SBD/July 30, 2012/Olympics

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  • NBC Off To Best Summer Olympic Viewership Mark During Opening Weekend

    Early gymnastics qualifying helps NBC to a record weekend.

    NBC earned a 21.7 overnight Nielsen rating last night from 7:00-11:15pm ET for Olympics coverage, marking the best overnight for the first Sunday of a non-U.S. Summer Olympics on record. The figure is behind only a 26.0 overnight for the ’96 Atlanta Games and a 26.9 for the '84 L.A. Games. Last night’s primetime coverage featured taped coverage of the men’s 4x100 freestyle relay -- which saw the U.S. squad finish second to France -- as well as U.S. swimmer Dana Vollmer earning a Gold Medal in the women’s 100 meter butterfly and the women’s gymnastics all-around qualifying. The 21.7 rating is up 2% compared to the first Sunday night during the '08 Beijing Games, when the eastern and central time zones saw live coverage of U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps winning the second of his eight gold medals in the 4x100 relay. Milwaukee topped all U.S. markets during last ngiht’s coverage with a 28.4 local rating, followed by Salt Lake City (26.5) and K.C. (25.3).

    THROUGH TWO NIGHTS: NBC’s average through the first two nights of the London Games primetime coverage is an 18.8 rating and 35.6 million viewers. The viewership mark is the best on record, while the rating is the best for any non-U.S. Olympics. The average is up 21% from 29.5 million viewers in ’08 and up 7% from ’96. The first night of competition on Saturday night, which featured the first race between Phelps and U.S. swimmer Ryan Lochte, earned a 15.8 rating and 28.7 million viewers. That audience marks the best viewership for any first night on record, and also the highest-rated first night for a non-U.S. Olympics since the ’76 Montreal Games. NBC also earned a 21.0 rating and 40.7 million viewers for the Opening Ceremony. The rating is up from Beijing, but just short of the record set during Atlanta. The viewership is the best for any Olympics Opening Ceremony on record (Austin Karp, THE DAILY).

    PRIMETIME OLYMPIC RATINGS
     
    Day
    London
    Beijing
    Athens
    Sydney
    Atlanta
    Opening Ceremony
    Fri.
    21.0
    18.6
    14.6
    16.2
    23.6
    Day 2
    Sat.
    15.8
    13.9
    11.8
    13.1
    17.2
    2-Day Avg.
    18.8
    16.0
    13.3
    14.5
    20.5
               

    NUMBERS DON'T LIE: In L.A., Scott Collins notes NBC claims the ratings are "vindication of its controversial media strategy for the London Games." NBC Sports Group Chair Mark Lazarus said in a statement, "This audience number for the London opening ceremony is a great early sign that our strategy of driving people to watch NBC in prime time is working" (L.A. TIMES, 7/30). DAILY VARIETY's Brian Lowry wrote for "all the second-guessing about the London Games ... the initial ratings were spectacular." Whatever the "concerns about diluting tune-in -- starting with the gluttonous buffet of programming available -- the Olympics endure, and little is likely to prevent London from being a rousing success by today's fragmented broadcast standards" (VARIETY.com, 7/29). The AP's David Bauder noted the Opening Ceremony was the "most-watched television event in the U.S. since the winter, when 39.9 million people watched the Grammy Awards and 39.3 million saw the Oscars." The results were a "good sign for NBC and broadcast TV in general, which is increasingly finding that big events draw people to the screen more than regular entertainment programming" (AP, 7/28). In DC, Lisa de Moraes wrote, "Now you know why NBC did not stream the Opening Ceremony, but made people wait to watch it via NBC in primetime" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 7/28).

    TV TIMEOUT: In Baltimore, David Zurawik wrote NBC's broadcast of the Opening Ceremony Friday night "made for a fine opening to the games." The overall production "started to drag about two hours in, but NBC wisely gave viewers a three-minute break from the proceedings in the stadium for an interview with Michael Phelps." Zurawik wrote, "At first when the hosts were teasing it, I thought the decision was a mistake that would make it harder for me to get into the spectacle and pageantry of the opening ceremonies when the cameras took us from the studio back to the games. But NBC was right. By the time Phelps came on with Ryan Seacrest, I was ready for a change of pace." NBC's Meredith Vieira "was superb in the co-hosting she did with [Matt] Lauer -- not a second of wasted effort or silliness." NBC's Bob Costas was "a little less smartalecky than usual, and on most nights, I would complain about that because I love his ironic, wiseguy edge." Zurawik: "But again, I think NBC was right: There wasn't a lot of space for irony and wisecracks Friday night" (BALTIMORE SUN, 7/28). Lauer said of “Queen Elizabeth” parachuting into Olympic Stadium with James Bond, “Are you kidding me? ... Queen Elizabeth II making perhaps the most memorable entrance to an Opening Ceremony ever. This is what they’ll write about in newspapers around the world tomorrow.” NBC’s Meredith Vieira: “Now it’s already going viral.” Lauer said, “Tonight, she’s a Bond girl” (NBC, 7/27).

    GOOGLE HIM
    : In N.Y., Alessandra Stanley wrote Lauer and Vieira "did their best to get in the spirit of British nuttiness, but at times their energy flagged, and their bewilderment became obvious." After a hospital sketch that "morphed into a children’s nightmare -- and a giant fake baby floating on a bed -- Lauer said, 'I don’t know whether that’s cute or creepy'" (N.Y. TIMES, 7/28). The GUARDIAN's Paul Harris wrote Vieira "failed to do her homework and thus did not recognise the importance" of World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee, who played a role in the Opening Ceremony. Vieira said, "If you haven't heard of him, we haven't either." Lauer replied, "Google him." Vieira also attempted to "add to the vocals of Mick Jagger as the Rolling Stones' (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction got an airing in the music montage segment." It "wasn't a high point as she must have realised, as the karaoke effort lasted a mere few bars before she went back to straight commentary" (GUARDIAN.co.uk, 7/28). Meanwhile, in DC, Jen Chaney in an Opening Ceremony running blog wrote the Internet "seems a bit frustrated by the NBC commentators," as "Shut-up Matt Lauer" became a running theme on Twitter. Others on Twitter were accusing Lauer and Costas "of doing their parade of nations research on Wikipedia" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 7/27).

    THE RIGHT CALL? The GUARDIAN's David Hills noted NBC is "facing growing criticism after editing their delayed coverage of the London 2012 opening ceremony to replace the 'memorial wall' tribute section with a Ryan Seacrest interview with Michael Phelps." NBC's broadcast "left out sections including the reflective moment when the Scottish singer Emeli Sandé sang Abide with Me." The section "included images of loved ones lost by those in the stadium, and was also widely interpreted as a tribute to the 52 victims of the 7/7 terrorist attacks in London" in '05 (GUARDIAN, 7/28). The London DAILY MAIL noted NBC is "known for cutting away for small portions of the opening ceremonies to make way for commercial, but U.S. commentators say they have never heard of it skipping a whole performance before." Meanwhile, Costas followed through on his plan to acknowledge the IOC denied a moment of silence "honouring Israeli athletes killed at the Olympics 40 years ago ... but stopped short of offering his own protest" (London DAILY MAIL, 7/28). He said, "For many, tonight with the world watching is the true time and place to remember those who were lost and how and why they died” (NBC, 7/27).

    ON THE CHOPPING BLOCK: TIME.com's James Poniewozik noted there was "some disagreement over whether the segment was actually, literally a tribute to terrorism victims." Poniewozik wrote, "But it also doesn’t really matter. Specific or general, a tribute to the missing seems like precisely the most sensitive section of a ceremony to edit out. And besides that, given the stranglehold NBC maintains on content for an event its audience has a massive interest in, why edit anything out?" It may have been a "long ceremony, as they always are, but there was plenty of time to air the song rather than have Ryan Seacrest interview athletes" (TIME.com, 7/28). USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand wrote it is "not shocking NBC didn't see lingering on that as helping its overall marketing effort." When asked why NBC "didn't show the memorial, NBC spokesman Greg Hughes on Saturday said only that 'our programming is tailored for the U.S. audience. It's a tribute to (opening ceremony producer) Danny Boyle that it required so little editing'" (USA TODAY, 7/28). The Baltimore SUN's Zurawik asked, "NBC was broadcasting to the U.S. not the U.K., and if there is still dispute today about the content, how many U.S. viewers do you think would have understood what it was Friday night?" (Baltimore SUN, 7/28). The GUARDIAN's Matt Williams noted while NBC took an "online shellacking over perceived failings in its opening ceremony coverage, host Meredith Vieira belatedly mentioned on Saturday night's show a memorial segment it had failed to air live the previous night." The network "may not be overly concerned, given that a first glimpse at the ratings [seemed] to suggest that it is working out quite nicely for them" (GUARDIAN, 7/29).

