ESPN Moving Full Shows To Arizona NFL: Deflategate Inquiry Ongoing Rolex 24 Sees Increasing Impact SI Lays Off Remaining Photographers NFLPA Grievance Challenges Conduct Policy Winter X Draws Record Thursday Crowd Veteran ESPN Exec John Walsh Set To Retire Weekend Plans With Disney's Christen Harris OSU Celebration Meets NHL All-Star Brady, Belichick Deny Deflategate Involvement
SBD/February 24, 2014/OlympicsPrint All
IOC President Thomas Bach yesterday was "unrelentingly upbeat" about the success of the Sochi Games and the nation that hosted them despite the "bumps along the way," according to John Leicester of the AP, who wrote under the header, "The Games Were Expensive, But They Were A Success." Bach said, "It’s amazing what has happened here." SOCOG President & CEO Dmitry Chernyshenko said the Games were a "moment to cherish and pass on to the next generations" (AP, 2/23). USA TODAY's Nancy Armour noted the Games before they started were "burdened by concerns over security, massive cost overruns and infrastructure delays." However, Bach said that he "did not hear a single complaint once the Olympics were underway." He added that the athletes "'loved' their venues and their villages ... particularly how close everything was" (USATODAY.com, 2/23). Bach: "I was always confident our Russian hosts would deliver. I saw the determination" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 2/22). The AP's Ted Anthony reported Bach during the Closing Ceremony last night "eschewed the wording of predecessors that sometimes tried to assess the overall quality of a particular Olympics." He instead "focused on calling them 'the athletes' games' and spent many words praising" both the region and Russia President Vladimir Putin. Bach said that Russia "came through when it needed to" (AP, 2/24).
USOC PLEASED WITH "SMOOTH" GAMES: In Minneapolis, Rachel Blount cited USOC officials as saying that everything "had run smoothly with the delegation," as there "were no embarrassing incidents with athletes misbehaving, and no problems with security or transportation." USOC Exec Dir Scott Blackmun said, "These have been one of the best-produced, best-organized and most smoothly functioning Games we’ve ever been a part of" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 2/23). In Detroit, Jeff Seidel wrote the Sochi Games for the most part "came off without a hitch." The venues "were beautiful," and most reports about the Olympic Village "were positive." Everything "was great" if you "don’t count several U.S. failures, in several sports" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 2/23).
SOCHI'S SUCCESS: In Miami, Michelle Kaufman rated SOCOG as one of the winners of the Sochi Games. Kaufman: "They did it. They pulled it off. Take that, world." There were a "few glitches early on," but "considering the amount of hand-wringing and criticism that went on in the months, weeks and days leading into these Olympics, things went surprisingly well from an organizational standpoint." The venues "were state-of-the-art, buses were on time, and, most important of all, security held up and the Games were terrorism-free" (MIAMI HERALD, 2/23). In Indianapolis, Bob Kravitz wrote, "Sochi ruled. The venues glistened. The weather cooperated. The security, specifically the Ring of Steel, worked. The transportation was flawless. The housing was decent enough, once they found shower curtains." It was a "solid, sometimes spectacular Games, and most importantly, it was safe" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 2/23). In N.Y., Juliet Macur writes, "In a lot of ways, these Games were better than Olympics past." The venues, the transportation, the setting and the security were "all winning." Macur: "Sure, soft snow and a few unfinished hotels upset some athletes and visitors, but most of the competitors raved" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/24). In Chicago, Rick Morrissey writes Sochi "was a lovely host." Few host cities "have been under as much pressure going into an Olympics, and none of them produced the way this place did." Sochi "was far from the nightmare it had been scared up to be" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 2/24). In Philadelphia, Frank Fitzpatrick writes under the header, "Sochi's Games Emerge As A Winner." The Games were "pretty darn good." Fitzpatrick: "No logistical nightmares. No tragedies. No major turmoil" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 2/24). In London, Ian Chadband writes Sochi "staged an event of extraordinary magnitude and complexity and pulled it off" (London TELEGRAPH, 2/24).
