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Russia Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak during a news conference at the Main Press Center in the Olympic Park Thursday "dismissed all allegations of corruption, pointing that 'acts of corruption, acts of theft must be proved,'" according to Ivan Nechepurenko of the MOSCOW TIMES. Kozak said, "Our country in the shortest period, has fulfilled all the pledges we have made in the Sochi 2014 Olympic bid." He reiterated that the government's official line is that the state budget "has only spent" $3B on the Games, "with 'a bit more than $4 billion invested by private investors.'" Kozak: "This is something we are proud of." Nechepurenko notes those figures contradict the widely reported $51B cost for hosting the Games. Kozak's remarks were supported by Russia Olympic Committee President Alexander Zhukov, who reaffirmed that Sochi "cost as much as" the '10 Vancouver Games. The Russian government "has created a special body that will oversee the post-Olympic development of Sochi, filling the newly built venues with events" (MOSCOW TIMES, 2/7).
PEEPING TOMAŽ? The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Sonne, White & Robinson note Kozak on Thursday "seemed to reflect the view held among many Russian officials that some Western visitors are deliberately trying to sabotage Sochi's big debut out of bias against Russia." He said, "We have surveillance video from the hotels that shows people turn on the shower, direct the nozzle at the wall and then leave the room for the whole day." Sonne, White & Robinson report at that point, an aide "pulled a reporter away before Mr. Kozak could be questioned further on surveillance in hotel rooms." A Kozak spokesperson later on Thursday said that there is "absolutely no surveillance in hotel rooms or bathrooms occupied by guests." The spokesperson added that there was "surveillance on premises during construction and cleaning of Sochi's venues and hotels and that is likely what Mr. Kozak was referencing" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 2/7). In N.Y., Bondy & O'Connor write Kozak's admission that some surveillance had occurred "was the latest misstep" in Russia’s hosting of the Games. The Games "appear to have locked up the gold medal for blunders -- even before" Friday’s Opening Ceremony (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/7).
SCRUTINIZING SOCHI: In Minneapolis, Chip Scoggins writes Sochi’s image has "taken a beating this week." While the bar may not have been "set high in terms of expectations," Russia President Vladimir Putin’s $51B "ego trip managed to erode what little confidence remained once visitors (and journalists) started to arrive" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 2/7). In Boston, John Powers writes no Olympics since the '80 Moscow Games -- the only other time the event was held in Russia -- have been "as loudly condemned by critics" (BOSTON GLOBE, 2/7). But the FINANCIAL TIMES' Courtney Weaver writes the problems reported at Sochi so far "appear to be largely limited to hotels for the media: no athletes have reported problems with their facilities" (FINANCIAL TIMES, 2/7). FS1's Jay Onrait and Dan O'Toole are broadcasting from Sochi during the Olympics, and O'Toole said, "To clear a few misconceptions, first off there are toilets in our rooms, the water works and there are no dogs in our rooms." Onrait added, "I'm kind of sad about that part. I wanted a puppy in my room" ("Fox Sports Live," FS1, 2/7).
BETTER THAN THE INITIAL REPORTS? In Pittsburgh, Dejan Kovacevic writes the Sochi Games "have been, out of my four Olympics covered, by far the best organized to this point," and Sochi is "putting Vancouver to shame." The facilities "are new, clean and typically spectacular in design and functionality." From the "tight ring of venues in Olympic Park to a logical flow to all movement, it's eminently evident that real thought has been applied." Transportation also is "so much better than any recent Olympics that it's no contest" (PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 2/7). SPORTS ON EARTH's Will Leitch wrote it is "really not that horrible" in Sochi. The city is not 100% ready, but it is "not a cesspool either" (SPORTSONEARTH.com, 2/6).
