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February 7, 2014 09:40 AM
That was one of the first things I was told when I arrived. The woman who told me that had been in town a few days, and she was speaking specifically about the accommodations.
“You’ll have a long wait to check in,” she said, “but the rooms are OK. Of course, you’ll be missing something. Everyone is missing something.”
But the longer I’m here, the more that rule describes not just the hotel situation. Of course, it starts there.
Talk to anyone here about their room and there’s something absent. Could be light bulbs, could be towels, could be a chair.
One of the guys I’d checked in with, who’d been traveling for three days from Detroit, didn’t have water in his room. I bumped into him at the media center the next day heading to the gym to take a shower.
Even athletes in the village are missing something. Members of the U.S. Speedskating team said their room didn’t have a wastebasket. They either piled up trash or, if they could, they got a bag and used it for trash. But that didn’t always work. Jilleanne Rookard told the Associated Press, “Every time we get a little bag, the maid takes it and then we’re stuck throwing trash on the floor in a pile again.”
What was I missing? A wastebasket, and a rod for the shower curtain. Mind you, I had the curtain. I just didn’t have anything to hang it on. That’s sort of key when it comes to shower curtains.
At first, stories like that were funny, and here in Sochi, they provided an easy way to connect and trade stories with new people. But the more those stories get publicized, the more they underscored what Westerners who have traveled here are missing.
Westerners, myself included, are missing our courtesy. We’ve all taken to Twitter to complain about accommodations. We’ve made a point of describing how things are different here, rather than embracing the differences. We’ve come off as Russophobic and ungrateful.
I can hear someone saying, “Yes, but they had seven years to get it right?” They did. And if you talk to anyone who has been here over the last few years, they’ll emphasize just how much Sochi organizers have gotten right. The venues are stunning. The Olympic Park is intimate. The volunteers are eager to help. The transport system is running smoothly. Many longtime Olympic observers are impressed at how much has been achieved.
But Westerners aren’t the only ones missing something. Many Russians are missing the types of smiles that most Olympic hosts have. The volunteers are warm and welcoming, but security officials are cold and stern. A jaywalker on an empty street is greeted with a cold stare and directed to the crosswalk. A tourist with a foot propped on a train seat gets a glare of shame from an elderly Russian until the foot is put on the floor. I accidentally walked into a police barrack — it’s at the front of my hotel, and there was no sign outside — and a policeman crossed his arms and stared at me sternly. I asked if he spoke English and his facial expression didn’t change. “Nyet,” he said. Finally, an English-speaking officer popped out of the back of the room, smiling.
“Are you looking for the reception?” he asked. “Let me show you the way.”
The Olympics are supposed to turn a city into Disneyworld for three weeks. Everyone smiles. Everyone buys into the IOC’s ideals of joy and peace and sport bettering society.
It sounds odd, but smiling is so important at an Olympics that in Beijing, the IOC actually asked the Chinese government to have their military personnel smile at spectators passing through security. The request changed the guest experience in 2008, and it would help here six years later.
But all of that could change tomorrow because what’s really missing in Sochi are sports and spectators.
There’s a sense of relief here that the opening ceremony begins tonight and competition starts tomorrow. There’s optimism that the stuff simmering below the surface here — complaints about accommodations, cold stares, questions about gay rights — will fade away once people get into the venues.
The Sochi rule about what’s missing will be forgotten. The focus, instead, will be on what everyone has.
February 7, 2014 09:27 AM
Snowboarding star Shaun White has more than 1.2 million Twitter followers.
Shaun White is by far the most popular with more than 1.2 million followers. Lolo Jones continues to gain popularity from her participation in the 2012 Summer Games with 378,000 followers. Rounding out the top five are former medal winners Julia Mancuso, Ted Ligety and Scotty Lago, all with more than 40,000 followers (see chart, below).
In figure skating, Ashley Wagner has the most followers before the Sochi Games begin with almost 30,000 followers, but Gracie Gold trails by a small margin and on-ice success could define their Twitter popularity by the end of the Games.
Some key names to watch are Mikaela Shiffrin, Bobby Brown and Torin Yater-Wallace, all U.S. Ski Team members participating for the first time in the Winter Games. Interesting personalities on the U.S. Snowboarding team making their first Olympic appearances include Danny Davis and Jamie Anderson, both of whom have had X Games success.