POWER TO THE PEOPLE: In Winnipeg, Ted Wyman writes under the header, "Russians Were Gracious Hosts Of Sochi Games." He notes the people in Sochi are what he will "remember most about this Russian adventure." There were thousands of Russians, most of them "young and vibrant, who have done everything possible to make visitors feel welcome." Wyman: "These were their Games" (WINNIPEG SUN, 2/23). In Boston, John Powers writes under the header, "For Russia, The Games Were A Complete Success." The mood "throughout the Games was relaxed and friendly, helped by thousands of smiling and helpful young volunteers" (BOSTON GLOBE, 2/24). In Chicago, Stacy St. Clair writes under the header, "At The End, Sochi And Russian People Are Winners." St. Clair writes to the Games' organizers, "You rallied in a way that kept everyone safe and created some indelible memories at your competitions." Your people "worked hard, both to finish construction projects and to ensure your guests felt welcomed." You "became the quintessential underdog and it became easy to root for you" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 2/24). In Boston, David Filipov wrote, "The venues were widely praised, though warm temperatures sometimes made snow conditions iffy." Things "ran smoothly, thanks in part to a vast, English-speaking volunteer force that is still smiling" (BOSTON GLOBE, 2/23). The INDIANAPOLIS STAR's Kravitz writes the Sochi Games rank in the "top five" of the 12 Olympics he has covered, joining London ('12), Sydney ('00), Beijing ('08) and Barcelona ('92). He writes, "The volunteers shone with sunny dispositions and passable English. ... We flew away from Russia with a very different sense of what this country is and who these people are" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 2/24).
SAFE AND SOUND: USA TODAY's Christine Brennan writes, "Of all the ways the Sochi Games will be remembered, the most important is this: They were safe." Putin's "'ring of steel' worked," as terrorists "never struck." An Olympics "held in the crosshairs of harm, with terrorists vowing to strike in an extremely troubled part of the world, came off basically without a hitch." That is the "ultimate victory of the Sochi Olympic Games" (USA TODAY, 2/24). ESPN's Jeremy Schaap said, "There was no act of terrorism. Two weeks ago, if you would’ve said that we were going to get through these Games without anything like that happening, people would have said, ‘That in and of itself would make it a success’" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 2/23). In Pittsburgh, Dejan Kovacevic writes, "The highest grade of gold here should go to those who not only kept the Games safe but did so with less apparent intrusion than their predecessors in Vancouver and London" (PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 2/24). In Milwaukee, Gary D'Amato wrote, "Most important the Olympic bubble felt safe and secure" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 2/23). A USA TODAY editorial states the Sochi Games were "great games that are most likely to be remembered for compelling sports, and not for some unfortunate event" (USA TODAY, 2/24).
NO FUN TO BE HAD: In L.A., Bill Plaschke writes under the header, "Sochi Olympics Are Nearly Flawless But Devoid Of Joy." There "were no impromptu parties on city streets" in Sochi, because there "were no city streets running through the heavily barricaded Olympic sites." There was "little bonding between Olympic visitors and locals." Plaschke: "It was the All-Business Olympics" (L.A. TIMES, 2/24).
The '14 Sochi Games ended yesterday with a "sparkling closing ceremony infused with Russian pride," according to Anton Troianovski of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. An "upside-down village reminiscent of Marc Chagall paintings floated over the arena while Schnittke's 'Polka' played." Pianist Denis Matsuev "performed Rachmaninoff surrounded by 248 performers dancing around 62 other pianos." There was "less bombast than the Feb. 7 opening ceremony and a few more intimate performances." Russia President Vladimir Putin "didn't speak," but IOC President Thomas Bach "thanked him for his personal support in putting on the Games and lavished praise on the organizers of the most expensive Olympics in history" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 2/24). In N.Y., Sarah Lyall in a front-page piece writes the event was "often loud, sometimes elegant, sometimes flashy, sometimes bewildering." It "hustled people on and off the stage so rapidly that it was sometimes hard to catch why they had been there at all." Lyall: "There were references to Kandinsky and to Chagall. There was music by Rachmaninoff, Rubinstein and Vladimir Horowitz. There were ballet dancers. Huge banners depicting some of Russia’s greatest authors -- Tolstoy, Gogol, Dostoyevsky, the dissident writer Solzhenitsyn -- were displayed as people ran around waving books in the air" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/24). In DC, Kathy Lally notes the scene was "set in a vast library, and suddenly gales of wind blew through, sending manuscript pages into the whirlwind of Soviet persecution," as a "voice recited some of their words" (WASHINGTON POST, 2/24). In Utah, Amy Donaldson writes the ceremony was "an entertaining, quick-paced journey that also included a beautiful hand-off to PyeongChang, Korea, host of the 2018 Winter Games" (DESERET NEWS, 2/24).