FRESH SECURITY WORRIES: In DC, Liz Clarke reports USOC CEO Scott Blackmun on Thursday "voiced full confidence that Russia was doing everything possible to safeguard the Games and reiterated that the safety of U.S. athletes was the USOC’s primary concern." He said, "Anytime you have an event of this scope and scale there are security threats, there are terrorism threats. What makes this one a little bit different and, frankly, a little bit concerning when you think about it is that someone has surfaced and made an express threat. ... A few months ago, before Volgograd, we were really concerned about disruptions and the nature of the security -- that there would be long lines and it could be a hassle getting to the venues. Then Volgograd happened, and it kind of flipped. People became very tolerant of those kinds of inconveniences and discomfort" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 2/6).
A lot will be at stake for Russia President Vladimir Putin during the Sochi Games, as he hopes hosting "such a large-scale event gives the world 'a better feel of today's Russia,'" according to a front-page piece by Kelly Whiteside of USA TODAY. Putin since deciding to bid on these Games has been "heavily involved, from lobbying the International Olympic Committee to bring the Games to Russia to inspecting construction sites, testing the facilities and meeting with athletes arriving this week" (USA TODAY, 2/7). In N.Y., Steven Lee Myers writes for Putin and his allies, the Games have "become a self-evident triumph of Russia’s will." The "avalanche of criticism that has already fallen, from minor complaints about ill-prepared hotels and stray dogs to grave concerns about the costs, security and human rights, is being brushed away like snowflakes from a winter coat." Russia Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak said, "Its realization is already a huge win for our country." Myers writes the Games are a "crowning moment for Mr. Putin, a chance to demonstrate anew his mastery of the global levers of power." However, hosting the Olympics "seems to have lost some of the luster officials expected for Russia’s prestige at home and abroad, much to the frustration of Mr. Putin’s supporters." The Games have "refocused international attention on the hard-line policies Mr. Putin’s government has pursued since he returned to the presidency" in '12. Meanwhile, Russia Olympic Committee President Alexander Zhukov said of the perceived politicization of the Olympics, "The Games are supposed to be outside of politics. Those who try to pin some political tails on them are just being undignified" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/7).
HOPING FOR REBIRTH ON WORLD STAGE: The New Yorker Editor David Remnick said Putin with the Games wants to "reassert Russia on the world stage, and the Olympics is the greatest pop culture stage that there is." Remnick: "If it goes well, if there's no terrorism, no violence and things work, for him it's a great success by his domestic terms. ... He has no interest in LGBT issues or human rights, all the things that are being discussed, and he doesn't care that you care that much. So what you may think is a downside is not of great concern to him unless there's an incident of some kind." Russian TV host Vladimir Posner said, "He cares much more about how people in this country feel about the Olympics and how they go than how people outside this country feel about them. So if there is nothing bad like a terrorist attack, if these are successful games, the people in Russia are going to be very happy with that, the majority." Posner added there likely will be "zero" effect on the athletes and visitors in terms of Russia's anti-gay laws. Posner: "I don't see anything happening. In fact, the powers that be are going to be super careful to see that nothing happens to any gay athlete or guest during the Olympics" ("XXII Winter Olympics," NBC, 2/6).
SOCHI'S TENUOUS LEGACY: In London, Roland Oliphant writes if Friday's Opening Ceremony and the subsequent events go smoothly, Putin "will be able to count these Games a success, not just personally but for his vision of Russia." He "will have been heartened by Thursday's scenes of genuine jubilation as ministers and Olympic officials carried the torch through a cheering crowd on Sochi’s seafront, on the final leg of its journey" (London TELEGRAPH, 2/7). In S.F., Mark Nuckols writes, "From the Kremlin's perspective, the XXII Winter Olympics are already an immense success" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 2/7). Also in S.F., Ann Killion asks when the Games are over, will we "remember some glorious athletic feat," or will we remember "something darker?" The world "will watch Russia for the next two weeks, waiting and witnessing Putin's legacy" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 2/7). In Philadelphia, Marcus Hayes: "Barring disaster, what will be remembered is what happens, not the environment in which it occurred" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 2/7). SI.com's Michael Farber: "The bar has been set so low that Sochi -- and by extension, Putin -- can hardly fail." The country "will be judged on its ability to deliver a telegenic and safe Olympics, not a memorable one" (SI.com, 2/6).
