Why the Best Place to Watch Olympic Swimming Is on TV
Even though most of the news leading up the Opening Ceremonies of the Summer Olympics in Rio on Aug. 5 has been depressingly negative, many key semifinal and final swimming events will be held in prime time in the United States beginning Aug. 6.
As The Wall Street Journal recently noted, that schedule will “keep some swimmers at the pool well past midnight [with] athletes returning to their beds in the early morning hours, and need[ing] to be deep in REM sleep when the rest of the Olympic Village roars to life.”
But the schedule couldn’t be better for swim fans, who don’t want to miss any of the action.
Unlike other Olympic sports, swimming is a blast to watch. Even people who only pay attention to swimming every four years will tune in to see what will likely be Michael Phelps’ final Olympics and what could be only the beginning of a Phelpsian career for Katie Ledecky. NBC even posted a “What You’ve Missed Since London: Swimming” page on its Olympics website for casual fans.
Why is swimming one of the best Olympics sports to watch on TV? Let’s count five reasons — one for each Olympic ring:
1.) The general public can identify many swimmers on Team USA either by name or face.
Phelps, Ledecky, Missy Franklin and Ryan Lochte are household names, in part because they’ve become part of pop culture. (What sports parent wouldn’t swallow hard after watching Franklin’s Minute Maid commercial in which she pays tribute to her mom and dad?) Quick: Name three members of the U.S. fencing team?
2.) TV makes races more thrilling with angles you’d never see from the deck or in the stands.
Remember that incredible finish in the men’s 4x100 freestyle relay at the 2008 Olympics, when Jason Lezak’s come-from-behind anchor leg helped Team USA beat France by 0.08 of a second and keep Michael Phelps’ quest for eight gold medals in Beijing alive? The underwater shots? The bird’s eye angles? The cameras capturing images of Phelps displaying more emotion than we’d ever seen before? It was all enough to inspire people at work who usually don’t care about swimming to come up to me the next day and tell me what a thrill it was watching that race on TV. That kind of excitement can happen again this year — and probably will.
3.) Swimmers give entertaining post-race interviews.
After they each qualified for their first Olympics in the 200-meter backstroke in June, Cal teammates and training partners Ryan Murphy and Jacob Pebley gave emotional interviews that made every person who watched them want to keep cheering for these guys in Rio. On a less serious note, Ryan Lochte always has something to say on camera.
4.) You don’t have to sit through a bunch of qualifying heats.
NBC calls it “prime time” coverage for a reason, and only the best of the best will be given that time slot. Set the DVR if you’re not able to watch the races live.
5.) Swim fans are almost as fun to watch as the swimmers themselves.
There’s no fans quite like swim fans. From summer recreation meets to college competitions to the sport’s highest level, watching human beings propel themselves through the water as fast as they can brings out in the best in other people. Here’s proof:
Swimming is an exhilarating sport to watch, but it’s also a lifesaving skill. Watching a child learn to swim for the first time as a parent is even more exciting. Providing swim lessons can be a difficult task for some parents, but that’s why the Step Into Swim Campaign exists. Swimming can boost a child’s confidence and make them feel like they’re part of a team. If you’d like to keep the Olympic spirit alive all year, enroll your child on a swim team! You’ll be able to experience the love of swimming every day then.
Michael Popke is an award-winning journalist and owner of Two Lakes Media Group, a writing, editing and content marketing company based in the Madison, Wis., area. For 14 years, he was managing editor of Athletic Business, the leading business-to-business magazine and website for athletic, fitness and recreation professionals. He also is a swim dad; has coached baseball, basketball and softball; worked as a USA Swimming stroke-and-turn official; and is an avid high school sports and aquatics safety supporter. He would like to swim faster. For more information, please visit his website at www.twolakesmedia.com and follow him on Twitter @michaeljpopke and @TwoLakesMedia.