FROM START TO FINISH: In Minneapolis, Rachel Blount writes a country "typically viewed as dour and humorless showed it can even laugh at itself." The show’s opening segment "featured dancers forming Olympic rings; in a reference to the much-discussed Opening Ceremony glitch, when one ring failed to unfold, the dancers created only four rings before adding the fifth to wild applause" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 2/24). The GLOBE & MAIL's Eric Reguly writes the Closing Ceremony was "somewhat of an improvement on the plodding opening version, which bogged down in the mud of the athletes' parade smack in the middle of the show." But this time, the "mid-show athletes' parade worked because the audience at the Fisht Olympic stadium were there to celebrate their new sporting heroes" (GLOBE & MAIL, 2/24). In Chicago, Stacy St. Clair writes though the Closing Ceremony typically takes on a "block-party atmosphere with athletes dancing and singing together, the Sochi athletes spent the majority of the event seated quietly in the stands as if attending a college lecture." They "only left their seats at the very end of the ceremony, when English-language pop music was pumped through the sound system and they were invited to dance on the stadium floor" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 2/24).
A smaller audience for NBC’s primetime coverage on Friday and Saturday put the net’s Sochi Games average rating at a 12.4 heading into the Closing Ceremony last night -- a figure that is essentially flat compared to the same point during the ’06 Turin Games. NBC on Saturday saw a second-consecutive night of record-low Olympic primetime ratings. The net drew a 7.8 final rating and 13.3 million viewers for Sochi coverage from 8:30-11:00pm ET, marking the least-viewed night of Olympic coverage in at least the last 20 years. Coverage on Saturday night featured the figure skating gala, which airs toward the end of each Winter Games. Also airing on Saturday night was the four-man bobsled, as well as Gold Medal finals for men’s slalom, men’s parallel slalom and the men’s and women’s speedskating team pursuit. The comparable Saturday night at the ’10 Vancouver Games drew an 11.7 rating and 20.6 million viewers, while the ’06 Turin Games drew a 9.7 rating and 16.5 million viewers. Meanwhile, NBCSN drew a 1.6 rating and 2.5 million viewers for the U.S. men’s hockey team’s 5-0 loss to Finland in the Bronze Medal game Saturday from 10:00am-12:30pm (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor).
WINTER OLYMPICS PRIMETIME RATINGS TREND (EXCLUDES OPENING THURSDAY)'14 (Sochi)'10 (Vancouver)'06 (Turin)'02 (Salt Lake)
16th Day (Saturday)7.811.79.715.7 15th Day (Friday)8.813.99.717.7 14th Day (Thursday)12.213.615.826.8 13th Day (Wednesday)12.211.910.019.5 12th Day (Tuesday)11.212.615.522.3 11th Day (Monday)13.812.513.617.1 10th Day (Sunday)126.96.36.1997.1 9th Day (Saturday)9.614.711.314.0 8th Day (Friday)11.013.411.215.8 7th Day (Thursday)13.414.511.917.6 6th Day (Wednesday)12.116.711.317.5 5th Day (Tuesday)13.712.211.318.5 4th Day (Monday)12.814.212.819.6 3rd Day (Sunday)14.414.313.317.6 2nd Day (Saturday)13.914.013.517.1 Opening Ceremony17.017.312.825.5 16-NIGHT AVG.12.413.912.419.0
CLOSING UP SHOP: NBC's Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth hosted the net's coverage of the Closing Ceremony last night, and the AP's David Bauder wrote there is a "risk in having a sports announcer" and former NFLer "host your coverage." Collinsworth during one part of the event asked, "Why are the houses upside down?" Commentator Vladimir Pozner then "gently introduced him to the work of artist Marc Chagall" (AP, 2/23). Michaels prior to the broadcast said that the "preparation for an Olympic closing ceremony comes down to seeing the rehearsal ahead of time (which NBC's broadcasters do) and relying on someone like Pozner to offer perspective on the cultural aspects of the show." Michaels: "There's not a lot to say for us. You let it play out. It's very visual. The presentations, the music; I'm not there to get political" (SI.com, 2/23).
NBC DESERVES PRAISE: In Tampa, Tom Jones writes NBC "should be proud of its Olympic coverage." It is "never easy to cover something with such a drastic time difference, and it's never easy to fill a prime-time schedule with events that happened hours earlier." Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir were "the breakout stars calling the figure skating, while I thought the best coverage involved hockey and the sledding events -- skeleton, luge and bobsled" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 2/24). USA TODAY's Robert Bianco writes under the header, "NBC's Coverage Was Worth The Overindulgence." The net on Friday "aired a startling essay" by host Bob Costas "pairing praise of Russia's people with a blistering attack on its foreign policy and treatment of gays and dissidents." Costas in doing so "single-handedly reversed the image that NBC was burying its head in the Black Sea sand" (USA TODAY, 2/24).