EDITORIAL BOARDS OPINE: A N.Y. POST editorial states, "We ... wish the Russian people a successful Olympics." The paper's editorial board members are "not among those hoping for disaster as a way of embarrassing" Putin, as the "innocent athletes who have come from all over the world do not deserve this." But if "many people are hoping for such a disaster, it is because Putin has brought this on himself" (N.Y. POST, 2/7). A WASHINGTON POST editorial states, "Sochi will provide, at best, another example of how awarding the Games to autocratic governments like that of Mr. Putin only reinforces their worst practices while undermining what should be the Olympics’ commitment to human freedom and tolerance" (WASHINGTON POST, 2/7). A N.Y. TIMES editorial states, "The Olympics cannot but put a spotlight on the host country, and despite all efforts to create a more pleasant image of his state, Mr. Putin is facing a growing protest" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/7). Meanwhile, a LONDON TIMES editorial states the Sochi Games "pose three challenges" to IOC President Thomas Bach, and so far, he "has shown scant interest in tackling them." Bach "vowed to control the spending of Olympic bids," but at Sochi, he "will be confronted with a project that has cost" about $51B, as much as all previous Winter Olympic games combined. Regarding corruption, the Olympic movement "must put that in order," and it "has to ensure that all winning bids comply with the Olympic Charter." Athletes "wishing to speak out for Principle Six," which is the Olympic Charter's anti-discrimination clause, during the Games "should be allowed to do so." Olympic organizers also "have to work out whether sites of future games should be placed, like Sochi, in a conflict zone" (LONDON TIMES, 2/7).
PRESSURE ON TEAM RUSSIA: In Milwaukee, Gary D'Amato writes Russian citizens are “pinning especially high hopes on their athletes" during the Sochi Games. The Russian team was "once a force to be reckoned with and the pride of the nation,” but the contingent at Vancouver was a "national embarrassment.” The country four years ago brought home “just three gold medals and a string of doping busts” (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 2/7). Posner noted there is "a lot" of pressure on Russian athletes to perform well, "especially in hockey." Posner: "For the Russians, if the hockey team wins, it doesn't matter what happens with everything else. If it loses, it doesn't matter what happens with everything else. Hockey is it" ("XXII Winter Olympics," NBC, 2/6).
NBC got its broadcast of the Sochi Games off on the right foot Thursday, winning the primetime TV battle with what the net has deemed a "bonus" night of coverage. The net earned an 11.8 overnight Nielsen rating, the best overnight rating for a Thursday on any net since the NFL season-opening Ravens-Broncos game on NBC Sept. 5. The Olympic coverage was the top broadcast for each half-hour window. Minneapolis topped all local markets with a 17.7 overnight rating, followed by Indianapolis, K.C. and Denver. Thursday's coverage will not be factored into NBC's overall cumulative ratings for Sochi (THE DAILY). ESPN's Adnan Virk said, “All of this negative publicity that has been around the Sochi Olympics, I think it’s kind of helped. I think a lot of people were tuning in last night to go, ‘Hey, could this be the worst Olympics of all-time? They’ve already been wildly over budget. They’ve had PR nightmares, gay rights issues. Maybe this could be a real disaster.’" Virk added, "I thought last night was a pretty good night” (“Mike & Mike,” ESPN Radio, 2/7).
NOT ALL FUN AND GAMES: NBC's Bob Costas began Thursday's primetime broadcast coverage by saying, "Tonight, we begin our coverage of an Olympics that should produce large doses of excitement and pageantry, but which also take place against a backdrop of questions about policy differences, security, cost overruns and human rights issues, including Russia's anti-gay propaganda law. All at times will be part of the discussion during our Olympic coverage." The broadcast included a conversation with The New Yorker Editor David Remnick and Russian TV host Vladimir Posner about social and political issues facing Russia. Costas noted both Remnick and Posner "will return for additional segments later in our coverage." Costas: "Some of them will be longer in length. Then we'll be able to get into these issues and more" ("XXII Winter Olympics," NBC, 2/6). ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY's Erin Strecker writes the announcement by Costas was "possibly surprising" to some viewers in that the net "didn't shy away from all of the controversy surrounding the Sochi Games." It will be "interesting to see how that coverage continues as part of the primetime highlights" (EW.com, 2/7). Meanwhile, DC-based Human Rights Campaign, a prominent gay and lesbian rights organization, said that it "would be watching NBC and its cable partners -- every hour of every day -- to see how much they talk about a widely criticized Russian law restricting gay-rights activities." HRC VP/Communications & Marketing Fred Sainz said that he "hopes that NBC would devote at least one lengthy report on the issue of how gays are treated in Russia and that it should be mentioned at least once every night during more than two weeks of prime-time coverage" (AP, 2/6).
