the hard drives.

Meantime: NBC moves to springboard men's 3m synchro diving.
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17:05 p.m. Good afternoon, Irrelevant West Coast. Good morning, Beijing. (Elliott: Remember to eat breakfast.)

NBC's eastern feed leads off with the women's road-cycling time trial, which we have a strange feeling will be won by America's Kristin Armstrong, 35.

One immediate reaction: These are said to be the "Green Games." But every single cycle heading up the road has a personal escort vehicle -- one car per cycle. Just saying.

And we have to ask: Is it part of the official Olympic charter that every color commentator for cycling must have a British accent?

Tonight's expected highlights: The men's 100 freestyle swimming final. Men's individual gymnastics competition (late).

CBC is back at synchro diving.

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www.olympic.org: The official International Olympic Committtee site, with news releases, a searchable Olympic medals database and other archival information.
www.nbcolympics.com: Olympic news site from one of the Games' primary sponsors.
NBC Olympics columnist Alan Abrahamson's column/blog
Chicago Tribune Olympic sports writer Philip Hersh's blog
www.usolympicteam.com: U.S. Olympic Committee's athlete web site.
www.aroundtherings.com: Ed and Sheila Hula's Olympic News Service (subscription).
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www.beijing2008.com: Beijing Organizing Committee Web site.
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www.london2012.com: London 2012 Summer Games site.
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www.chicago2016.org: Candidate city Chicago's summer 2016 bid committee site.
Olympic swimmer Tara Kirk's highly entertaining WCSN blog
Bellevue Olympian Scott Macartney's WCSN alpine ski-racing blog
Other WCSN Olympic athlete blogs.