On the international social media front, popular figures include South Korean figure skater Yuna Kim, Russian figure skater Evgeni Plushenko, Australian snowboarder Torah Bright and Dutch speedskater Sven Kramer, all with more than 100,000 Twitter followers.
Twitter followers were measured on Feb. 5, two days before the opening ceremony. Professional hockey players were not included in this data.
WHO’S ON TOP?
Number of Twitter followers for U.S. Olympians in Sochi, as of Feb. 5
Most Popular — No. of Twitter followers
Shaun White (@shaun_white) — 1,258,623
Lolo Jones (@lolojones) — 378,543
Julia Mancuso (@JuliaMancuso) — 54,016
Ted Ligety (@tedligety) — 42,807
Scotty Lago (@scottylago) — 42,002
Ashley Wagner (@AshWagner2010) — 29,714
Jeremy Abbott (@jeremyabbottpcf) — 26,240
Gracie Gold (@GraceEGold) — 25,286
Meryl Davis (@Meryl_Davis) — 20,873
Charlie White (@CharlieaWhite) — 18,435
Alex Shibutani (@AlexShibutani) — 13,651
Maia Shibutani (@MaiaShibutani) — 12,681
Jason Brown (@jasonbskates) — 10,013
Julia Mancuso (@JuliaMancuso) — 54,016
Ted Ligety (@tedligety) — 42,807
Bode Miller (@MillerBode) — 37,407
Bobby Brown (@Bobby_Brown1) — 33,189
Mikaela Shiffrin (@MikaelaShiffrin) — 21,587
Torin Yater-Wallace (@TorinWallace) — 13,654
Gus Kensworthy (@guskenworthy) — 13,606
Kikkan Randall (@kikkanimal) — 11,165
Nick Goepper (@NickGoepper) — 11,164
JR Celski (@jrcelski) — 20,828
Lauren Cholewinski (@LMCHOLEWINSKI) — 17,896
Shani Davis (@ShaniDavis) — 14,681
Shaun White (@shaun_white) — 1,258,623
Scotty Lago (@scottylago) — 42,002
Hannah Teeter (@hannahteter) — 26,980
Danny Davis (@theDDeadshow) — 18,064
Kelly Clark (@Kellyclarkfdn) — 14,469
Jamie Anderson (@Jme_Anderson) — 11,490
Greg Bretz (@gregbretzz) — 10,100
Lolo Jones (@lolojones) — 378,543
Steven Holcomb (@StevenHolcomb) — 13,112
Dallas Robinson (@DRobUSA) — 9,445
Hillary Knight (@Hilary_Knight) — 14,785
Most Popular International Olympians
Athlete — No. of Twitter followers — Sport, Country
Yuna Kim (@Yunaaaa) — 712,549 — Figure skaing, South Korea
Evgeni Plushenko (@EvgeniPlushenko) — 130,702 — Figure skating, Russia
Torah Bright (@TorahBright) — 122,970 — Snowboarding, Australia
Sven Kramer (@SvenKramer86) — 105,768 — Speedskating, Netherlands
Aksel Lund Svindal (@akselsvindal) — 83,336 — Alpine skiing, Norway
Mark McMorris (@markmcmorris) — 50,220 — Snowboarding, Canada
Maria Hoefl-Riesch (@Maria) — 46,242 — Alpine skiing, Germany
Lara Gut (@Laragut) — 42,161 — Alpine skiing / Switzerland
Petter Northug (@PetterNorthug1) — 36,762 — Cross country skiing, Norway
Tina Maze (@TinaMaze) — 31,240 — Alpine skiing, Slovenia
Patrick Chan (@Pchiddy) — 29,997 — Figure skating, Canada
Marcel Hirscher (@MarcelHirscher) — 26,288 — Alpine skiing, Austria
February 7, 2014 09:08 AM
Nick and Linda Goepper at Procter & Gamble's Family Home opening
Photo by:PROCTER & GAMBLE
The home, a 10,000-square-foot temporary structure built from plywood on the edge of Olympic Park, will bring the company’s “Thank You, Mom” campaign to life in Sochi by offering mothers and other family members of Olympians a place to rest, eat and watch the Games over the next 17 days. The company also will be giving away tickets to events and offering salon and shave services provided by its Olay and Gillette brands.