PINK EYE AND THE BRAIN: YAHOO SPORTS’ Mike Oz noted Costas looked “a tad unfortunate in the opening minutes of NBC's first primetime broadcast,” and after “welcoming the TV audience, Costas was quick to address his very obvious eye affliction.” He noted he “woke up to discover his eye was swollen shut” and explained that he will be "wearing glasses for the next few days.” Costas' eye “quickly became the talking point of the primetime broadcast,” and he “was a trending topic on Twitter -- a parody account for his eye spawned almost instantaneously” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 2/6). Costas said, "I have no choice but to go all 'Peabody and Sherman' on you for the next couple of nights since I woke up this morning with my left eye swollen shut and just about as red as the old Soviet flag. According to the NBC doctors here, it's some kind of minor infection which should resolve itself by the weekend" ("XXII Winter Olympics," NBC, 2/6). "The Dan Patrick Show" Exec Producer Paul Pabst sarcastically said, "His eye was hurting. Bob Costas in an Olympic year -- it's tough to beat him for the Sports Emmy for Best Host. Bob Costas fighting through this, Dan (Patrick) doesn't stand a chance." "The Dan Patrick Show" Dir of Operations Seton O'Connor added, "What he did yesterday was win an Emmy, that's what Bob Costas did. Olympic year, 'powering though' illness -- give me break. It's done" ("The Dan Patrick Show," 2/7).
ACCENTUATE THE POSITIVES: In L.A., Tom Hoffarth notes NBC Thursday night featured the new Olympic sport of slopestyle snowboarding, an event in which men and women launch themselves “down the hillside like a skateboarder, glancing off ramps, rails and other radical obstacles before attempting to land without bursting any vital organs.” While U.S. Olympian Shaun White “already bailed” from the event a few days earlier and other competitors have been critical about the course's safety, viewers would “guess there was nothing really to worry about” from how NBC’s Todd Harris and Todd Richards addressed it. Richards during the broadcast said, “There’s been some problems in practice, some people did go down. ... But after some modifications done to these jumps, they were fixed over time.” Hoffarth: “No mention of White backing out? Naw, just sit back and enjoy the carnage” (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 2/7).
THE BELLES OF THE BALL: NBC Olympics Exec Producer Jim Bell discussed what events are likely to be showcased on NBC's primetime program and said, "One of the crown jewels of the Winter Olympics is still figure skating. From there you're talking about alpine events like skiing, where the U.S. team is particularly strong. You're seeing that with snowboarding as well. Apolo Ohno also did a lot to really raise the popularity of short-track speed skating." ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY's Lynette Rice writes athletes who are "sure to get the lion's share of the attention -- at least initially" -- are returning '10 medalists snowboarder Shaun White and speedskaters Shani Davis and J.R. Celski. Women's skiing freestyle moguls also will feature defending Gold Medal-winner Hannah Kearney, while Jamie Anderson is "a favorite to win the gold in women's snowboarding slopestyle." The sport "likely to get the least amount of prime-time love: curling" (ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY, 2/14 issue).
