Stop The Presses!

NBC’s Olympics Opening Ceremony Broadcast: What You Didn’t See

Lyndsey Parker
Stop The Presses!

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Emeli Sandé's Olympic ceremony performance did not air in the U.S. [photo: Lars Baron/Getty Images]

Anyone in any country who watched the 2012 London Olympics Opening Ceremony, which was masterminded by filmmaker Danny Boyle and musical-directed by Underworld, was no doubt awed by what just might've been one of the Games' greatest extravaganzas ever. However, the spectacle could have been improved upon for American viewers watching the ceremony on NBC. First of all, NBC's commentators could have taken a collective deep breath and stopped yammering for a few seconds (particularly over the musical segments). And secondly and more importantly, NBC could have shown the ceremony in its entirety, instead of omitting key moments to make room for TWENTY-FOUR commercial breaks and an oddly placed Michael Phelps/Ryan Seacrest interview. The network's controversial ceremony edits have drawn the wrath of music fans not just in America, but in many other parts of the world.

The most egregious of these edits was the entire omission of a gorgeous performance by rising Scottish songstress Emeli Sandé, who sang Henry Francis Lyte's hymn "Abide With Me." Not only was this one of the highlights of the original full ceremony that aired live on Britain's BBC, and not only was this supposed to be a huge break for Emeli (whose excited publicists had widely issued a press release announcing that NBC would broadcast her performance)...but this performance was actually part of a memorial to terrorism victims, including the 52 victims of the London bombings of July 7, 2005.

The segment's choreographer, Akram Khan, later told a reporter for the blog Olympic Rings and Other Things: "I feel disheartened and disappointed...It's disgraceful U.S. media could make that decision, and [I] would like to know why." But NBC spokesman Greg Hughes explained the omission to USA Today with a mere: "Our programming is tailored for the U.S. audience." Apparently, it seems NBC executives assumed that the U.S. audience would not be interested in an artsy performance by a relatively unknown British singer, or in a tribute to victims of tragedies that didn't take place on U.S. soil.

Video of Emeli's actual "Abide With Me" Olympic performance can be viewed at Deadspin.com, and the studio version below will further give U.S. viewers an idea of just what they missed. It's almost impossible to believe that any TV programmer would think talent like this belonged on the cutting-room floor:

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But that's not all, folks. While Sheffield band the Arctic Monkeys' stellar second number, a cover of the Beatles' "Come Together," did air on NBC, the network opted to cut to commercial just as the Monkeys were starting up their first song, their signature hit "I Bet You Look Good On The Dance Floor." Here's what viewers in other countries got to see:

A fun tribute to punk rock during the "four decades of British music" segment, featuring "Pretty Vacant" by the Sex Pistols--who reportedly turned down an invitation to perform at the  Olympics because organizers wanted to censor their songs--was also axed by NBC:

A rousing performance by hardcore-folk troubadour Frank Turner also--probably unsurprisingly--didn't make NBC's cut:

Check out the ceremony's full 86-song playlist to see what other music didn't make it to air.

At this rate, it's actually shocking that NBC opted to show U.K. rapper Dizzee Rascal's ceremony performance--but perhaps network executives believed that the U.S. audience would be more interested in a hip-hop artist than in a Scottish hymn, a band of scrappy Northern English rockers, or a bunch of huge-headed punk puppets. Regardless of the reason(s) why these performances were not shown in America, it's just a shame that so many U.S. viewers didn't get to see the full Opening Ceremony as Danny Boyle and Underworld intended.

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