    SENTENCE FIRST, VERDICT AFTERWARDS! The AP's Bauder noted Twitter was "alight again Saturday with complaints against the network for not televising live the men's 400-meter swimming race that American Ryan Lochte won, with Michael Phelps finishing fourth." Media critic Jeff Jarvis "called it 'ludicrous' that NBC was airing promotions for the race when it was easy for anyone to quickly find the results on the computer." Others were "angry to learn the results on NBC's 'Nightly News' before the prime-time telecast." A further aggravation "was the telecast itself, including lengthy features with John McEnroe and Lochte, and Ryan Seacrest with Phelps, simply emphasizing that NBC was pumping up a race that had already been run." The network did air the race "live Saturday afternoon on its Web site" (AP, 7/29). NBC London Olympics Exec Producer Jim Bell "took to Twitter to answer critics and even change the way NBC is doing something in response." Time's Poniewozik tweeted, "NBC tape delay coverage is like the airlines: its interest is in giving you the least satisfactory service you will still come back for." Bell replied on Twitter, "You do know that all sports events are being streamed live right?" (AP, 7/29). In Phoenix, Bob Young wrote there is a "big difference between tape-delaying an entertainment production like the opening ceremony and the actual Olympic competition." When Phelps and Lochte, in the "most-hyped rivalry of these Games, meet in the pool for the first time, we'd like to see that live." Young: "We should expect to see that live. ... There was no way for anyone with a smart phone, television or computer to avoid the result without really working at it" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 7/29). In Austin, Kirk Bohls wrote, "Love watching the Olympics, but in this day of the Twitterverse, I'd love to see NBC show more live events" (STATESMAN.com, 7/29).

    AVERT YOUR EYES: The Baltimore SUN's Zurawik noted outside of a graphic that appeared onscreen during the sports portion of WBAL-NBC's 6:00pm ET news Saturday, the "only mention of Michael Phelps failure to win a medal in his first event ... came in a graphic shown onscreen" during the sports portion of the show. WBAL's Gerry Sandusky "warned viewers to look away before the news of Phelps' fourth place finish was shown on the screen if they didn't want to know." WBAL GM Dan Joerres said that Sandusky "never verbally reported the results." Zurawik: "A weird way to do the news -- especially a story this big to Baltimore viewers" (Baltimore SUN, 7/29). Meanwhile, during last night’s edition of “Nightly News,” anchor Brian Williams noted there were "more surprising results in two of the marquee events here, swimming and women’s gymnastics, both to be broadcast here on NBC in primetime tonight." Williams: "Veteran viewers may remember how we do spoiler alerts here. If you don’t want to see the results, close your eyes or look away for a moment. We won’t say anything on the air to give it away but it will be on the screen and then we will tell you when it’s safe to look back.” The broadcast displayed the results of the men’s 4x100 freestyle relay and U.S. gymnast Jordyn Wieber failing to qualify for the all-around competition” (“Nightly News,” NBC, 7/29).

    TRENDING ON TWITTER: USA TODAY's Robert Bianco writes just days into NBC's coverage, there already is a "Twitter pile-on at #NBCfail and a growing chorus of complaints aimed at Ryan Seacrest." Bianco: "If you are going to gather us in prime time to see the Opening Ceremony, then you should show it to us once you have us. ... And that certainly means not interrupting Saturday's coverage for a Seacrest interview with Phelps' family." As if to "compound the problem, the network then had him lead a back-slapping Twitter-walk through Opening Ceremony compliments." Bianco writes, "Is someone trying to undercut him before he can even get started, or is Seacrest's news judgment truly that awful? Talk like that, NBC really doesn't need" (USA TODAY, 7/30).

    THIS IS "TODAY": This morning’s episode of NBC’s “Today” looked back on Team USA’s results over the opening weekend of the Games and highlighted some of the triumphs. The broadcast began with a taped interview with Gold Medal-winning swimmer Dana Vollmer and a live interview with swimmer Natalie Coughlin, whose Bronze Medal in the 400-meter relay Saturday tied her with Jenny Thompson and Dara Torres as the most decorated U.S female Olympian with 12 total medals. NBC’s Tim Daggett and Elfi Schlegel reviewed the performance of the U.S. women’s gymnastics team. U.S. medal-winning swimmers Brendan Hansen and Elizabeth Beisel sat for a live interview. The second hour led with the weekend performances of U.S. swimmers Lochte and Phelps, and followed with live interviews with Gold Medal-winning skeet shooter Kim Rhode and Silver Medal-winning synchronized divers Kelci Bryant and Abby Johnston. More highlights led the third hour, followed by a live interview with members of the Silver Medal-winning U.S. men's archery team. Former Gold Medalists Carly Patterson and Nastia Liukin reviewed the U.S. women’s gymnastics team, while Bronze Medal-winning swimmer Lia Neal was interviewed (THE DAILY).

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  • NBC Criticized For Use of Tape Delay, Quality Of Live Stream Broadcasts

    NBC had 7 million video streams Saturday, compared to 1.6 million four years ago

    NBC said that it had 7 million video streams Saturday, "up from 1.6 million from the first day of Beijing competition" four years ago, according to Michael Hiestand of USA TODAY. Those streams Saturday "came despite widespread technical difficulties." As with CBS' NCAA men's basketball tournament coverage in March, NBC's Olympic digital coverage "was meant for viewers whose TV comes from cable, satellite or telecommunications distributors." And like the "first day that system was used on the tournament, there were lots of glitches Saturday." NBC Sports Senior VP/Communications Greg Hughes said some of the glitches "were from our end and some from the user's end" and were reduced by Sunday (USA TODAY, 7/30). In N.Y., Richard Sandomir reports early returns "indicate that streaming is extremely popular." On Saturday, the total videos streamed, "including highlights and replays, stand at 13.2 million, compared with 5.2 million in Beijing." However, Twitter has "turned into a fiery digital soapbox against NBC, as its users have merged their resentment over tape delay with problems viewing the live streams." The outrage has been "distilled, simply, into #nbcfail." The "ire of #nbcfail was stoked Sunday" when NBC Chief Digital Officer Vivian Schiller retweeted a message initially from CNN’s Jonathan Wald that said "the medal for most Olympic whining goes to everyone complaining about what happens every 4 yrs., tape delay." Twitter has been "lit up" with similar complaints of the NBCOlympics.com live stream. However, Hughes said, "We're enjoying tremendous success with our digital offerings." He added, "A small number of complaints, relative to the huge number of users, is a very positive early sign."  (N.Y. TIMES, 7/30).

    DIFFERENT EXPERIENCES ONLINE: CNET.com's Chris Matyszczyk wrote logging on to NBC's live streaming website "was extremely easy." Matyszczyk: "The only question I had to answer concerned my cable company. I gave the NBC site the name and I was in. ... I didn't have to offer a password. I didn't even have to spell my name out." One thing that "might strike some viewers as eerie" is that there is "no commentary." It is a "little like going to school with no teacher." Suddenly "you have to think for yourself." Viewers "do have to listen to the occasional enthusiasm of the crowd stirrer-uppers at the actual event." During a timeout in the U.S.-Croatia women's basketball game Saturday, viewers could "hear every word uttered between U.S. coach Geno Auriemma and his players." One could "actually get used to this," as it is "bizarrely authentic" (CNET.com, 7/28). However, YAHOO SPORTS' Chris Wilson noted when prospective viewers visited NBC's Olympics website, they "found out they needed to have a username and password through their cable company to actually watch the live video, a requirement not widely circulated in the advertising." Then, with a "majority of the Internet tuning in to watch the Phelps/Lochte 400 IM showdown ... the streaming service had some issues" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 7/28). The N.Y. TIMES' Sandomir wrote some people are "having trouble actually watching the events on their computers, smartphones and tablets." Sandomir: "Each time I tried to play a live video, it froze or started and stopped. Similar problems were reported, anecdotally, on Twitter and in my e-mails." NBC officials said that the video problems "are not widespread and that its feedback so far has been overwhelmingly positive." NBC Sports Digital VP & GM Rick Cordella said that tweaking "will continue and that he hoped that the problems were resolved on Sunday" (NYTIMES.com, 7/28).