GETTING SOMETHING BACK: REUTERS' Grover & Saba reported NBC execs "insist profits are possible" on the Sochi Games after spending $775M for TV rights. NBCUniversal "broke even on its telecast" of the '12 London Games, but it lost $223M at the '10 Vancouver Games. Making a profit "won't be easy," as Sochi is nine hours ahead of the East Coast, "putting many games in the early hours for NBC's audience." The Winter Olympics also are "typically less popular than the summer games." SNL Kagan senior analyst Deana Myers said that "wringing a profit out of the Olympics this year will be a bit easier for NBC because it is paying less than [the] $820 million it had to recoup" at Vancouver. Kantar Media data showed that NBC also has "roughly 28 percent more TV ads to sell by airing 530 hours of programming, up from 436" in '10. NBCUniversal is "putting games on the NBC broadcast network and four cable channels" (REUTERS, 2/6). In N.Y., Justin Terranova writes under the header, "NBC Hopes Prime-Time Delay Doesn't Doom Sochi" (N.Y. POST, 2/7).
NBCUniversal throughout the Sochi Games "has a delicate Web balancing act to pull off," as it plans to stream more than 1,000 hours of live Olympic action on NBCOlympics.com while keeping "its Premier League commitment," according to Mike Shields of ADWEEK. NBCU is "dialing up its streaming capacity, leaning hard on partners like Adobe, Microsoft and Akamai to make sure nobody misses a goal (either in hockey or soccer)." One thing that NBC is "less worried about this time around is piracy." NBC Sports Group Senior VP & GM for Digital Media Rick Cordella explained that the IOC has a "large task force dedicated to tackling the issue." The net also is "confident in its technology partners' ability to help fingerprint its content and keep it off the wrong sites." Cordella believes that since NBCU’s Olympic streaming "is ostensibly free, piracy temptation will be mitigated." Shields noted that is "mostly true, though users will still have to figure out how to prove they pay for cable by authenticating on NBCOlympics.com" (ADWEEK.com, 2/6). But in DC, Andrea Peterson noted for the 9% of U.S. households that "have broadband but don't subscribe to paid television, it will be nearly impossible to (legally) watch the games online this year" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 2/6).
WORKING OUT THE KINKS: The AP's Anick Jesdanun reviewed NBC's streaming coverage Thursday for the first day of action at the Games and wrote NBC "comes close to gold in delivering" the Sochi Games. Coverage has "improved considerably," but it is "unfortunate that NBC doesn’t allow me to watch from the beginning." Jesdanun: "I have to catch the live stream in progress, the way television worked before digital video recorders came along. I also cannot rewind and pause video on the website, while capabilities vary on the apps." There was "a lot of down time watching events on opening day." Jesdanun: "I had to wait more than an hour between the two groups of skiers in women’s slopestyle." The live video "continued, but it was mostly a distant shot of the slope." NBC also "isn’t making replays available" until about 3:30pm ET each day. In addition, fans are "able to watch just one video at a time" (AP, 2/6). In L.A., Tom Hoffarth notes his first use of NBCOlympics.com was "navigating through buffering issues and a repetitive cycle of 15-second ads randomly jumping into the coverage of the already wacky concept of team figure skating competition" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 2/7).
Flyers Chair Ed Snider on Thursday "could not have been more plain" regarding his feelings on the NHL's upcoming hiatus during the Sochi Games, calling it "ridiculous," according to Rich Hofmann of the PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS. Snider said, "I don't care if it was in Philadelphia, I wouldn't want to break up the league (season). I think it's ridiculous to take 3 weeks off, or however long it is, in the middle of the season. It screws up everything." He acknowledged that he "does not know if a majority of NHL owners agree with him." Snider: "I haven't taken a poll. But how could anybody be happy breaking up your season? No other league does it. Why should we? There's no benefit to us whatsoever. If anything, I can only see negatives. The players want to play. The players association has a lot to say about it. As an owner, I think it's ridiculous" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 2/7). YAHOO SPORTS' Greg Wyshynski writes NHL owners have rarely "given voice to this sentiment as vehemently" as Snider did Thursday. There is "no question the Olympic break doesn’t add anything to Snider’s bottom line and it can be argued that breaking the League’s momentum for a month isn’t beneficial to the product." Wyshynski: "But does it hurt the fans? The ones who get to watch their favorite stars in an all-star tournament for three weeks before getting to watch the greatest playoff tournament in pro sports a scant two months later?" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 2/7). In Chicago, Steve Rosenbloom wrote under the header, "NHL At Olympics: Still Stupid After All These Years." The NHL "has shut down business at one of the best times for exposure before, but somehow going to the Olympics in Sochi this year seems worse" (CHICAGOTRIBUNE.com, 2/5).