RECORD SETTER: Canada’s 1-0 win over the U.S. in the men’s hockey semifinal on Friday afternoon drew 2.12 million unique streams via NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports Live Extra app, marking a streaming record for NBC Sports. The figure could set a new mark among all sporting events for an authenticated streaming audience. NBC’s previous record was 2.11 million uniques for the non-authenticated Giants-Patriots Super Bowl XLVI stream in '12. The Canada-U.S. semifinal passes the previous Olympic record set earlier last week with the authenticated stream of Thursday’s Canada-U.S. women’s hockey Gold Medal game (1.2 million uniques). For comparison, ESPN’s most-streamed event remains the U.S.-Algeria pool-play match from the '10 FIFA World Cup, which had about 866,000 uniques (Karp). In N.Y., Richard Sandomir noted NBC going into the game had been "concerned that office computer networks could be overloaded with people trying to stream the game from their desks at work." NBC Sports Group Senior VP & GM for Digital Media Rick Cordella said, "I looked at the Internet and only saw a few complaints." Sandomir noted the number of people "watching the stream at any particular moment, indicated it was rising throughout the game and peaking at 850,000" at 2:09pm ET, "just before the end." Overall, 9.1 million users "have streamed live video from Sochi," up 24% from the '12 London Games (N.Y. TIMES, 2/22).
I AM WOMAN, HEAR ME ROAR: THE ATLANTIC's Nolan Feeney wrote for some Olympic fans, "spotting and calling out sexism in Olympics coverage has become a sport in itself." NBC's primetime coverage drew "criticism for the way commentators and analysts cover female athletes," and several viewers found the broadcast of the women's ski halfpipe Thursday "particularly irksome for the way it repeatedly referred to skiers as 'girls' instead of women." NBC skiing analyst Steve Porino was involved "in one of the bigger dust-ups." Porino said, during a segment about how extreme the Sochi courses were for skiers, female athletes do "all of that while in a Lycra suit, maybe a little bit of makeup -- now that is grace under pressure." Feeney noted academics and scholars "for years ... have analyzed the way Olympic television coverage treats female athletes, from commentary just like Porino's remarks, to less obvious metrics like visibility and screen time in certain events" (THEATLANTIC.com, 2/21).
BACK-END TECH: Massachusetts-based web content delivery firm Akamai Technologies said on Friday that it "has already delivered more data" for the Sochi Games "than it did for all of" the London Games. Akamai said that it is "supporting more than 20 rights-holders worldwide in delivering Olympics content," including NBC, France Televisions, and TV2 Norway (BOSTON GLOBE, 2/22).
USOC officials claim the Sochi Games were "one of the country's best Olympics ever," after its 28 medals put it "behind just the host country in total medals," according to Tim Dahlberg of the AP. However, Norway "won more gold than the U.S. (11-9) and the 28 total medals were nine less than Americans won in a record-setting performance four years ago in Vancouver." USOC Chief of Sport Performance Alan Ashley said, "We came here with a great team and they've done a great job. Things don't always shake out exactly the way you think they're going to, but the surprises are sometimes way more surprising than the disappointments." Dahlberg noted among the "disappointments were the biggest U.S. stars going into the games." U.S. snowboarder Shaun White failed to medal in the halfpipe, while skier Lindsey Vonn "didn't even make the trip because of injury." But one "new star was born" -- 18-year-old skier Mikaela Shiffrin won a Gold Medal in the women's slalom. U.S. speedskaters were "kept off the medal podium for the first time" since the '84 Sarajevo Games, and things "weren't much better on the ice for U.S. figure skaters, who won a bronze in the new team event but were shut out individually." However, U.S. ice dancers Charlie White and Meryl Davis "took a bit of the sting out of that performance" with their historic Gold Medal win. Ashley said that the U.S. medal haul was lower "partly because other countries are becoming more competitive in winter sports." He added that the team "would have liked to have won more medals, but called their performance excellent anyway" (AP, 2/23).
YOUTH OF THE NATION: In L.A., David Wharton writes under the header, "Young No-Names Save The Sochi Olympics For The U.S." The "youth movement at the Sochi Games gives the USOC another edge." With so many "fresh faces" such as Shiffrin, the organization "has some new blood for its constant marketing push" (L.A. TIMES, 2/24). In Phoenix, Mark Faller wrote, "Don’t label Sochi as the Games where U.S. star power failed. Don’t focus on Shani Davis, Shaun White, hockey teams or the disappointing speedskaters." Instead, remember Sochi as "the coming-out party" for Shiffrin -- the "face of both the present and future of U.S. winter sports" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 2/23).
