CBC at the Sochi Olympics: The hits and the misses

Chris Zelkovich
The Eh Game

The first 10 days of the Sochi Games have produced plenty of thrills and a lot of spills, and that's just from the announcers.

CBC has done an overall great job of bringing home the Olympics after spending the last two on the sidelines. But, like the competitors, there have been a few bobbles.

Here's a look at the hits and misses of Sochi so far.


Battle of the blades: The trio of Brenda Irving, Carol Lane and Kurt Browning have hit the right note in figure skating coverage. They stay silent during the performances and provide solid analysis afterward. Lane and Browning are like a good comedy team, with the former doing the straight stuff and the latter providing the laughs. Typical Browning: "She was the distraction and he was the pickpocket." They did a commendable job of not going all homer on the Virtue-Moir story, though could have been better in explaining why the judges were on the mark in the short program.

New faces and voices: At times, the CBC looks a bit like the waiting room for the Old Broadcasters Home, but there has been a much-needed injection of new blood here. The lack of experience has showed in some cases -- too much chattering, too much jargon and the occasional bit of boosterism. But many of the new announcers and reporters have shown a lot of promise in their Olympic debuts. Craig McMorris (snowboarding analysis), Jennifer Botterill (women's hockey reporting), Mitch Peacock (freestyle play-by-play), Kristina Groves (speed skating analysis) and Beckie Scott (cross-country and biathlon analysis) have not looked out of place. Kelly VanderBeek has the type of personality that should go a long way in the TV business.

Old reliables: No surprises here with the likes of Scott Oake, Karin Larsen, Jack Sasseville and Rob Snoek performing as expected. Joan McCusker and Mike Harris are leaving many curling fans longing for TSN's Russ Howard, but have been solid if not spectacular. Scott Russell has been strong as the daytime host and has shown that he could easily handle the prime-time job, in part because he knows the sports a lot better than the guy currently in the chair. After Rod Smith's stellar work at the Vancouver oval, it looked like Steve Armitage might have been ready to cede the title as Canada's Big Voice of Excitement. But after Sochi, a winner-take-all showdown between the two may be the only way to settle it.

Beauty, eh?: I never thought I'd write this, but silly hats aside Don Cherry has been providing some insightful and -- surprise! -- sensible commentary in Sochi. The Russian food could explain this, but more likely it's the lack of fisticuffs and nastiness in Olympic hockey that has forced him to focus on the game rather than singing the praises of thugs and attacking perceived enemies.

The frills: CBC has come up with some pretty entertaining sidelights, such as My Russia and My Team, My Town. They're sponsored bits, but give great insights into the athletes and the country hosting the Games.

Commercial success: Those incessant commercials can wear you down, but the P&G commercial featuring those moms picking up their future Olympians is pure gold.


On golden punned: (Yes, I see the irony of opening with a bad pun.) Punmaster Ron MacLean has been generally solid as the prime-time host, but needs to hone his interviewing skills, cut down on the puns and remember that he's not in Red Deer any more. On Monday night, he actually showed his wedding photo to illustrate a story about … well, we're not really sure what it was about. You can take the hockey guy out of hockey, but obviously you can't take the hockey out of MacLean. During an otherwise good interview with figure skaters Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir -- he asked a great question about them sharing a coach with their rivals -- he actually quoted Patrick Roy.

Fish out of water: Adding summer Olympians to the Winter Games prime-time show was a good example of thinking outside the box. But sometimes it's better to stay inside the box. Paddler Adam Van Koeverden and trampolinist Rosie MacLennan have done their best, but their roles aren't quite clear. Having them explain sports they don't know and talking about their summer Games accomplishments seems somewhat out of place.

Hockey, hockey, hockey: Brian Stemmle is right. There is too much focus on hockey. The endless discussions about lines and coaching decisions can drive you to biathlon.

Not enough information: While those athlete features are nice, CBC could use more stories on the nuts-and-bolts of sports most viewers watch once every four years. NBC did a great bit on how bobsleds are steered, something CBC might consider. It might also take a page from its hockey coverage and use more graphics on those less familiar sports.

Always look on the bright side: It's great to see a side of Russia that defies the stereotypes, but a competition behind held in a country with some serious human rights issues should demand more looks at the dark side.

Ad nauseam: A commercial for the oil industry that features pristine landscapes smells about as bad as an oil spill. It's not quite as offensive as BP's ads on NBC, which somehow fail to mention the Gulf of Mexico, but still pretty oily.

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