OH, CANADA: The AP's Dan Gelston notes Flyers C Claude Giroux was "snubbed Thursday by Hockey Canada" when Lightning RW Martin St. Louis was picked as an injury replacement for teammate Steven Stamkos on the Olympic team. Snider said of Giroux's exclusion, "It's a farce. He's one of the best players in the game. It's ridiculous. He's better than half the guys on that team. Anybody that thinks that Claude Giroux doesn't belong on the Canadian team, they don't know anything about hockey as far as I'm concerned. It's politics, to a certain degree." He added of Team Canada Exec Dir Steve Yzerman, who also is the GM of the Lightning, "He had to pick his own guy" (AP, 2/7). Snider did say that his comments came after a "very emotional night" Thursday. The Avalanche-Flyers game was "the first game since" former Flyers GM & coach Keith Allen died at the age of 90 (PHILLY.com, 2/7).
CLOSE QUARTERS: Canada Chef de Mission Steve Podborski said that speculation that members of the Canadian hockey team would sleep three to a room in Sochi "was a one-off, with the NHLers sleeping two to a room when they get" to the Olympic Village. He added, "They're two to a room. They'll be fine" (CP, 2/6). The GLOBE & MAIL's Eric Duhatschek notes players "used to luxury hotels and a choice of the world’s finest dining spots on the NHL circuit will arrive in an athletes village, where food is served cafeteria style and the beds are tiny and jammed into their rooms." The players' accommodations "will go from five-star to one-star in a hurry." However, most players "who’ve been at Olympics before speak of the value of staying in the athletes village -- and mingling with sportsmen and women from other countries" (GLOBE & MAIL, 2/7).
The Olympics are a "16-day fashion show," as companies "vie for the right to design and manufacture clothes, both functional and aspirational, then spend months promoting their creations through choreographed unveilings, hoping to outdo their sartorial rivals," according to John Branch of the N.Y. TIMES. The "biggest fashion runway" during the Sochi Games will be Friday’s Opening Ceremony, where Team USA "will march in heavy cardigans festooned in bold patchwork and iconography, which one fashion pundit compared to wearing Times Square." Why would companies "devote untold hours, effort and money to imagining, creating and making mostly small batches of high-tech uniforms with tiny logos that will not be sold to the public?" Columbia Sportswear Senior Global Brand Dir Jeff Timmins said, "It’s definitely a more broad brand play than it is a moneymaking play." USOC Managing Dir of Consumer Products & Events Peter Zeytoonjian: "It builds buzz, it’s marketing, it creates fan engagement." Branch notes the "design of the uniforms and the deals struck with the manufacturers are left to the national governing bodies for each sport." Uniform designs "must be different from one Winter Olympics to another ... but there are no hard rules about palettes." Countries are “encouraged” to use their national colors, but "even with Olympic uniforms, they want to surprise" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/7). Meanwhile, in Denver, Suzanne Brown notes the U.S. snowboard team in Sochi will "wear another homage to America in Burton's patchwork quilt-inspired jacket." Less "overt than Ralph Lauren's take on the theme, the Burton coat has a kind of faded cool that ought to resonate with youth" (DENVER POST, 2/7).
The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Paul Sonne notes Google on Thursday "posted a rainbow-colored 'doodle' featuring winter sports on its homepage," marking the opening of the Sochi Games "with an expression of support for gay rights." The image -- which "shows drawings of generic Olympic competitors over the word 'Google' against a rainbow background -- hovered over a quote from the Olympic charter regarding the sports movement’s non-discrimination policy." Anti-gay sentiment in Russia has "become a focal issue ahead of the Olympics ever since last summer." The IOC has "urged athletes to refrain from injecting political statements into the games, a policy that has earned harsh rebukes from gay-rights advocates" (WSJ.com, 2/7). The updated logo "appears on Google pages worldwide" (AP, 2/6).