TWO SIDES TO EVERY STORY: In San Diego, Mark Zeigler writes there are "two ways to spin the U.S. performance." One is by "simply counting medals." However, the other side is if the IOC "doesn’t add 12 events to the 2014 program, we’re writing the obituary of U.S. winter sports." The U.S. "won a record 37 medals in Vancouver," but "in those same events, they won 19 in Sochi." Figure skating "finished off the podium in ladies, men’s and pairs for the first time" since '36, and long-track speed skating "won no medals." Cross country, biathlon and ski jumping "were shut out again," and the men’s hockey team "lost 5-0 to Finland in the bronze medal game" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 2/24). In DC, Mike Wise writes these were "the Excuse-Making Games for some U.S. athletes." Whether "blaming Under Armour’s speedskating suits or bad, sloppy snow," competitors could not get their "head around the fact that some people in the world were either better, wanted it more or are just culturally predisposed to kicking behind at some things" (WASHINGTON POST, 2/24).
SLIDING SPORTS COULD SEE SPRINGBOARD: The AP's Tim Reynolds notes since the USOC "takes world-championship and Olympic performance into significant account when doling out budget cash," the USA Bobsled & Skeleton Federation, as well as the USA Luge Association "might turn Sochi success into a springboard for the Pyeongchang Games." The U.S. teams "could just keep getting faster" for '18 "assuming the financing is there" (AP, 2/24).
The U.S. Ski & Snowboard Association, "buoyed by the success of slopestyle and other new action sports" at this year's Sochi Games, is "hatching a plan to bring a few more high-flying athletes into the mix," according to Eddie Pells of the AP. USSA President & CEO Bill Marolt said, "We're working on some things. There's definitely a possibility some new events could be added." Pells reported Marolt did not "get into specifics, but there have been conversations in international circles about two events: a team snowboardcross race and Big Air." Team snowboardcross "is a relay version of the bang-'em-up version of snowboard racing, in which six riders line up and race their way down the hill, side-by-side," while Big Air is "essentially a 'Best Of' slopestyle contest, in which the rails and kickers are ditched and riders simply do jump after jump off a highly pitched ramp." The U.S. "won 12 medals at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park," while Canada took 11. The message "was clear: These two countries worked hardest to bring these sports into the Olympics." They "knew there were medals to be won and they knew the sports would sell to TV networks back home." NBC paid $775M to televise the games, and that is "the biggest single chunk of money the IOC brings in." Marolt: "We saw what snowboarding brought, and we looked around and saw what freeskiing could bring. When the IOC looked at it, it was about the same time NBC was looking for sports that were relative to the youth market. It worked out well" (AP, 2/23).
BORN IN THE USA: In Buffalo, Jerry Sullivan wrote competing "away from the home continent certainly didn’t hurt the U.S. extreme sports athletes." The U.S. had a "combined 10 medals -- including five of the country’s nine overall golds -- in slopestyle, halfpipe or snowboard cross events." The men’s and women’s ski and snowboard slopestyle events "were in the Olympics for the first time," as were "men’s and women’s ski halfpipe and the snowboard parallel slalom." USOC Sports Performance Chief Alan Ashley said, "I can’t tell you for sure where we’re going to end up four years from now. We don’t control that. But I’m encouraged by what’s going on here, and I would love us to look at new opportunities. They’re exciting, they bring new athletes in and keep the Winter Games evolving in a very positive way." Sullivan noted extreme sports "also do well on TV, one reason the ratings are high for these Games" (BUFFALO NEWS, 2/23). In Indianapolis, Bob Kravitz wrote, "It seems whenever the Olympics put new sports into the quadrennial program, the U.S tends to dominate. Ah, the power of domestic American television" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 2/23). In Miami, Michelle Kaufman wrote slopestyle skiing "looks great on TV and a U.S. medal sweep ... was welcome back home" (MIAMI HERALD, 2/23).
GOING MAINSTREAM: In Minneapolis, Chip Scoggins wrote snowboarding’s "continued growth in mainstream appeal has made it a popular Olympic sport and brought new eyeballs to the Games." Traditionalists "might not appreciate a well-executed double cork 1080, but the IOC isn’t about to try to put toothpaste back into the tube" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 2/23). In Chicago, Eric Zorn wrote under the header, "Newer Sports Took The Gold For Excitement." Though snowboardcross and skicross are "relatively new extreme sports," they "best exemplify an ancient essence of athletic competition: Let's race!" Zorn: "No judges. No impenetrable scoring systems. No sequins. No points for artistry. No deductions for minor wobbles" (CHICAGOTRIBUNE.com, 2/23). In Newark, Steve Politi wrote, "Give Team USA credit: They knew it was a matter of time before these X-Games sports were added to the Olympics, and it put a system in place to develop and train athletes. Plus, the medalists were always an entertaining breath of fresh air. Party on, dudes" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 2/23).