    SPORT OR SPECTACLE? The AP's David Bauder noted NBC drew a "storm online for its decision not to stream the opening ceremony digitally." NBC Sports VP/Communications Christopher McCloskey said that the Opening and Closing ceremonies "were always planned to be shown on tape delay." Many people took to Twitter "to complain Friday that they felt cheated by the decision, and provided online links to other outlets, like the BBC, that were streaming the ceremony online" (AP, 7/28). In L.A., Robert Lloyd writes in defending its decision not to live-stream Friday's proceedings, NBC "sought to delineate a difference between the Games, which it is streaming whole, and the framing ceremonies, which it termed 'entertainment spectacles.'" Lloyd: "I see less of a difference. Because although unquestionably a sporting event, the Olympic Games are also a kind of theater, an unscripted performance on the theme of athletics as much as an athletic contest in fact. ... And as theater, these ceremonies are also kind of sport, with each successive host nation striving to outdo the last" (L.A. TIMES, 7/30).

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  • Whimsical Opening Ceremony Takes Different Approach From Beijing Predecessor

    Opening Ceremony featured a musical tribute to Britain's National Health Service

    An atmosphere of “whimsy and party won out over pomp and circumstance" during Friday's Olympic Opening Ceremony that allowed "an economically beleaguered Britain to pat itself on the back,” according to Phil Hersh of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. The ceremony “took on the overall air of frivolity that usually prevails at the closing rather than the opening” (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 7/28). In N.Y., Sarah Lyall in a front-page piece wrote that the ceremony was a “sometimes slightly insane portrait of a country that has changed almost beyond measure since the last time it hosted the Games, in the grim postwar summer of 1948” (N.Y. TIMES, 7/28). In DC, Anthony Faiola wrote, “If the Opening Ceremonies of the London Games sometimes seemed like the world’s biggest inside joke, the message from Britain resonated loud and clear: We may not always be your cup of tea, but you know -- and so often love -- our culture nonetheless.” The message here “seemed to honor the quite serious Olympics -- which London is hosting for a record third time -- while simultaneously reminding the world that the next two weeks should also be about having a bit of fun” (WASHINGTON POST, 7/28). In N.Y., Alessandra Stanley wrote the Opening Ceremony was a “tableau of national pride that studiously avoided bathos and easy excesses of patriotism.” It is “hard to imagine any other nation willing to make so much fun of itself on a global stage, in front of as many as a billion viewers.” It takes “nerve to look silly” and the show “veered from cute to creepy and from familiar to baffling” (N.Y. TIMES, 7/28).

    TO GOOD HEALTH: The WALL STREET JOURNAL’s Cassell Bryan-Low wrote, “The hours-long show paid tribute to British history and culture. It played heavily to memories of local favorites, though some segments might have been lost on the global TV audience -- like an all-dancing, all-singing tribute to Britain's government-funded National Health Service" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 7/28). In L.A., Lisa Dillman wrote the show featured a “celebration of five decades of British pop music, a heavy slice of history and, of course, that quirky sense of British humor” (L.A. TIMES, 7/28). In N.Y., Christina Boyle wrote the “dazzling show was a celebration of the Best of British” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 7/28). In L.A., Robert Lloyd wrote the Opening Ceremony was “by turns moving, bizarre, funny and exciting, and often surprisingly dark; certainly it was never dull” (L.A. TIMES, 7/28). In N.Y., Mike Vaccaro called the show, “Splendid. Wonderful. Beautiful.” However, “in the middle of all the fun, they managed to throw one stunning, sobering moment that was deplorable in its callousness.” Viewers were asked to "observe a moment of silence" as a "visual wall of faces filled the video screens atop Olympic Stadium." The people pictured in the photos were deceased "loved ones of audience members who were asked to submit them for the ceremony" (N.Y. POST, 7/28).

    DANNY BOY: In London, Tedmanson & Karim wrote the ceremony has been hailed as a “whimsical, riotous and very British” triumph by viewers from around the world, who heaped praise on London Games Creative Dir Danny Boyle’s tribute to Britain, as well as its British "sense of humour and vibrant soundtrack" (LONDON TIMES, 7/28). The GLOBE & MAIL’s Reguly & Waldie noted the ceremony began with "a flat start," but had "a lovely texture and momentum, not too fast, not too slow, dazzling in parts, never overwhelming, always anchored by the best British music and the best-known names in literature and culture” (GLOBE & MAIL, 7/28). The BBC's Tom Fordyce wrote "no one expected" the Opening Ceremony to be "so gloriously daft, so cynicism-squashingly charming and -- well, so much pinch-yourself fun" (BBC.co.uk, 7/28). In London, Beth Stebner noted Americans reacted "with confusion to the glorification of free universal health care" during the Opening Ceremony (London DAILY MAIL, 7/28). The AFP wrote the Opening Ceremony "did not shy away from weighty social issues." The show had "a celebration of free health care, the trade union struggle, the battle for women's rights and a fleeting lesbian kiss." Boyle "drew accusations from the British political right that it had strayed into 'leftie' issues” (AFP, 7/29). DAILY VARIETY’s Steve Clarke wrote the ceremony, “universally praised in the U.K. for its invention and distinctly British creative brio,” turned Boyle “into a national treasure overnight” (VARIETY.com, 7/29).

    THAT’S ENTERTAINMENT: The FINANCIAL TIMES’ Nigel Andrews wrote the Opening Ceremony “had all the contrasts we were told to expect, and more.” Andrews noted, “Lots of it worked; the bits that did not set off those that did” (FINANCIAL TIMES, 7/28). In Miami, Michelle Kaufman wrote the Opening Ceremony was “as moving as it was entertaining” (MIAMI HERALD, 7/28). In Las Vegas, Ed Graney asked, “How can you go totally wrong with Queen Elizabeth parachuting from a helicopter with James Bond?” Graney: “It was funny in parts. Highly creative in others. Touching, too. Long. Really long” (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 7/28). USA TODAY’s Michael Hiestand wrote the Opening Ceremony is “starting to look like a Super Bowl halftime.” A “really, really, really looooong Super Bowl halftime show” (USATODAY.com, 7/28). In Cleveland, Tim Warsinskey wrote high-wire acts of past ceremonies “gave way to British pride, particularly in its music, and a vivid illustration of its history from a commoner's perceptive -- farmers, factory workers, nurses and rockers.” A “limited number of ‘wow’ moments didn't limit the drama or chills” (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 7/28). In London, Giles Coren wrote he was “worried that there was too much self-parody, that the world might be laughing at us.” Coren: “But they were laughing with us. They were silently awed” (LONDON TIMES, 7/28).

    APPLES TO ORANGES: NBC's Matt Lauer at the conclusion of the Opening Ceremony said he thought the production from Boyle “was spectacular given the challenges facing him following Beijing.” Lauer: “You should congratulate not only Danny Boyle, but congratulate the organizing committee. And I think after what we’ve just seen you need to congratulate the British people because they did it right tonight” (NBC, 7/27). The FINANCIAL TIMES’ Matthew Engel wrote the show had “unprecedented ingenuity and wit," and was a "match visually" for the '08 Beijing Opening Ceremony (FINANCIAL TIMES, 7/28). In Charlotte, Scott Fowler wrote the Opening Ceremony was a “jaw-dropping, confounding, surreal and spectacular show.” While in magnitude it “was not to the scale of the overwhelming opening ceremony China showcased in Beijing four years ago, this lid-lifter did have something that one lacked: A sense of humor” (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 7/28). In Memphis, Geoff Calkiins wrote, “Better? Who can possibly say? But it was funnier, that's for sure” (Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL, 7/28). SI.com’s Alex Wolff wrote Boyle “gave us a chance to celebrate protest and dissent.” He “outstripped the previous Olympic host city by flaunting what the Chinese actively suppressed.” On these "isles of wonder, tumult is a good thing” (SI.com, 7/28). In Colorado Springs, David Ramsey wrote the “sometimes baffling, sometimes glorious” ceremony “failed to match its predecessor.” It was a "fun night, with about a perfect ending as anyone could devise” with a performance by Paul McCartney (Colorado Springs GAZETTE, 7/28). Beijing '08 Olympic Opening Ceremony co-Dir Wang Chaoge had "mixed emotions" about Friday night's show. Chaoge said, "On one hand, I didn't want it to exceed my work; on the other hand, I hoped to see another show that amazes the world. Now, both my wishes are fulfilled. Objectively speaking, there's no way that you can compare the two ceremonies. We each had what the other didn't” (CHINA DAILY, 7/29).

