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A different Olympics on TVs across the world

Friday - 2/21/2014, 8:06pm  ET

In this Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, photo, people watch a television showing a live broadcast of Japanese snowboarder Tomoka Takeuchi competing at the Sochi Winter Olympics in the women's snowboard parallel giant slalom final, in a concourse at Tokyo Station in Tokyo. The program is typical of the localized TV broadcasts in countries throughout the world during the Winter Olympics. The Japanese words at top left read: Sochi Winter Olympic Press Photo Exhibition. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)

AP Television Writer

In Sweden, commentators have fun with Norway's misfortunes. The Dutch can't get enough of their speedskaters. Japan is so crazy about figure skating they show warmups. Canada is hockey crazy, Russia struggles to stay positive even when things look down and the U.S. salutes its stars with the national anthem as it's time to go to bed.

There's only one Winter Olympics. But in reality, for television viewers around the world, the Sochi games are a different experience depending on where you tune in.

Some 464 channels are broadcasting more than 42,000 hours of Sochi competition worldwide, easily outdistancing previous Olympics, according to the International Olympic Commission. Digital platforms push that number past 100,000 hours. Worldwide viewership statistics aren't available, but the IOC says more than three-quarters of Russians have watched some coverage, two-thirds of South Koreans and 90 percent of Canadians.

So let's look at Wednesday around the world. It demonstrates one thing above all: A single day's viewing from different outposts offers an intriguing window into national passions, prides and peculiarities.



"This is Sweden's Olympic games, full stop," commentator Per Forsberg said on TV3 after Stina Nilsson sprinted past German Denise Herrmann on Wednesday for a bronze medal in cross-country skiing, an event that barely attracted notice elsewhere. It is the second-best performance by a skiing nation in one Olympics, and Swedish TV is relishing the moment.

More than a million of winter sports-crazy Sweden's 9.5 million citizens watch popular disciplines like cross-country live during working hours, says Wayne Seretis, TV3 spokesman. It's even more on the weekends, where 2.5 million people watched Swedish men win gold in a cross-country relay. Smaller numbers of viewers watch prime-time roundups, he said.

On what commentators called "super Wednesday," TV3 focused on the Nordic country's win over Slovenia in men's hockey, the medals in cross-country sprints and the Swedish women qualifying for the curling finals.

Swedish commentators congratulated Finland for a "well-deserved" gold in the men's team sprint but didn't dwell on arch-rival Norway's gold in the women's race, noting that it must feel good for the Norwegians to finally live up to expectations. Earlier in the games, Swedish commentators took pleasure in the failures of Norway, particularly the explanation that the skiers were hobbled by bad wax.



Wednesday was a plain lousy day for the host country, where Russia's men's hockey team was shown live at 4:30 p.m. Moscow time being eliminated from medal contention by Finland. Team captain Pavel Datsyuk later appeared on Channel One's evening news to thank fans for their support.

During the prime-time figure skating, announcer Ilya Averbukh said "bravo, bravo" following the performance by South Korea's Yuna Kim, the defending gold medalist. Irina Slutskaya, an Olympic medalist in 2002 and 2006, saluted American Gracie Gold. "She fought to the end," Slutskaya said.

When at last it was time for the diminutive Julia Lipnitskaia to skate, Slutskaya said she was unable to speak and her palms were sweaty. Lipnitskaia started strong, but when she crashed on a triple flip, Slutskaya couldn't hold back a pained gasp.

Averbukh, a former Olympic ice dancer, quickly jumped in to say that "nothing terrible" had happened. Russia's announcers have been careful to keep a positive spin on the games.



Japan's figure skating star Mao Asada had a tough day, too. The Vancouver silver medalist finished 16th. That was big news back home, where broadcaster NHK began showing skating warmups just before midnight Tokyo time, and stuck with the competition live until 4 a.m. Thursday.

With Japan six hours ahead of Sochi, many of the high-profile events are shown live overnight, although NHK rebroadcasts much of it the next day. The Japanese broadcasters rely heavily on former athletes for Olympic coverage, with former figure skater Shizuka Arakawa, former tennis star Shuzo Matsuoka and Nordic combined gold medalist Kenji Ogiwara all in Russia.

Japan's national broadcaster televised the men's and women's giant slalom final live in prime time on Wednesday, along with the women's 5,000-meter speedskating.



Canada's national obsession was evident Wednesday, when the prime-time telecast opened with 40 minutes on the men's hockey team's tense 2-1 victory over Latvia to reach the gold medal game, even though many Canadians stopped work to watch it live during the day.

"What a game," the CBC's play-by-play man Jim Hughson said. "It wasn't supposed to be this hard."

"Never in doubt," commentator Glenn Healy joked.

The CBS also CBC devoted 40 minutes to the women's bobsled, where that country's team of Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse came from behind to win gold. About half of that time was spent on a studio interview with the two-time Olympic champions, who talked about patching up a previous falling out.

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