BUILT TO LAST: USA TODAY's Kelly Whiteside notes U.S. officials are "expecting interest in action sports to continue because of the success in Sochi." USSA CMO Mike Jaquet said, "The reason they're going to become popular is because America loves winners and falls in love with these youthful kids. These sports will naturally produce the type of personality that America loves." Whiteside notes because the sport "has been gaining in popularity over the last decade, industry experts expect the explosion to continue." The freeskiing movement has "helped reverse the ski industry's declining sales." Unlike other Olympic sports, extreme ones "don't disappear between the four-year cycle." The Winter X Games is "held yearly and broadcast on ESPN's networks." Plus there is "Dew Tour and USSA Grand Prix events" (USA TODAY, 2/24).
NHL players "remain strongly in favor" of participating in future Olympics, but the "anti-Olympic faction among owners and executives has many reasons for saying no to Pyeongchang, and last week’s roll call of players who were injured at the Sochi Games touched off a renewed sense of opposition," according to Klein & Hackel of the N.Y. TIMES. Bruins Owner Jeremy Jacobs "outlined the struggle within the league" over '18. Jacobs in an e-mail acknowledged the "importance of competing in the Olympics to many of our players." However, he "listed four main areas of concerns for the owners: shutting the league down for more than two weeks and its effect on fans and corporate partners; the risk of injury to the top players; mental and physical fatigue among those players; and the compressed schedule and 'the challenges it creates for the buildings.'" Klein & Hackel noted another "complicating issue is the presence of NBC, the NHL’s American television partner." The net paid $963M for the rights to the Pyeongchang Games and "wants NHL players on the ice there." NBC Sports Group Chair Mark Lazarus said, "We’ve expressed that opinion to the National Hockey League and to the NHL Players’ Association. We can only tell them that this is our preference, that they’re there" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/23). In Boston, Fluto Shinzawa wrote if NBC "determines that NHL participation makes a significant impact on its Olympic revenue stream, it will make that known to the league’s power brokers," in which case the NHL would "move swiftly to please its primary television partner" (BOSTON GLOBE, 2/23).
YZERMAN HOPES THIS WASN'T THE END: The AP's Greg Beacham notes while Team Canada Exec Dir of Hockey Steve Yzerman is stepping down from his position, he hopes yesterday was not "his last chance to see the world's best players rewarded with gold." He said, "This is great for hockey. We're trying to grow our sport. The Olympics is the biggest stage worldwide, for any sport. I'm hopeful that the NHL stays. I recognize there are a lot of issues, but I think this is tremendous for our game, and I believe it's tremendous for the National Hockey League" (AP, 2/24). NBC analyst Pierre McGuire said, "Of all the players I have talked to in the National Hockey League over the last 15 years, I have not talked to one that doesn’t want to be an Olympian" (NEWSDAY.com, 2/21). But Red Wings associate coach Tom Renney said, "If I’m an owner and a general manager in this league, I’m real skeptical whether or not our guys should participate in this, quite honestly. If I'm a player, I want to go. Having been there, I can relate to that. That said, maybe the time has come for the Olympics to be an under-23 event" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 2/23).
FEHR OUTLINES NEXT STEPS: NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr said after the Sochi Games "digest for a while," the union plans to "begin to talk to the players; we'll talk to the parents; we'll see what kind of reaction federations had." Fehr: "Then, I'm sure, at our executive board meeting this summer, we'll have long discussions. And either then or after my meeting with the players in the fall, the players will tell me what they want me to do and then I'll go try and do it" (ESPN.com, 2/22). In Toronto, Rosie DiManno writes if NHL owners "deny us" future Olympic participation, it is "up to the players’ union to insert continuing Olympic participation" into the next CBA (TORONTO STAR, 2/24).
PICKING & CHOOSING THEIR SPOTS? Capitals VP & GM George McPhee said that he would "like to see the league pick and choose which Olympics they participate in," as he "worries about the additional wear and tear on players" when the Games are held outside North America. McPhee: "I personally would rather not do it when it’s outside North America. I don’t know that it’s good for business to be shutting down for three weeks and subordinating ourselves to the Olympics. I think we’re a better league than that and we shouldn’t have to do that. I understand the appeal for some people but it’s tough when it’s overseas" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 2/23). ESPN's Barry Melrose said, “I think the NHL might pick and choose which Olympics they go in. Games in North America, Games in England, stuff like that -- they might go to. But Games that are crazy travel, different time zones, stuff like that -- they might bow out of” ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 2/23).
