August 18, 2008
Usain Bolt picked a bad night to run the most electrifying 100 meter race in Olympic history. As Michael Phelps' eighth gold medal dominated television coverage, Internet sites and newspaper headlines in the United States on Saturday night, Bolt's scintillating 9.69 was buried as a second story. Normally the premiere race of every Games, the men's 100 final received scant domestic publicity despite it's historic, thrilling result.
Clearly, the 12-hour time difference played a huge role in the under-coverage of Bolt's feat. While Michael Phelps' races garnered live coverage on NBC (because it was competed in the morning in Beijing), Bolt's wasn't shown until nearly 13 hours after its completion. Even then, it felt like an afterthought to Phelps' eighth gold medal swim.
NBC is said to be worried about post-Phelps ratings for these Olympics, yet they squandered the opportunity to turn Bolt into their second-week star by dumping his race in the outer-reaches of primetime and then giving it no notice on yesterday's broadcast. Bolt's speed, charisma, youth and good looks make him a prime candidate to be the breakout star of these Games. The Peacock Network is more concerned with squeezing every last ounce of coverage out of Michael Phelps though. (Not that I blame them.)
Bolt will have the stage to himself on Wednesday when he runs the 200 and is expected to challenge Michael Johnson's 12-year old world record. Hopefully he'll get the coverage he deserves.