    Opening Ceremony was filled with loud,
    booming music and fireworks

    SONIC BOOM: In DC, Jen Chaney wrote the Opening Ceremony ended with an “epic power blast of fireworks and the sounds of Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon,’ then segued right into” McCartney. Chaney: “The opening ceremony felt a bit long, and to some, a bit like an acid trip. But even if you didn’t care for the entirety of Danny Boyle’s work -- though personally, I admired quite a bit of it, especially the digital era portion -- you had to give it up for that ending, even though McCartney’s vocals faltered a bit” (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 7/28). The AP’s Jill Lawless wrote, “While sports are the heart of the Olympics, music -- loud, bold, world-conquering British music, amplified in the most global of settings -- was the booming beat Friday night” (AP, 7/27). Meanwhile, the GUARDIAN's Cass Jones notes the album “featuring music from the London 2012 opening ceremony has sold more than 10,000 copies within 24 hours of going on sale.” The compilation “is No. 1 in the iTunes store album chart in the UK, France, Belgium and Spain, and has reached No 5 in the United States” (GUARDIAN, 7/30).

    FASTER, HIGHER, STRONGER: NBC's Bob Costas said while the Parade of Nations "can be as joyous as they are, sometimes they move at a snail’s pace." However, he said in the nine Opening Ceremonies he has helped broadcast, he has not seen one "move at a quicker clip than this.” Lauer noted pop music like the Bee Gees was playing as the nations walked into the stadium, and the speed of the parade had "something to do with the music they’re playing." Costas said later, “This is the fastest Parade of Nations I’ve ever seen. We’re giving these notes (on the countries) at warp speed” (NBC, 7/27).

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  • Empty Seats An Early Focus At London Games; Coe Insists Attendance Is Not An Issue

    IOC is "urgently investigating" why there were rows of empty seats at some venues

    LOCOG Chair Sebastian Coe yesterday insisted that most Olympic venues "were full of spectators as organisers faced a growing storm over blocks of empty seats at several venues," according to Robin Millard of the AFP. LOCOG and the IOC said that they were "urgently investigating why there were rows and rows of unoccupied seats at venues including Wimbledon for the tennis and the Aquatics Centre, while British police were reportedly probing an alleged black-market scandal." The sight of unoccupied seats "has sparked anger in Britain." Coe said that unoccupied seats "at some venues were due to accredited officials still working out which events to attend and planning their timetable." But he added that he "had visited four events on Saturday which were full to capacity." Coe said that LOCOG was "urgently seeking ways of filling any empty seats," and that soldiers involved in the security operation "were given spare seats at gymnastics events on Sunday morning." Students and teachers from east London "were also allocated seats at some unfilled venues." U.K. Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt "admitted the empty seats were 'very disappointing' and suggested they could be offered to members of the public." Hunt: "I was at the Beijing Games, in 2008, and one of the lessons that we took away from that, is that full stadia create the best atmosphere, it's best for the athletes, it's more fun for the spectators, it's been an absolute priority" (AFP, 7/29). Coe said that it was "not 'uncommon' in the first few days of an Olympics to have empty seats as 'accredited' ticket-holders worked out their daily schedules." Coe: "It's certainly not going to be an issue right through the games" (FINANCIAL TIMES, 7/30). CBS’ Mark Phillips said, “Looking around the venues today ... a lot of the places do seem full, so maybe that problem will go away” (“CBS This Morning,” CBS, 7/30).

    FAMILY MATTERS: The GUARDIAN's Gibson & Booth noted the British Olympic Association "has weighed into the mounting row over empty seats, insisting that every one should be filled with home fans and suggesting a '30-minute rule' for non-attendees." BOA Chair Colin Moynihan said organizers "owe it to the fans" to find a way of filling empty seats. Moynihan: "We owe it to the British sporting public to give them an opportunity to attend one of the most historic sporting events of their lives." Gibson & Booth noted it is believed the empty seats "are mainly those reserved for the 'Olympic family', made up of International Olympic Committee officials, National Olympic Committees, international federations and some sponsors." Those seats "make up 5%" of the 8.8 million overall allocation (GUARDIAN, 7/29). In London, Rosa Prince reports former London Olympics Minister and LOCOG BOD member Tessa Jowell has called on Coe to "ensure sports fans are given tickets for empty venue seats 'today.'" She called on Coe, "who had promised that there would be no empty seats at the London Games, to use his 'muscle' to insist that sporting federations and other members of the the so-called 'Olympic Family' do not leave their ticket allocation unfilled." Jowell said, "The IOC have got to be part of the solution to this particular problem, these accredited seats remaining empty" (London TELEGRAPH, 7/30). The London TELEGRAPH offers a look at the crowds at various venues during yesterday's competition (London TELEGRAPH, 7/30).

    ON THE UPTICK
    : Coe after a tour of some venues yesterday said that "there was 'barely a seat left in the house' at beach volleyball and swimming competitions." He said that "early reports Sunday at the gymnastics venue, where there were blocks of empty seats Saturday, indicated improvements." USA TODAY's Kevin Johnson notes at the basketball venue yesterday, the upper bowl "was fairly packed, but there were some empty seats in the lower bowl for the Brazil-Australia game." The stands "were completely full for women's team archery at historic Lord's Cricket Ground on Sunday, despite light rain." Eton Dorney rowing venue Manager Cora Zilich "estimated the Saturday crowd at 30,000," although the capacity is listed at 25,000 (USA TODAY, 7/30). NBC News' Chris Jansing reported for events "where tickets weren’t required, like women’s road cycling, stormy weather didn’t stop huge crowds” (“Nightly News,” NBC, 7/29).

    NO BLAME PUT ON SPONSORS: IOC Communications Dir Mark Adams said it is "completely wrong to say this is a sponsors issue" (GUARDIAN, 7/29). Coe said, "It doesn't appear to be a sponsor issue. Sponsors are turning up" (BBC.co.uk, 7/30). The AP noted Olympics sponsors Coca-Cola and Visa claimed that they "gave away most of their seating quotas to the public in promotional offers." Coca-Cola said its competition allowed prize winners "to choose the event they really wanted to attend" (AP, 7/29). In London, Andrew Johnson cited a corporate sponsor as saying that Olympic family members "had been allocated four or five tickets for the same time and had to decide which event to turn up to." The sponsor said, "There are people with tickets for five venues at the same time" (London INDEPENDENT, 7/29).

    PARENTS DENIED ACCESS
    : In London, Jacquelin Magnay reports some parents and friends of swimmers "have been refused access into the aquatics centre over the past two nights ... while other parents have had hours of angst trying to sort tickets at the last minute." Parents also have "missed tennis matches at Wimbledon and only been able to get into Eton Dorney for the rowing and Excel for the boxing after fraught negotiations." The parents and friends ticket program "entitles every athlete to buy two tickets for each session in which they compete." But the Ticketmaster system used by LOCOG to administer the program "has not been able to update in time for each final -- detaling which athletes are eligible to puchase the tickets" (London TELEGRAPH, 7/30). Kuwaiti swimmer Faye Sultan tweeted, "Empty seats at the Olympics?!! And my parents can't get tickets to watch me swim?! Ridiculous" (LONDON TIMES, 7/30).

    SUCCESS STORY
    : In L.A., Stacy St. Clair wrote London's ExCeL Centre "has been transformed into a lower-profile sports buffet for the 2012 Games." Seven Olympic events -- boxing, fencing, judo, table tennis, taekwondo, weightlifting and wrestling -- will "take place here over the next fortnight with an estimated 1.2 million spectators passing through the arena's doors." Many of those ticket holders "will have no clue what they're watching," and, if the first official day of competition "was any indication, they'll be fine with that." The arena "offers a chance to see an Olympic event in person, and that's what counts." Boxing, fencing, judo, table tennis and weightlifting "all held competitions at ExCeL on Saturday over a crowded, but oddly intimate, 14-hour period" (L.A. TIMES, 7/29).

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  • Wembley Concessions Not Accepting Visa During Soccer Matches, Cash Only

    Concession lines at Wembley Stadium remained long for Sunday's matches

    Fans attending Olympic soccer games at Wembley Stadium complained of “ridiculous” concession lines after some tills stopped working, according to Neil Lancefield of the London INDEPENDENT. Fans buying concessions during yesterday’s Senegal-Uruguay and Great Britain-United Arab Emirates matches “were told they could not pay by Visa, the only credit or debit card accepted at London 2012 venues, and must use cash.” The “disgruntled spectators took to Twitter to vent their anger.” One fan wrote, "80,000 people in Wembley Stadium, and the Visa card payment system has broken down -- lot of people without cash going hungry & thirsty!" (London INDEPENDENT, 7/30). The GUARDIAN’s James Meikle notes the crowds attending yesterday’s games “were left hungry, thirsty and frustrated when Wembley's concessions were unable to accept credit cards.” A Visa spokesperson said, "We understand that Wembley's systems failed and therefore they were only accepting cash at the food and beverage kiosks. This cash only decision was made by Wembley management and not Visa” (GUARDIAN, 7/30). Visa is also using the Olympic venues to “test a new 'cashless' form of payment using mobile phones, which it hopes will render bank notes and coins redundant” (TELEGRAPH.co.uk, 7/30).