OPINIONS CONTINUE TO VARY: In N.Y., Larry Brooks wrote team owners and execs opposed to Olympic participation will use the injuries to Islanders C John Tavares, Rangers RW Mats Zuccarello, Penguins D Paul Martin and Blue Jackets D Fedor Tyutin "as Exhibit A" in the case against shutting down every four years. Injuries "are an obvious risk" of Olympic participation, and the NHL "hasn’t yet been able to quantify the rewards that come from its league’s and its athletes’ partnership with sport’s quadrennial global celebration." However, Brooks wrote, "The NHL would be better served -- that means the industry of the NHL that includes the season subscribers who do still pay the freight -- by expanding its interaction and competition with the best in the Europe and by exploiting its association with the Olympics" (N.Y. POST, 2/23). ESPN's John Saunders said as "deep a risk as it is” that high-profile players could get hurt at the Olympics, it is a "risk the NHL needs to take every single Olympics” (“The Sports Reporters,” ESPN, 2/23). But in Philadelphia, Al Morganti wrote under the header, "Sochi Olympics A Waste Of Time For NHL." The presence of the NHL at the Olympics "not only diminishes the quality of hockey in the NHL and the Stanley Cup playoffs, but it also diminished the achievements by other athletes" at the Winter Games (PHILLY.com, 2/22). THE STREET's Jason Notte wrote the Winter Olympics in "an ideal world" would be "an ideal time for the NHL to show off its goodwill and be rewarded with tons of new casual hockey fans and lots of international growth for its efforts." NHL participation has "been a great thing" for both "casual and die-hard fans alike." That the Games "haven't converted the former into the latter in any discernible numbers, however, is a bad sign for a league that's been short on both stability and growth in its recent history." The NHL "shouldn't pull players because the fans can't handle it ... but because the league can't" (THESTREET.com, 2/21).
With the Sochi Games concluding last night, the Olympic spotlight is "now turning from Eastern Europe to South America" and the '16 Rio Games, according to NBC's Natalie Morales. NBC's Bill Neely reports shifting from Sochi to Rio "could hardly be more different than this." Rio is the first South American city ever to be awarded the Games, and officials have "two years to get ready, but they've got problems, too." While the Opening Ceremony stadium is "ready, most venues are not," and the main Olympic park "is a building site." Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes said of the unfinished sites, "These are scheduled. That's what we've got to prove that we can deliver things on schedule." Neely said IOC officials have noted Rio does not have a "day to waste." Paes said, "I can guarantee that these Games will be ready on time." But Neely notes that Rio "has a dark side." Since the city won the Games, its police have "struggled against the drug gangs that rule many neighborhoods." They patrol "aggressively, trying to make Rio safe for the Summer Games, but parts of this city remain violent." Neely: "Rio's reputation is built on samba, Carnival and fun. It knows how to throw a party. The countdown has now begun to one of its biggest" ("Today," NBC, 2/24).
PRIMED FOR PYEONGCHANG: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Matthew Futterman reports ahead of the '18 Pyeongchang Games, there were around 200 South Korean observers in Sochi, "taking notes on everything from security to transportation to the design of the venues." Like Sochi, Pyeongchang "is a massive project that includes a new high-speed rail line and expressway, construction of six venues and a plethora of housing." Pyeongchang also "has yet to begin selling major sponsorships." POCOG Secretary General Moon Donghoo said that the effort on that "will start later this year" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 2/24). In Salt Lake City, Kurt Kragthorpe writes, "Korea will have much to live up to following Sochi's Games" (SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 2/24).
NOT TOO SOON TO THINK ABOUT TOKYO: Tokyo Gov. Yoichi Masuzoe said that he traveled to the Sochi Games to assure the IOC he was "fully committed to Olympic preparations after his predecessor resigned over a financial scandal." The city is hosting the '20 Games, and Masuzoe said, "There are so many challenges but my highest priority is the possibility of a disaster. The worst thing that one can think of is a disaster right in the middle of the Games. So, for me, disaster prevention and disaster mitigation plans are very important." REUTERS’ Karolos Grohmann notes with the "fallout of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011 following an earthquake and tsunami still affecting his country, Masuzoe said work had started on an Olympics protection plan.” Masuzoe: "We have already begun so as to have the perfect disaster prevention and mitigation plan” (REUTERS, 2/24).
