You may be surprised to know that there's a good chance the Olympic broadcaster who's describing the action to you is doing the same thing you are.
Watching it on TV, here in Canada. And in one surprising case, on TV in London.
Beach volleyball, women's soccer, tennis, whitewater canoeing, men's and women's wrestling, the swimming marathons, triathlon, the marathon, race walking, and indoor volleyball are all examples of Olympic sports that have been or will be called by commentators who are nowhere near the venue in which those sports are being contested.
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While there is a huge Canadian media presence in London, covering the games for the Bell/Rogers media consortium, there is a rather large contingent back at home, thousands of kilometres away.
It's called covering an event "off tube" and it is a fairly massive undertaking in and of itself. It's also an economic and logistical necessity, according to the consortium's executive producer, Gord Cutler.
"The summer Olympics are so large, you'd have to have a staff that was unbelievably enormous, in order to cover everything with talent and facilities in every venue," he said, taking a break from the action at the CTV/TSN facilities in Toronto. "I don't know of a broadcaster within the Olympic family that does everything with announcers in every venue. The games are too large, there's too many."
He explains that the unwieldy beast of an Olympic schedule is not the only factor that comes into consideration here. Dollars matter.
"A good chunk of it is economic. The Olympics are very costly for broadcasters to do. You have to be responsible and you have to allocate the resources to get your biggest bang for your buck."
With months, really years, of prep going into planning, the consortium's executives needed to decide which events warranted live crews on site, and which ones didn't. You won't be surprised to know that swimming, athletics, gymnastics and rowing were a few of the disciplines that got that treatment. As for the others, it's hoped you won't notice a difference.
While you can easily conclude who is at the games merely because you see them on screen, it can sometimes be difficult to determine who isn't, if they're doing their job well. I've been a broadcaster for more than 25 years, and I didn't know R.J. Broadhead wasn't at the beach volleyball venue, until someone told me. Might not have known Gerry Dobson wasn't in-stadium calling soccer, had there not been a glitch that removed the venue's raw sound from the feed for a short time.
Dobson, Broadhead, Vic Rauter, Kevin Quinn, Luke Wileman, Jim Van Horne, Paul Romanuk, along with their colour commentary partners, are all off site. That's just to name a few. There are more. One oddity is that Romanuk lives in England, yet still called Saturday's triathlon off tube from a London TV studio.
Rauter, best known as the voice of curling in Canada, is covering events like race walking, wrestling, whitewater canoeing and the marathons for London 2012. Although he'd rather be on-site and handling things from near the action, he says that if he were, he'd have his eyes on a TV most of the time, anyway.
"Even when I've been at the games, although you're there, you still do call off the screen because you have to talk about what the viewer is seeing," he said.
"What you truly miss (as a broadcaster, not a viewer), though, is the atmosphere. That is what you truly do miss," he admitted.
Case in point, says Rauter: The whitewater canoe/kayak events and the excitement of the crowd. He could get a sense of it through the audio feed but...
"I couldn't really drink that in because I wasn't there. But, even if I was, I would be looking at the monitor for the majority of the time because the camera captures what the viewer sees and we comment on what the camera picks up."
Is there a chance the viewer is getting shortchanged by announcers who are not within audible distance of an Olympian's grunt? Rauter say no.
"I really don't think so. In two weeks' time (as an example) I'll be calling a NASCAR Canadian series race in Montreal. I will look at the cars going by me, but the rest of the time, I'll be calling the race off the monitors that I'm seeing."
"Selfishly, I'd love to be there. That's the prize," said Rauter as he headed into the Toronto studios to call Saturday's racewalking event. "That's what every commentator wants to do. But do I understand why it's being done the way it is, and the world of television now and the world of economics now? Yes I understand."
To make an off-tube broadcast really hum, you need a couple of things at play. You need top-notch talent performing at a high level and a very strong infrastructure. Cutler says his commentators are extremely well-supported.
"We've done a lot of building and constructing here. We had specially designed voice-over booths custom-made for us. They've got a big, huge HD monitor in there. They've got a couple of computer screens that have real-time stats and info from London. They are well serviced with up-to-date information."
"We have a full research team here," he continued, "and we have researchers on call 24/7 for every sport. These guys have reams of information. They're really well supported for our off-tube effort."
Rauter concurs with that. "My kitchen counter is just filled with papers."
He also says that, in order to be prepared to cover a number of events like this, he needed to do a little extra leg work, like traveling to a Canada Cup wrestling meet in Guelph a few weeks back. That's needed, because he doesn't have the usual advantage of access to the athletes and coaches on the day of the event.
"What I'm missing, maybe, is walking through the venue in London, and getting first-hand knowledge from the athletes," he said. "Honestly, though, nobody (viewing) is missing anything."
Cutler says he's quite proud of the efforts of his off-tube team, although he'd have liked to have sent more of them to England.
"I would have loved nothing better than to put more broadcasters in London. You always would like to do that. They capture the feel of the venue and they can help to try and communicate the thrill of the environment to you. But, it's not economical to do that."
Not for anyone, notes Cutler. Not even the big players.
"We're a medium country," he explained. "Our workforce and our venue facilities pale in comparison to some of the others, like NBC, or the BBC. NBC calls stuff off-tube as well and they're as much the gold standard as anybody."
More London Olympics coverage on Yahoo! Canada Sports:
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• Photos: Swimming world records set in London
• Rosie MacLennan claims Canada's first gold medal at London Games