    WHITE NOISE: YAHOO SPORTS’ Les Carpenter reported several fans during Saturday’s tennis matches at the All England Club “surrounded volunteers working the press areas at Centre Court and shouted complaints about noise.” One woman said, "You can't even hear the ball hit the racquet." Fans said that the noise is “because of the media sections specially built for the Olympics.” During Wimbledon, the media is “kept in a quiet area and radio reporters are not permitted to broadcast updates to their stations unless they are doing it in a soundproof press room.” But the Olympics “don't have such restrictions.” Special press areas were built into the “last several rows of the stands” at Centre Court. The areas are “essentially tables with electrical outlets and internet connections,” and they are not soundproof. The conversations from the media “wafted through the stands and toward the court” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 7/28). Meanwhile, USA TODAY’s Gary Mihoces notes though rain “forced cancellation of most of the Olympic tennis matches Sunday at Wimbledon, there apparently was enough play that it went beyond the limit for fans to qualify for ticket refunds.” Play was delayed at the start, then “halted after about 55 minutes.” Play resumed at 6:45pm local time “on 11 outdoor courts.” LOCOG Deputy Paralympic Wheelchair Tennis Manager Jayant Mistry said, “If it’s less than two hours of play on the outside courts, then we give a full-day’s refund” (USA TODAY, 7/30).

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  • Dig This: Beach Volleyball Hosted On Horse Guards Parade Proving To Be A Hit

    Fifties style "swept onto the court for provocative dance routines"

    The Olympic beach volleyball tournament at Horse Guards Parade is "already proving to be the Olympics hottest ticket,” according to Damien Gayle of the London DAILY MAIL. LOCOG organizers have “done their best to encourage a sea-side postcard atmosphere to the proceedings, with the Benny Hill theme tune playing during every break in play and an over-excited announcer doing his best to stir up an already electrified audience.” Cheerleaders in “Fifties style swept onto the court for provocative dance routines” (DAILYMAIL.co.uk, 7/29). REUTERS’ Estelle Shirbon wrote the beach volleyball event “got off to a foot-stomping start on Saturday,” as spectators “enjoyed stunning views, not just of the sandy court but also of some of the British capital's most visited attractions such as the Big Ben clock tower and the London Eye, a giant riverside Ferris wheel.” The athletes “unanimously praised the venue, which is the largest in Olympic beach volleyball history, and the atmosphere.” Buckingham Palace is just on the other side of St James's Park, and the announcer told the crowd after a “particularly loud” cheer Saturday, "I think the Queen heard you" (REUTERS, 7/28). SI.com's Luke Winn wrote the "best party for those here in London is at beach volleyball." Even U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron "couldn’t resist stopping by on the opening day" (SI.com, 7/29). In N.Y., Mike Vaccaro wrote the atmosphere was English decorum “colliding with the dude-where’s-my-board-wax? vibe of beach volleyball, right there in the air high above Whitehall Road.” It should seem “an odd juxtaposition,” but it is “instead, perfect” (N.Y. POST, 7/29). In Jacksonville, Joe Daraskevich wrote beach volleyball should work in London “about as well as ice fishing works in Miami, but the Olympics have a special way of bringing cultures together and London has done a fine job of providing its own beach atmosphere” (JACKSONVILLE.com, 7/29).

    ITSY BITSY, TEENY WEENY...: In Chicago, David Haugh asked, “How were baseball and softball eliminated as Olympic sports before the 2012 Games while beach volleyball was bumped into a prime-time television slot back home? Why do you think the pretty, ponytailed U.S. team of Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh-Jennings didn't start its match until the ridiculous hour of 11 p.m. locally? Everybody knows the answer to both questions is money.” Haugh: “Feel free to divvy up blame between NBC and the International Olympic Committee for the ratings monster they have created since beach volleyball became an Olympic sport in 1996 -- or credit them if you enjoy a recreational sport loosening up the Olympics. Indeed, it can be enjoyable to watch, and this was a fun, frolicking way to spend a Saturday night abroad.” The emphasis on “bikinis and prime-time TV perhaps benefits the popularity of the game but not the integrity of the sport.” Haugh: “To objectify female Olympians diminishes their athletic ability” (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 7/29).

    IMAGE IS EVERYTHING: London Mayor Boris Johnson in a special to the London INDEPENDENT writes a list of the 20 things Londoners can be proud about of the Olympics so far. He writes, "As I write these words there are semi-naked women playing beach volleyball in the middle of the Horse Guards Parade immortalised by Canaletto. They are glistening like wet otters and the water is plashing off the brims of the spectators’ sou’westers. The whole thing is magnificent and bonkers" (London INDEPENDENT, 7/30).

    TAKE COVER? 
    In N.Y., Frank Isola noted the “frigid weather even forced the participants in the day’s final match to alter their outfits” Saturday. All four players in the U.S.-Australia match “wore sports tops with sleeves to stay warm.” The Australian team “wore tights while May-Treanor and Walsh-Jennings kept to their California roots by wearing bikini bottoms.” May-Treanor said, “We warmed up with pants but Kerri said she was getting hot so we took off our pants” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 7/29). The AP’s Jimmy Golen noted two-piece swimsuits have “long been the standard attire in the sport.” Players say the “skimpy clothes allow less room for sand to get underneath and chafe.” But international rules have “long allowed women to wear warmer clothes when the temperature drops" (AP, 7/28).

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  • Olympic Cauldron Out Of Public View, As Coe Says It Is Not A "Tourist Attraction"

    Olympic flame was extinguished to allow staff to move the cauldron to another area

    LOCOG Chair Sebastian Coe was forced to defend the decision to keep the Olympic cauldron "out of sight from hundreds of thousands of Olympic Park visitors," according to Philippe Naughton of the LONDON TIMES. The cauldron traditionally "burns above the stadium, clearly visible to all." However, its positioning in the Olympic Stadium "means that it cannot be seen except by those inside the arena." The cauldron is "arguably the most photographed Olympic symbol during the games." However, Coe said, "It was not created to be a tourist attraction." Naughton notes a debate "erupted at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics when organisers fenced off the cauldron and positioned security guards, blocking it from large numbers of visitors who had flocked to the seaside city for a glimpse or a picture of the flame." The cauldron is to be "dismantled after the Games and each of the 204 copper petals will be given to its corresponding National Olympic Committee as a momento" (LONDON TIMES, 7/30). USA TODAY's Whiteside & Johnson note VANOC organizers two years ago "created two cauldrons -- one at the ceremonial arena and another in a public park, which quickly became one of the most popular attractions during the games." But Coe said, "We are different from Vancouver." He added that those who "don't have access to the London stadium ... would be able to see the flame on video screens set up in the Olympic Park" (USA TODAY, 7/30).

    PUTTING OUT THE FIRE: LOCOG officials have confirmed that the flame "was extinguished to allow staff to move the cauldron to another part" of the stadium over the weekend. In London, Magnay & Furness note the "revelation that the flame had to be extinguished in order to move the cauldron will add to the controversy over the location of the flame." Critics have said that it "should have been placed where it would be seen by spectators who did not have tickets to the main stadium" (London TELEGRAPH, 7/30).

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  • IOC Sells TV Rights To '14, '16 Games In China To CCTV For Reported $160M

    The IOC sold its TV rights in China for the '14 Sochi and '16 Rio de Janeiro Games to CCTV for an estimated $160M, a sum that represents a more than 800% increase from what the broadcaster paid for the '06 Turin and '08 Beijing Games. The increase affirms the IOC’s decision in '09 to begin selling rights on a country-by-country basis across Asia. The move was designed to increase rights fees from individual countries like China, and it has succeeded in doing that. For the '06 and '08 Olympics, the IOC sold the rights to the Asian Broadcasting Union, a consortium of broadcasters from Japan, China and other markets, for a mere $17.5M. In '09, it sold the rights in China alone to CCTV for a reported $100M. The deal, which was announced Saturday, will see CCTV retain the Olympic rights across linear, cable, digital and mobile platforms. It also gets the rights to the Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China, in '14 and the Winter Youth Olympic Games in '16 in Lillehammer, Norway. In a statement, IOC Exec Board Finance & Committee Chair Richard Carrión, who led the negotiations, said, “CCTV has an unparalleled reach within China, and has promoted the Olympic Games, sport and the Olympic values to a Chinese audience for many years. We are delighted that we will be able to count on their support into the future.” The deal is the second one the IOC has announced around the London Games. The organization previously announced a nearly $100M rights deal with the BBC for '14-20 Olympics in the U.K. The IOC was paid $3.9B for the '10 Vancouver and London Games. It has secured $3.7B in TV rights sales for the Sochi and Rio Games, but it still has several territories to sell.