WHAT BECOMES OF SOCHI? CBS' Mark Phillips asked with the Sochi Games over, "what happens to all this stuff now?" The facilities built for the Games will either be a "whole new herd of Olympic white elephants or you're looking a look at the future." Russian officials said that they "have a plan." Fisht Olympic Stadium, which was "only used for the Opening and Closing ceremonies here, is supposed to house a soccer team." However, there is "no team yet and no fan base either." Bolshoy Ice Arena, which held the hockey competition, is "supposed to house a hockey team, but there isn't one of them yet, either." Phillips: "The ski area, where only wilderness existed before, is a beautiful place, but it took a massive snowmaking and snow storage investment to provide even the marginal conditions that made these Games possible. Will people come in the future?" SOCOG President & CEO Dmitry Chernyshenko said Russia "needs to develop the first ski resort in our country, and this narrow strip on the seashore in the biggest country in the world really deserves to be redeveloped since Soviet times" ("CBS This Morning," CBS, 2/24).
In DC, Carrera & Sheinin reported Capitals and Sweden C NICKLAS BACKSTROM was pulled from yesterday's Gold Medal hockey game against Canada after he "tested positive for a banned substance found in his allergy medication." He was found to have an "elevated level of pseudoephedrine," which is prohibited by the IOC but not the NHL. The "timing of his removal ... raises questions about the IOC's testing process." Backstrom was tested Wednesday, but "neither he nor team officials were informed of the positive result until hours before" yesterday's game (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 2/23). Sweden coach PAR MARTS "was only told 20 minutes before the final that his center couldn’t play" (AP, 2/23).
STEAMED AT THE STREAM: The GLOBE & MAIL's Carly Weeks noted RBC, a "major Olympic sponsor" for the COC, cut the online feed of the Canada-USA men's semifinal hockey game Friday "during the first period over fears its computer system would be pushed over capacity." RBC Senior Manager of Media Relations JASON GRAHAM said that the decision "had nothing to do with fears of falling workplace productivity." He added that the company sent an e-mail to employees Friday morning "warning them the live feed may be cut if the bank felt the number of computers streaming the game would impact the performance of its network" (GLOBE & MAIL, 2/22).
CANADA EYES ANOTHER BID: The CP's Lori Ewing reported COC President MARCEL AUBUT "hopes Canada bids to host another Games" before his term ends in '17. Aubut yesterday said, "What I want is Canada to get interested again, be serious about bidding for Olympics, winter and summer really ... fine with me." He said that Canada's summer athletes "need the lasting legacy of a home Olympics that winter athletes have enjoyed" since the '88 Calgary and '10 Vancouver Games (CP, 2/23).
SATISFIED WITH SECURITY: U.S. Ambassador to Russia MICHAEL MCFAUL on Saturday said that there "have been 'bits and pieces' of intelligence information that have raised security concerns about the Sochi Winter Olympics, but overall the event has been safe." He said that the U.S. "has remained in close contact with Russian authorities throughout the Games." McFaul: "We are satisfied with the cooperation. I don't want to jinx us, but so far, so good" (WSJ.com, 2/22).
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: SOCHI 2014 -- The Sochi Games defied expectations. Security was thorough and efficient. Transportation was smooth and punctual. Venues were stunning and vibrant. Sure, there were some hotel issues at the start, but most people found rooms that worked for them. Organizing an Olympics is filled with challenges, and building a host city from scratch only added to the difficulties that Sochi organizers faced. But, political controversies aside, they pulled off a remarkable Games.
SILVER: UKRAINE -- The Ukrainian biathlon team's surprise Gold Medal at the end of the Games underscored what makes the Olympics so much greater than any other sports event. At a time when their countrymen's protest of the Ukrainian government was met with a violent and deadly crackdown, the underdog team managed to win an event and give the country its first Gold of the Sochi Games. They then asked all the media to stand and observe a moment of silence to honor the lives that had been lost in Kiev that week.
BRONZE: DUTCH SPEEDSKATING -- What the Dutch speedskating team achieved in Sochi is nothing short of amazing. The team won 23 medals and swept the podium four times. It was one of the most dominating team performances in the history of an Olympic Games. There was a reason Heineken House (the Dutch home away from home) was the most fun place to be in Sochi.
TIN: $51 BILLION -- As everyone knows by now, that was the exorbitant cost of these Games. There was plenty to show for it -- trains, highways, resorts -- but no one knows if those will be used. And the cost has alarmed bid cities of the future and caused citizens to question the value of spending so much to host an Olympics. Good bid cities give the IOC good host cities, and good host cities keep the Olympics brand healthy.
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 today. The site also can be accessed through the On The Ground link on SportsBusinessDaily.com. SBJ Olympics writer Tripp Mickle is providing news updates, people profiles and personal insights from the Games. Entries currently on the blog include:
* Sochi Games leave a complex legacy
* Bach energizes IOC membership
* USOC wants to pick 2024 bid city by end of year
* Three more deals lined up for Rio 2016
* NHL ratings bump from Sochi hockey unlikely