“The moms who have been through have felt like, ‘Wow, this is a place we can come, relax, get ready and feel at home,’” said Jodi Allen, P&G’s vice president of North American marketing and brand operations.
This is the third Family Home the company has built for an Olympics. In Vancouver, when P&G was a U.S. Olympic Committee sponsor, it rented a 50,000-square-foot space at a university. In London, after it had become an International Olympic Committee TOP partner, it rented a 65,000-square-foot space on the banks of the Thames River.
P&G opted to build its home in the Olympic Park in Sochi because it wanted to offer families a place that was close to venues. The home is less than a 10-minute walk from the venues in Sochi’s Coastal Cluster, and P&G executives hope that will increase the frequency that families visit.
Several national Olympic committees, including the USOC, built their hospitality centers in the park as well because Sochi doesn’t have enough large restaurants or facilities to serve as hospitality centers. Sources familiar with P&G’s planning process for the Family Home said it ran into the same issue.
“In London, we learned that it was sometimes difficult for families to get to our Family Home, so this year we wanted the Family Home to be centrally located and convenient for families traveling to and from the competition venues,” said Kim Kraus, P&G brand manager, global Olympics, in an email before the Games.
The Sochi P&G Family Home offers products and services from brands including Pantene, Gillette, Bounty, Puffs, Tide, Pampers, CoverGirl and Olay. The company stuck gold, silver and white stickers on the plywood walls of the home and put stickers of the brand’s logos in various places.
“Our brands are everywhere throughout the home,” Allen said. “Whether it’s Puffs or the Pampers room, it’s really fun to see our brands come to life here.”
P&G doesn’t have an estimate of how many guests it expects to host at the house during the Games. It hosted 19 moms at an opening night reception for the home, including American slopestyle freeskier Nick Goepper and his mom, Linda, and Russian Olympic ice dancing bronze medalist Oksana Domnina and her mom, Nadezhada.
“Each and every Olympics has a little different flavor to it, but we feel very encouraged by what we’re going to experience here,” Allen said. “Our brands have really come to life in the Family Home, which is part of the experience of servicing mom, and at the end of the day, that’s what we’re all about.”
Allen said that P&G hasn’t made a decision about whether or not it will do a Family Home for the 2016 Rio Games.
February 7, 2014 08:38 AM
The Sochi Games are the fifth consecutive Winter Olympics to feature NHL players. The first was Nagano in 1998.
NHL coaches in charge of national teams at the Olympics: Dan Bylsma (Penguins, U.S.), Mike Babcock (Red Wings, Canada), Ted Nolan (Sabres, Latvia).
Two-thirds of the 12-nation field are legitimate contenders for a medal; the other four countries will need a miracle greater than the one in Lake Placid. The contenders (in order, in this reporter’s opinion): Sweden, Canada, Russia, U.S., Finland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Switzerland. Best of luck to Latvia, Norway, Austria and Slovenia.
Ryan Suter (left) and his father Bob, a 1980 Olympian, do a ceremonial shave for Gillette.
Duration, in minutes, of NHL Network’s “NHL Tonight: Sochi Edition,” a wrap-up of the day’s events from the hockey tournament with highlights, interviews and analysis. The show, which debuts on Wednesday, Feb. 12 — the first day of the hockey tournament — will air daily at 3 p.m. ET and loop until 8 p.m. ET.
Games missed by Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara, who was excused by the team so he could leave early for Sochi in order to be the flag-bearer for Slovakia in the opening ceremony. Chara was the only NHL player to leave early for Sochi ,with the rest departing this weekend. Chara’s reaction to the Bruins’ decision to let him go? “Overwhelmed, I would say.”
Media credentials shared by the NHL and NHL Players’ Association that will allow access to the Olympic Broadcast Center. As part of the league’s agreement to shut down the NHL season for two weeks so its players could participate in Sochi, the league negotiated for more access for its NHL.com and NHL Network reporters and production executives.