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  • Hope Solo Will Not Be Disciplined For Twitter Rant Against NBC's Brandi Chastain

    One sportswriter said Solo "looks rather petty" in her Twitter rant against Chastain

    U.S. women’s soccer team G Hope Solo “won't be disciplined for a Twitter rant that her coach fears could have been detrimental to the image of U.S. women's soccer,” according to Robert Klemko of USA TODAY. Solo “lashed out against former U.S. soccer legend Brandi Chastain, calling into question the NBC commentator's knowledge of the game and allegiance to the program.” Chastain was “critical of the current team's defense during NBC's broadcast of their 3-0 victory vs. Colombia during group play.” Chastain defended her comments Saturday, saying that her “new job is to be a journalist.” Chastain: "I'm here to do my job, which is to be an honest and objective analyst at the Olympics" (USA TODAY, 7/30). Solo yesterday on Twitter responded to “a reporter's tweet that she wouldn't be disciplined.” Solo: "discipline? Ha! For what! Never even a topic! We talked about our team deserving the best!" (AP, 7/29). The AP’s Joseph White noted Solo on Saturday after the game “rattled off four tweets about Chastain.” Among them: "Its 2 bad we cant have commentators who better represents the team&knows more about the game." She also tweeted, "I feel bad 4 our fans that have 2 push mute." Solo added that she “likes NBC soccer announcer Arlo White” (AP, 7/28).

    HOPE FLOATS: YAHOO SPORTS’ Dan Wetzel wrote of Solo, “Controversy has helped make her a breakout star of soccer. She's not naive.” There was “little attention being paid to the team thus far,” so Solo “decided to go on Twitter and blast” Chastain (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 7/28). In DC, Sally Jenkins wrote what the rant “really seems to be about is the fact that Solo has a new book out, and she’s going down market.” It may also be about Solo’s “irritation at the enduring presence of Chastain.” Jenkins: “The most disappointing aspect of Solo’s behavior is that it suggests she hasn’t learned as much as she could have from players like Chastain” (WASHINGTON POST, 7/29). NBCSPORTS.com’s Steve Davis wrote Solo “looks rather petty in this one.” Chastain had “lots of good and a few bad things to say” about the team’s performance on Saturday. The rant could be this “new guard” and “old guard” issue at work (NBCSPORTS.com, 7/28). ESPNW’s Kate Fagan wrote Solo’s “leadership skills need a complete overhaul.” Her Twitter rant was “all kinds of wrong; and the odd part is that she seems to think of herself as brave, a brash voice willing to say what everyone else is too timid to verbalize” (espnW.com, 7/29). ESPNW’s Julie Foudy, a former U.S. women's soccer player, wrote, “My initial reaction when I read the tweets? Sadness. Not anger, not outrage, just an overwhelming sense of sadness” (espnW.com, 7/29).

    Print | Tags: Olympics, Soccer, NBC
  • Fans' Text Messages, Tweets Blamed For Interrupting TV Coverage Of Cycling Race

    Broadcasters could not properly identify riders due to texts, tweets

    Fans attending the London Games were told yesterday “to avoid non-urgent text messages and tweets during events because overloading of data networks was affecting television coverage,” according to Ormsby & Sandle of REUTERS. Commentators on Saturday's men's cycling road race “were unable to tell viewers how far the leaders were ahead of the chasing pack because data could not get through from the GPS satellite navigation system travelling with the cyclists.” Many "inadvertently made matters worse by venting their anger on Twitter at the lack of information.” An IOC spokesperson said that the network problem “had been caused by the messages sent by the hundreds of thousands of fans who lined the streets to cheer on the British team.” Official Olympic communications services providers BT, Vodafone and O2 said that they “had not seen any network problems” (REUTERS, 7/29). The GUARDIAN’s Cass Jones noted the BBC “blamed the Olympic Broadcasting Service for the lack of information which left commentator Chris Boardman using his own watch to estimate the timings.” The IOC said that fans “sending updates to Twitter while watching the race had in effect jammed transmissions of race information” (GUARDIAN.co.uk, 7/29).

    GAME CHANGER: U.S. sprinter Sanya Richards-Ross was among numerous Olympians to post on their Twitter accounts, "I am honored to be an Olympian, but #WeDemandChange2012." USA TODAY reports the target of what “appears to be a coordinated campaign -- all the tweets were almost exactly the same, and many of them popped up at about the same time -- is the International Olympic Committee and Rule 40.” The rule states in part, “No competitor, coach, trainer or official who participates in the Olympic Games may allow his person, name, picture or sports performances to be used for advertising purposes except as permitted by the IOC Executive Board." Richards-Ross, during the blackout period, needs IOC permission to “use her own name and face.” The issue has been “bubbling out there under the surface for a while,” but “no longer” (USA TODAY, 7/30). Richards-Ross also wrote, “Now headed to one of my fave sponsors BP for my appearance ;-) think I can tweet about them #Rule40 so confusing :-/”

    WATCH YOUR TWEETS
    : USA TODAY’s Andy Nesbitt wrote U.S. hurdler Lolo Jones “is back in the news after posting an insensitive message on Twitter on Saturday.” Jones tweeted, “USA men’s Archer lost the gold medal to Italy but that’s ok, we are Americans…When’s da Gun shooting competition?” She later “issued the following apology/explanation on Twitter: ‘sorry u guys only think of violence but I think of all the hunting I do w southerners in da south. Its impressive'” (USA TODAY, 7/29). Meanwhile, ESPN.com’s Tim Keown wrote the Hellenic Olympic Committee made Greek triple jumper Voula Papachristou “the most famous female triple jumper of the 2012 Games by telling her to stay home” after she posted an insensitive tweet. Keown: “If she had kept it to herself, she’d probably be in line to finish 17th or 18th and nobody would have ever heard her name. ... How's this for the vagaries of life in our times: An Olympic track and field athlete who spent the better part of four years training for one event in one meet achieved her goal, only to have it dashed when she tweeted a stupid and disparaging remark about Africans and mosquitoes” (ESPN.com, 7/27).

    TRENDING ALERT: In London, Emma Barnett reports British actor Rowan Atkinson’s cameo performance in the Opening Ceremony “sparked the biggest spike in mentions of the event” on Twitter. The Olympics themselves have been mentioned by “more than 10million users since Friday’s ceremony.” British cyclist Lizzie Armitstead “gained new followers at a rate of 500 per second after winning silver in the women’s road race yesterday, with more than 25,000 following her less than an hour later” (London TELEGRAPH, 7/30).

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  • NBA Stars Speak Out Against Proposed Age Rule Change For Olympic Participation

    Bryant said limiting Olympic team eligibility to players 23 and under was "dumb, stupid"

    As talks continue that the NBA would like to see changes in its participation in the Olympics, Kobe Bryant and several other current Olympic team members spoke out on the issue following the team's win against France yesterday. One of the ideas floated is having only players 23 years old and younger participating, and Bryant said, "If we send 23-year-old guys here to play against these grown men, we'll be in trouble. And when you look at the Olympics as a whole, it's about putting your best athletes to the front, to showcase. I don't see why it's even a topic of discussion" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 7/30). Bryant in a Q&A session reaffirmed his belief that “all NBA players should be eligible for the Olympics.” Bryant said of the idea, “Dumb, stupid. Not all guys want to go, but you should at least be given the opportunity for the players who do want to play” (WASHINGTON POST, 7/29). The AFP’s Jim Slater noted players are “united in wanting the chance to represent their homelands.” Kevin Durant said of the potential change, "I wouldn't like that. I would like to go to Barcelona and Brazil. I am 23 so I wouldn't get that chance so hopefully it doesn't change. I would like to play again." LeBron James said, "The process we have right now is working and I think it's great. I love being part of the Olympics and representing my country." But Slater noted with NBA Commissioner David Stern “pushing for change, USA Basketball has had to listen.” Bryant: "I'm concerned because I want to see all the young guys be part of this in the next Games. Players should be the ones to decide whether they want to take part of the Games or not” (AFP, 7/28).