FOCUSING ON SPORTS: In N.Y., Stuart Elliott writes marketers are "keeping their fingers crossed that the multiple issues threatening to overshadow" the Sochi Games "will not repel American consumers." Century 21 CMO Bev Thorne said, "I can’t do anything other than remain optimistic and hopeful." BMW of North America VP/Marketing Trudy Hardy said "people naturally come together" for the Olympic Games. Hardy said of the issues surrounding Sochi, "All that will be put aside to cheer Team USA on." DDB Chicago Chief Creative Officer John Maxham acknowledged that "concerns like security were legitimate." However, Maxham added, “As marketers we have the luxury, and the duty, to focus on the high ground and not to forget about the athletes and all the work they put in" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/7).
THE HEART OF THE MATTER: In Columbus, Mark Williams notes Nationwide Insurance is "using the Olympics as a backdrop to roll out a television ad touting the ... promise to protect the things that matter most to people." The ad, called "Heart," debuted Thursday night and shows an "assortment of heart-shaped items that consumers value -- their vehicles, home and families." The ad is the "newest one in the insurer’s 'Join the Nation' campaign that Nationwide launched" during the '12 London Games (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 2/7).
SOUR APPLES? The GUARDIAN's Charles Arthur reports athletes reportedly have been "told to cover up Apple logos on iPhones if they use them" at the Opening Ceremony, but both the IOC and TOP sponsor Samsung "deny having told them." A Samsung spokesperson said the company "did not request any action of this nature from athletes" at the Games. The IOC's press office when asked whether it had instigated the move said, "It is not true. Athletes can use any device they wish during the Opening Ceremony" (GUARDIAN, 2/7).
Each day during the Winter Games, THE DAILY offers our take on the business performances of some of the people, sponsors, broadcasters and other entities around Sochi.
GOLD: USA HOUSE -- IN THE USA -- Partly to fend off travel issues to Sochi, the USOC smartly re-created its USA House concept in the U.S., offering mini, one-night-only USA House events in the U.S., beginning Friday in L.A. Good thinking to make an already successful program available to more sponsor employees and their guests.
SILVER: LONDON 2012 -- Yeah, yeah, yeah -- the London Games are in the rearview mirror. But as the Sochi Games prepare to open, pleasant memories from a successful, safe and surprisingly low-key Olympics are still fresh in the minds of fans and Olympic partners.
BRONZE: NEW SPORTS, NEW ENTHUSIASM -- The IOC has taken some heat for its Summer Olympic program decisions, but the new additions to the winter program seem to be on the money in terms of trying to attract more women and younger viewers. Disciplines like slopestyle for both skiing and snowboarding, as well as ski halfpipe and team events for figure skating, biathlon and luge, should add excitement and hit new demographics for the Games.
TIN: VLADIMIR PUTIN -- Where do we start? Spending $51B on the Games when your economy is stagnant at best, arresting protesters for "swearing in public," the whole anti-gay law fiasco, riding horseback with your shirt off -- so many things to rail against, so little space.
SportsBusiness Daily/Journal have converted their On The Ground blog into a comprehensive, daily website devoted to the Sochi Games and the business behind it. The site is free and runs through Monday, Feb. 24, the day after the Closing Ceremony. The site also can be accessed through the On The Ground link on SportsBusinessDaily.com. SBJ Olympics writer Tripp Mickle is in Sochi providing news updates, people profiles and personal insights from the Games. Entries currently on the blog include:
* IOC's Thomas Bach ready for Sochi competition to outshine complaints
* Returning Olympians most popular on Twitter as Games begin
* Jet Set, USOC's ticket broker, finds demand for Sochi
* Procter & Gamble opens third Family Home on edge of Olympic Park
* Outside The Rings: Something's missing in Sochi, but nothing that can't be fixed
* NHL Shift: Sochi By The Numbers