NHL games this season between Feb. 9-24 because of the Olympics. That compares to …
NHL games played between Feb. 9-24 during the 2013 season, which was shortened to a 48-game schedule for each team because of the lockout. Which compares to …
Games during the same period in 2011-12, the most recent “traditional” season for the NHL.
Miles traveled from Washington, D.C., to Sochi for Capitals captain Alexander Ovechkin, who said he was determined to play in these Olympics in his homeland — whether the NHL agreed to participation or not.
LOOKING AHEAD …
7:30 a.m. ET: That’s the start time for all three of Team USA’s pool play games, which are Thursday, Feb. 13, and next Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 15 and 16.
Noon ET: That’s the start time for all three of defending gold-medalist Canada’s opening games, which are Thursday, Feb. 13, and next Friday and Sunday, Feb. 14 and 16.
February 6, 2014 04:50 PM
That was evident this week before the Sochi Olympics even began as photos of cloudy water from hotel rooms and stray dogs went viral. The London Games had more than 150 million tweets over 16 days. It’s unlikely Sochi will top that. The Winter Olympics are smaller and attract less global interest.
But there will be plenty of conversation about it on Twitter. Here’s a list of some people we’ll be following throughout the Games (see below). Of course, you also can keep up with sports business news through our staff writer Tripp Mickle @trippmickle.
■ Dmitry Chernyshenko (@DChernyshenko) — The president of Sochi 2014 should top your list. He’s active on Twitter, interacting with people and sharing news about the organization hosting the big event.
■ Jim Bell (@jfb) — Somehow in the midst of overseeing NBC’s Olympics coverage from Sochi, the executive producer is finding some time to share his own thoughts on these Games. Hard to imagine anyone did more background research and reading beforehand.
■ Ricardo Fort (@SportByFort) — Visa’s head of global partnerships has gotten more and more active over the last year. He’s posting photos and updates from Sochi.
■ Thierry Borra (@ThierryBorra) — The longtime Coca-Cola sponsorship executive has helped organize the company’s efforts in Sochi.
■ Michael Payne (@MichaelRPayne1) — The former head of IOC marketing delivers an insider’s perspective on everything from IOC meetings to the organizing committee’s work.
ATHLETES & AGENTS:
■ Hannah Teter (@hannahteter) — Because the selfie she posted from atop a mountain in Russia may be the best athlete photo to surface from what some are calling the “Selfie Olympics.”
■ Maddie Bowman (@maddiebowman) — The 20-year-old freeskier has the type of first-time Olympic enthusiasm that underscores just how exciting going to a Games can be for an athlete.
■ Yuki Saegusa (@YukiSNYC) — The IMG figure skating agent is representing Gracie Gold, one of Sports Illustrated’s cover girls this month. She’s posting behind-the-scenes clips on Gold and keeping people honest in their reporting on Sochi.
■ Brant Feldman (@AGMSports) — “The Senator,” as he’s known, works with U.S. hockey player Julie Chu and several other Olympians. He’s been posting photos and Vines since he arrived.
■ More U.S. Sochi athletes — NPR Olympic News created a public list — a one-stop shop — for all U.S. Olympians tweeting from Sochi.
■ Paul Sonne (@paulsonne) — The Wall Street Journal’s Moscow correspondent has been a source for unexpected updates on Russia during the run-up to the Games. In the midst of concerns about cloudy water, he posted a link to a story about Putin saying he has the same problems at home sometimes.
■ Richard Engel (@RichardEngel) — The NBC reporter is the go-to source on news that should concern you about Sochi. He first reported the details of the black widows and followed that with a story about computer hacking at coffee shops in town.
■ Nick Zaccardi (@nzaccardi) — The former USOC employee has become NBC’s star Olympic aggregator. Nothing of interest in the Olympic world gets past him.
■ Dan Wetzel (@DanWetzel) — The Yahoo sports columnist has been chronicling Sochi’s hotel woes as well as anyone. But really, he’s on here because he offered to trade light bulbs for a door handle and changed his Twitter avatar to a photo of Putin with a leopard.
■ Alan Abrahamson (@alanabrahamson) — The former L.A. Times reporter knows the ins and outs of the IOC as well as anyone and has taken the lead on criticizing the Obama administration for the delegation it sent to Sochi.