    GLOBAL GOALS CHANGING FOR NBA: In N.Y., Jere Longman wrote the NBA is “reassessing its involvement in the Olympics with an eye toward an even bigger and more popular international sporting event: soccer’s World Cup.” The concerns of the league relate to “player health, broadening the appeal of the sport, finances and perceived arrogance of the International Olympic Committee.” At this point, any change seems “more likely to occur for the 2020 Summer Games" than for the ‘16 Rio de Janeiro Games. Longman: “If the NBA does maintain its current Olympic involvement, it may be for this reason: The players say they love it. They attract a global audience. They rub shoulders with top athletes from other sports. They have fun in a festival atmosphere while playing for a gold medal” (N.Y. TIMES, 7/29). YAHOO SPORTS’ Adrian Wojnarowski wrote this “isn’t about sending young Americans to the Olympics to play older teams, but the NBA cutting a deal with FIBA to make the Olympics a completely under-23 tournament.” For NBA teams, the ability “to control their talent in a rebranded World Cup of Basketball goes far past benefiting financially in ways that the IOC will never allow.” The owners are “organized, unified, and determined to make the World Cup of Basketball the financial boon that they always believed a European expansion of NBA franchises could be for them" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 7/29). NBC’s Doug Collins said, “One of the reasons Anthony Davis is on this team, he would be 23 the next Olympics.” He added, “A lot of the NBA owners are pushing it, the wear and tear on these players playing three or four summers with their NBA schedules” (NBC Sports Network, 7/29).

    PLAYERS COULD EXERT SOME POWER: YAHOO SPORTS’ Wojnarowski wrote the NBA stars can “complicate the dynamics of a deal with a unified declaration: Push for an under-23 basketball tournament in the Olympics, and we won't be representing the United States in a new World Cup tournament.” Tyson Chandler said, “The players definitely have power, because we're the ones out there playing. If the players chose not to play because they've taken something away from us, then obviously we control it.” Wojnarowski noted there is a “reason the players have been left drifting on the issue, uninformed and unaware of the NBA’s behind-the-scenes machinations to move a plan with FIBA in motion” -- NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter “is too weakened and distracted to engage the issue.” Hunter for months has been “hell-bent on burning through the NBPA's coffers to bankroll lawyers to try and protect himself in a joint probe into the union's business practices by the U.S. Attorney's Office and Department of Labor.” Hunter has “never been less popular with superstars, and he knows it.” Meanwhile, the push towards a World Cup style tournament is “understandable, but shortsighted.” A World Cup of Basketball “won’t come close to matching soccer, because nationalistic allegiances are far, far more fervent to soccer teams.” The Olympics “frame NBA stars as global icons in a way nothing else can” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 7/28).

    WORLD CUP A FLAWED IDEA: In K.C., Sam Mellinger writes the plan is “flawed in so many ways it’s hard to know where to start.” The NBA’s World Cup “would not match soccer’s for a lot of reasons, most obviously that national pride in basketball is a few hundred years behind” (K.C. STAR, 7/30). FOXSPORTS.com’s Jason Whitlock wrote Stern has “run out of ideas on how to grow the game at home, so he’s floating outlandish concepts aimed primarily at growing the game abroad.” A World Cup is a bad idea because the Olympics “is a 100-plus-year brand, a brand stronger globally than the NFL." The Olympics put “non-basketball eyeballs on Stern’s product,” while a World Cup “would be for the International Bill Simmons Society.” Whitlock: “It would be foolish for the NBA to weaken its relationship with the Olympics” (FOXSPORTS.com, 7/29). SportsCorp President Marc Ganis said, “The Summer Olympics is the greatest free advertising the NBA can have, and because of the way NBC will be highlighting men's basketball, it will be the dominant storyline of the entire Games, even more than it was four years ago in China. The Olympics is a marvelous international platform that the NBA could never replicate on its own. The NBA will be getting maximum exposure. It's just perfect timing for the league” (NYDAILYNEWS.com, 7/29).

    STILL UP FOR DISCUSSION: In Newark, Dave D’Alessandro wrote the U.S. men’s basketball team is still USA Basketball Chair Jerry Colangelo’s “baby, and now they’re changing his parenting guidelines on the fly.” Colangelo said, “I haven’t said much about it, because it’s a discussion that has yet to take place in the right forum.” He added he would meet with Stern when he arrives in London, “and it’s going to be an ongoing discussion.” Colangelo: “But the reality is this: There’s going to be a (basketball) World Cup in ’14. There’s change in the air regarding possibly an age limitation for the Olympics, like soccer has. The question is, what’s that age? Is it 23 or is it 25? My point is, that’s all negotiable” (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 7/28). Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban said, “I’m sure Jerry would like to believe that the Olympics and international competition provides significant value to the NBA. Ask him how much the Suns used to get from international operations." Cuban noted the '92 Dream Team "did have value to the NBA," but it is a "completely different story" now. Cuban: "The rewards are non-existent, and the risks are considerable.” Colangelo said, “When you’re handed a program that was on its behind, and it’s operating on all cylinders, and somebody says, ‘We should probably change this,’ you’re shocked and stunned by it. But listen, I’m a big boy, I’ve been around the track. If somebody wants to change the rules, I’ll deal with it” (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 7/28).

    BOOK CLUB: The WALL STREET JOURNAL’s Will Leitch reviewed the book, “Dream Team” by Jack McCallum about the '92 Olympic basketball team and wrote it was “entertaining.” Readers "want to know what these superfriends are like and what happened when they gathered in the same room,” and the book "does not disappoint, though it's hardly a sordid ‘TRUE STORY OF BILLIONAIRE ATHLETES ABROAD’ muckrake." Leitch: "The book becomes a laid-back travelogue of Mr. McCallum's career, a narrated notebook dump” (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 7/28).

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  • Olympic Marketing Notes: NBC Generating $1.2B In Ad Sales From London Games

    GE has earned $1B in infrastructure sales since first associating with Olympics in '06

    Comcast Chair & CEO Brian Roberts said NBC has generated $1.2B in ad sales for its coverage of the London Games, marking a record for the network. Roberts: “It’s better than what we had thought. It’s a good start and now we just have to make it all happen” ("Power Lunch," NBC, 7/27).

    BRINGING GOOD THINGS TO LIFE: In London, Russell Lynch reports IOC TOP sponsor GE "won sales of more than $100M as it helped to get London ready for the Olympics." The company has garnered $1B in "infrastructure sales since it became associated with the Olympics in 2006." GE CEO Jeff Immelt said, "It is perfect for us. We are so global, it is a great global brand and it takes us to places that are important for the company: China, London, Brazil and Russia. These are places where the company has a big footprint so the sponsorship has made a lot of sense for us" (London INDEPENDENT, 7/30).

    TIME FOR A CHANGE: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Shirley Wang notes as an IOC TOP sponsor and the "official timekeeper of the Olympics, Omega's timepieces will hang in the All England Lawn Tennis Club where the London Games' tennis competition" began Saturday. The deal is a "loss for Rolex, who has served as the official timekeeper for the Wimbledon tennis tournament since 1978." Rolex-branded clocks "around the famed sporting grounds will be covered up for the duration of the Games." Omega President Stephen Urquhart said, "Obviously I think that Rolex cannot be happy. It's their patrimony, and we'll be there for two weeks" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 7/30).

    BRANCHING OUT: In St. Louis, Matthew Hibbard notes Enterprise Holdings will "be running 30-second and 60-second versions of a TV commercial a total of 40 times over the span of the summer Olympics, including the closing ceremony." The company will "promote its Enterprise 50 Million Tree Pledge, a campaign launched" in '07 by the Enterprise Foundation in partnership with the Arbor Day Foundation and the U.S. Forest Service to "pledge $50 million to plant 50 million trees over the next 50 years." Enterprise Brand Dir Jim Stoeppler said, "We looked at other ways to extend our campaign and wanted to align ourselves with big time events like the Super Bowl, Academy Awards and the Grammy's. The Olympics rose to the top really quickly" (ST. LOUIS BUSINESS JOURNAL, 7/27 issue). Also in St. Louis, Lisa Brown noted as part of Enterprise's Olympic campaign, "viewers can visit the Facebook page to have a tree dedicated in someone's honor" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 7/29).

