#NBCFail: top Olympic moments American TV viewers may have missed

Stories the world is talking about that didn't make American prime time

Kate Lieb By Kate Lieb

The TV viewing numbers for Olympics 2012 in the U.S. have been spectacular: NBC has attracted an average of 32 million viewers a night.


NBC’s decision to delay coverage for prime time viewership has been widely panned. Too much emphasis on American athletes, critics say. Too much editing of events for dramatic effect.

So what exactly have U.S. audiences missed out on? We bring you five Olympic highlights you may not have seen.

7/7 Tribute

Right from the get go, NBC found a way to piss off some viewers. Because of time constraints, the network edited out parts of the opening ceremony. The Arctic Monkeys’ “I Bet You Look Good On

Emeli Sande performs “Abide With Me” at the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games (Reuters/Mike Blake)

The Dance Floor,” for example, hit the cutting floor. But it was the missing tribute to the victims of 7/7 that really had people up in arms. On July 7, 2005, the day after London won the right to host the 2012 games, four suicide bombers killed 52 people during a coordinated attack at three different points on the Underground and on a bus in Travistock Square. A video of the victims played while contemporary dancers performed onstage to the hymn “Abide With Me” sung by Scottish artist Emeli Sandé. What did NBC audiences see instead? A Ryan Seacrest interview with Michael Phelps.

Ben Ainslie

Did you try to watch sailing on NBC and have some trouble finding it? You’re not alone. In fact, it was not televised on any of the NBC TV networks. To find it, you’d have to go hunting online. Great Britain’s Ben Ainslie won the gold medal in the Finn class category, making him the most decorated sailor in Olympic history with four golds.

Women’s Boxing

Katie Taylor after winning the lightweight gold in lightweight boxing. (Reuters/Murad Sezer)

This is the first time the Olympics have ever featured women’s boxing, but NBC has barely touched it. As Jada Yuan wrote in New York Magazine, “NBC, you love historical things. What’s wrong with you?” Even the victory of 17-year-old Michigander Clareesa Shields in the middleweight tournament was barely mentioned. And then there was the 26-year-old lass—and lightweight boxer—from Bray, Ireland: Katie Taylor won the first ever Olympic gold medal for her women’s boxing weight class and the hearts of all her countrymen (she won Ireland’s only gold of the London Games). But the match didn’t make primetime TV in the U.S.

Chinese Achilles Heel

During the 110-meter hurdles, Chinese runner Liu Xiang was set for redemption. After winning the gold medal in the event in the 2004 games in Athens, he withdrew from the competition at the Beijing 2008 Olympics due to an Achilles tendon injury. This time he made it to the start of his heat and was off when the start gun popped. But after attempting to jump the first hurdle, down he went. Once again, it was the Achilles tendon. He collected himself and hobbled towards the stadium tunnels, but then abruptly stopped and turned around. He hopped the entire length of the track until he reached the final hurdle, then stopped and kissed it. Once he crossed the finish line, his fellow competitors assisted him off the course, a moment of high drama and poignancy that became a talking point for millions of his countrymen back home. “He lost the race, but he is a winner in life,” said an editorial in SINA Sport. “He has succeeded by standing on the race track while enduring the pain.”

Iranian Gold Medalists

Did you know Iran is 14th in the medal count for these Olympic games, having won 10 medals thus far? And did you know that Iranians are mad about wrestling? Fittingly enough, three of the four gold medals are in wrestling. Below are some highlights from featherweight champion Omid Norouzi’s match.

Correction: Due to a reporting error, the original version of this story incorrectly said Katie Taylor won Ireland’s first-ever Olympic gold medal.