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Veteran CTV broadcaster Brian Williams is photographed on set at the broadcast centre in London, Tuesday, July 24/2012. (Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail)
Veteran CTV broadcaster Brian Williams is photographed on set at the broadcast centre in London, Tuesday, July 24/2012. (Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail)

LONDON 2012

Canada shows spirit in Olympics broadcast booth Add to ...

With medals scarce for Canada on the opening weekend, the most spirited Canadian performance might have been Friday’s exchange between CTV hosts Brian Williams and Lisa LaFlamme over uninvited comments made by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney about London’s preparedness for the Games.

The critical remarks from Romney, who ran the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, sent the Fleet Street press and Brit politicians into a fury about “Mitt the Twit.” Even American conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer lambasted Romney’s left-footed comments as “unbelievable” and “beyond comprehension.”

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Williams and LaFlamme got around to Romney as Team USA paraded on Friday with Williams acknowledging the GOP candidate controversy. But then Williams lit into the Brits for being “thin-skinned.” Weren’t the Brits the ones with the hate-on for Vancouver in the early days on the 2010 Games? True. LaFlamme went off script to disagree, saying Romney had created controversy unnecessarily. Also true.

Williams was not placated, however, saying Romney had every right to critique London’s problems with security after saving the Games in Salt Lake City. At this point, LaFlamme let it die as the British team entered the stadium.

In an e-mail to Usual Suspects, Williams described it as “just a fun conversation. It was certainly not planned. I was simply looking at his comments as they were coming as a former head of the Salt Lake Olympics.” But in Friday’s otherwise vanilla voice-over presentation, the exchange struck us as more than just fun.

So did Williams’s stinging rebuke to the International Olympic Committee for offering a baffling moment of silence for dead relatives of people in the stadium while ignoring the massacred Israelis from Munich in 1972. “They died as Olympians,” Williams pointed out. NBC’s Bob Costas mentioned the controversy as well, without Williams’s vitriol.

She’s everywhere you want to be

Props to VISA for having a pre-taped Emilie Heymans commercial congratulating her for her fourth medal, all impeccably voiced by Morgan Freeman. Raising the question, which is more exciting, an Olympic medal or having Freeman say your name?

Speaking of mentioning names, can everyone at the broadcast consortium get the proper pronouncer on Jennifer Abel’s name? While CTV’s Rod Smith and Blythe Hartley pronounced the medal winner’s name properly as “ah-BELL,” interviewer Perry Solkowski and desker Don Taylor were calling her “AY-bel.”

The good

Bell’s Mosaic channel with all five channels on at one time.

The bad

Announcers, stop referring to “tonight’s” events. They occur in the afternoon in Canada, where your audience lives. And please tell all the talking heads that Big Ben is the bell, not the tower.

Opening ratings

While there may be acres of empty seats at some Olympic venues, there were few unoccupied chairs in homes watching TV on opening night of the Olympics. The telecast of Friday’s unique Danny Boyle spectacle was the most-watched Summer Olympic opening ceremony with 6.4 million viewers across all of the CTV/Rogers consortium's platforms between 4-8 p.m. ET. Only Vancouver’s 2010 Winter Games opening ceremony, at 13.5 million, garnered more viewers.

Vancouver had the advantage of being live in prime time during the optimum viewing time of the year and, of course, being in Canada.

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