    WHAT CAN BROWN DO FOR THE OLYMPICS? AD AGE's Mallory Russell noted during the London Games, UPS "is responsible for receiving, warehousing, and delivering every item used." By the end of the Games, UPS "will have moved 30 million items in and out of the Olympic Village and all the Olympic venues." UPS U.K., Ireland & Nordics Managing Dir Cindy Miller said, "I believe that to the small customer or to the medium customer, and certainly to the global customer, the Olympics really is a great opportunity where UPS can showcase what we can do on a grand scale (ADAGE.com, 7/27).

    FASHION ON THE FIELD: NBC’s Willie Geist asked soccer analyst Cat Whitehill during halftime of the Colombia-U.S. women's soccer game Saturday for her thoughts about the Nike-produced U.S. jerseys. Geist asked, "What do you think of the ‘Where’s Waldo?’ jerseys today? Do we like these?” Whitehill: “I have to give mad props to Nike. They do an excellent job for the U.S. national team, and it is a bit different. A lot of times women are afraid of stripes, but they look good and I like the pop of the blue. At least you can find them on the field. That’s all that matters” (NBC Sports Network, 7/28).

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  • Olympics Names In The News

    U.S. flag bearer Mariel Zagunis credits Title IX for creating opportunity for her

    In K.C., Sam Mellinger wrote, "For the next two weeks, these will be the Olympics of Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt and Team USA men’s basketball," but when "history remembers these games, it will be about the women. ... Lots and lots of women." The London Games are "the Title IX Olympics." U.S. Gold Medal-winning fencer Mariel Zagunis said, "The development of women in sports is huge. I am where I am today because of the women who paved the way.” Mellinger: "We’ve never seen this many women pushing athletic limits at the Olympics -- an important symbol at the world’s most high-profile sporting event." For the "first time, every participating country has a woman athlete competing" (K.C. STAR, 7/29).

    SHOUT IT OUT LOUD: The AP's Jill Lawless noted about 500 people "critical of the economic impact and corporate flavor of the London Olympics marched Saturday near the Olympic Park, determined to send a message that Britain is not united in backing the games." The protest march "came hours after police arrested more than 130 bicyclists who had defied an order to avoid cycling in groups around the stadium during Friday night's opening ceremony." The protest, the "largest so far against the games, drew a mix of left-wing and green activists who decry the Olympics as a corporate juggernaut rolling over residents and their civil rights" (AP, 7/29).

    NOTHING FOR FREE: In London, Beard & Aizelwood report, "Stars taking part in the opening and closing Olympic ceremonies have been paid a token fee" of US$1.57 for their performances. While Paul McCartney, Mike Oldfield, Dizzee Rascal, Frank Turner, Underworld and Emeli Sande "all agreed to play for free," the musical acts "had to be charged a token fee to create a contract" with LOCOG (London INDEPENDENT, 7/30). 

    FLIP THE SCRIPT: In Seattle, Blythe Lawrence wrote USA Gymnastics President & CEO Steve Penny "has emerged as an outgoing presence in a reserved sport." Though nobody "would mistake Penny for a gymnast, it doesn't stop him from trying out a few moves." USA Gymnastics COO Ron Galimore said that Penny "has been keen to master a handstand -- no doubt to impress officials at Olympic functions." Galimore: "He's not afraid to step out and do something that just cracks everybody up that you'd think is out of character. I have to give him credit for it" (SEATTLE TIMES, 7/29).

    NAMES: Queen Elizabeth II on Saturday "returned to Olympic Park" and visited with "fawning British Olympians in the athletes village and rode to the top of the 377-foot Orbit tower beside the stadium" (AP, 7/29)....Actress Nicole Kidman "was the first to arrive at Omega House in Soho on Saturday night, chaperoned by her husband" musician Keith Urban (London INDEPENDENT, 7/30).

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  • What's Trending From London: NBC's Tape-Delayed Coverage Creating A Stir

    During the opening weekend of the London Games, NBC's tape-delayed coverage and the net's live streaming were hot topics on Twitter. While some criticized the coverage, many came to the net's defense. Time magazine’s James Poniewozik: “NBC time-delay coverage is like the airlines: its interest is in giving you the least satisfactory service you will still come back for.” NBC Olympics Exec Producer Jim Bell tweeted, “@poniewozik know a critic is a critic but how about acknowledging major advance of live stream sted of airline cracks?" CNN’s Jonathan Wald wrote, “And the medal for most Olympic whining goes to everyone complaining about what happens every four years, tape delay.” N.Y. Times’ Judy Battista: “Sure don't want to be accused of whining by any TV execs, but the streaming on @NBC Olympics is trouble-prone. Expect better.” ESPN’s Darren Rovell tweeted, “Tape Delay Critics Lose Again: NBC says it had its best 1st day overnight ratings for a non-US Olympics.” Broadcasting & Cable Editor-In-Chief Ben Grossman wrote, "Strange seeing TV biz insiders bitching about NBC tape delaying some #Olympics. If you know how the business works, you know they are right.” VMW Communications Owner Vince Wladika: “All U NBC haters -- keep tweeting. You're NBC's chauffeur driving them to make big deposits in the ratings bank.” 

    Other Olympic tweets of interest:

    USOC Chief Communications Officer Patrick Sandusky: “Was just thinking about Beijing and Athens Games and there were WAY WAY more empty seats (in all areas) than the first day of London Games.”

    U.S. fencer Mariel Zagunis: “Big thanks to P&G for taking care of my mom when she flew in early to watch me carry the flag in the Opening Ceremony!”

    Yard Barker’s Heather Zeller: “Great tennis fashions in this Williams/Radwnska match. Big fan of both dresses. #Olympics”

    Bravo’s Andrew Catalon: “Because of yesterday's rain there are 55 Olympic tennis matches scheduled for today.”

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  • Medal Stand: Ryan Lochte Already Starting To Cash In For Sponsors

    Each day during the Summer Games, THE DAILY offers our take on the business performances of some of the people, sponsors, broadcasters and other entities around London.

    MEDAL
    MEDALIST
     
    GOLD: NBC'S RATINGS -- It might be a little early for full-on congratulations, but NBC certainly has gotten out of the gate quickly with its London viewership. Friday night was the most-watched Summer Games opening ceremony in history -- not to mention the highest-rated Friday night on any network in a decade -- and the network's two-day primetime average of 35.6 million viewers is the best start to a Summer Olympics on record.
    SILVER: ADIDAS -- The company rolled the dice on sponsoring its second straight Summer Games, and its marketing bet is paying off. CEO Herbert Hainer said that Nike's 3% lead in the U.K. has shrunk to 1% over the last two years. He is hopeful the next two weeks will push adidas closer to No. 1.
     
    BRONZE: RYAN LOCHTE AND HIS SPONSORS -- Numerous advertisers, including P&G's Gillette brand and AT&T, have featured Lochte splashing away in the lead-up to the London Games, and he did not disappoint them during the opening weekend. As Lochte has said repeatedly this year, "This is my time." His corporate partners have to be smiling as he looks to be heading toward a dominant performance.
     
    TIN: VIP TICKETING -- The story of empty seats that broke Saturday in London could have been written months ago. It does not matter what Olympics it is, there are always empty seats in the VIP section. The IOC and organizing committees need to figure out a better system for making sure the national Olympic committees, international federations and sponsors who get those seats fill them.

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  • Check Out The Latest Headlines From London At SBD/SBJ's Olympic Site

    SportsBusiness Daily/SportsBusiness Journal has launched a free website exclusively geared to the Summer Games that will feature news, video, blogs and much more from London. See the site today for the following news:

    LOCOG, federations move to fix ticket issues, empty seats
     
    Going The Distance: Plan in place to ensure Michael Phelps' legacy
     
    Olympic Analysis from Jay Weiner: This witness to history is settling in on his couch
     
    NBC utilizes stable of RSNs to promote Olympic coverage, story lines
     
    NBC, Charter quietly worked out carriage deal before Games
     
    Catching Up With: Carl Liebert, CEO of 24 Hour Fitness
     
    Podcast From A Pub: Ourand, Mickle discuss the day's Olympic issues


    Meanwhile, see today’s issue of SBD Global for the following stories you may have missed:

    Adidas CEO Herbert Hainer says London Games has helped company pull almost even with rival Nike in the U.K.
     
    Australia's Nine Network acquires last-minute buyers for its unsold Olympic advertising inventory.
     
    Japanese officials and Olympic athletes announce details about the Olympic Stadium that Tokyo will have ready for the '20 Games.
     
    G4S bars its senior execs from "enjoying corporate hospitality in light of its security fiasco" for the London Games.

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