February 6, 2014 02:46 PM
Out of the 65 percent of American adults who plan to watch the Sochi Olympics, most will be over 55 years of age, while the 18- to 34-year-old demographic will make up the smallest fraction of the adult audience, according to research by Repucom.
Repucom reports that 37 percent of adults polled that are 55 and over said they plan to watch the Winter Games, while just 31 percent of those between 18 and 34 said the same. This is typical, as the average Olympic viewer is slightly older than the average sports fan.
The most-watched event is expected to be figure skating, followed by ski jumping, speedskating, bobsledding, alpine skiing and snowboarding.
Visa is overwhelmingly the most-recognized Olympic sponsor, which may be attributed to a slightly older audience according to Repucom. Forty-nine percent of people in the U.S. were able to identify Visa as an Olympic partner, with Coca-Cola coming in second at 7 percent. McDonald’s was third with 4 percent.
February 6, 2014 01:47 PM
With competition underway and the Opening Ceremony just a day off, much of the conversation in the U.S. remains focused on Sochi's ill-prepared living quarters for the media. THE DAILY offers a sampling of the criticism over the last 24 hours.
CBS Sports Network's Jim Rome said, "The Olympics have already started and the first event is surviving your accommodations" (“Rome,” CBSSN, 2/5).
ESPN Radio’s Mike Greenberg: "Everything away from the athletes and the competition itself is horrific. There is no other way to put it. But once the Games go on, we'll watch the Games" (“Mike & Mike,” ESPN Radio, 2/6).
SNY's Mark Malusis said Sochi is "not set and ready to go to put on this Olympic competition and they're embarrassing themselves. I think it's probably going to go down as the worst-held Olympics ever" ("Daily News Live," SNY, 2/5).
ESPN's Bomani Jones: "Journalists are the ones who get the information and then share it with everyone. You'd think that if anybody was going to get clean water, it would be the people that would tell the world if they gave them brown water. Yet you see people saying they can't take showers. … If that's what it is for journalists, I wonder what it's like for everyone else there" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 2/5).
CNN's Ivan Watson said the IOC and Russian authorities "insist everything is going to be ready." He added the Sochi Games are "the most expensive Olympics in history, and what we're definitely seeing is that some of the kinks have clearly not been worked out" ("Anderson Cooper 360," CNN, 2/5).
February 6, 2014 10:18 AM
Speaking at a pre-Olympics press conference, CEO Scott Blackmun said that IOC members have encouraged it to bid for either the 2024 Summer Games or the 2026 Winter Games. He added that it’s more likely the U.S. will bid for the Summer Olympics.
“We have a proud tradition on the summer side, and we’ve hosted the winter more recently than summer, so that’s going to be our initial focus,” Blackmun said.
The USOC will host IOC members and international sports federation at USA House on Monday night. It is a regular event the USOC hosts at the Olympics, but it carries added significance this time as the organization weighs a 2024 Olympic bid.
U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun
With the cost of the Sochi Games estimated to be $51 billion, Blackmun was asked whether or not hosting the Olympics was worth it for a city. He acknowledged that bringing the Games back to the U.S. would require local spending on security and infrastructure.
“I certainly hope it’d be less than $51 billion, because the federal government doesn’t get involved beyond security,” Blackmun said. “It’s a big, heavy burden on cities and states. The payoff is what it does to transform sport in their community and what it does for the nation. Bringing the Olympics back to the United States helps us be sure interest in (Olympic) sports remains high.”
Blackmun added that’s particularly important for inspiring young athletes to pursue Olympic sports. Those athletes can then go on to compete in college, which acts as a feeder system for Team USA.
In addition to discussing a 2024 bid, Blackmun responded to questions about security and Russia’s anti-gay law. He downplayed concerns about U.S. athletes wearing Team USA gear outside the Olympic Park.
“We actually didn’t ask them not to wear that,” Blackmun said. “We just want them to be aware that it does attract attention from time to time.”
USOC chief marketer Lisa Baird was asked if security concerns or protests of Russia’s anti-gay legislation had eroded the organization’s revenue for this Olympics at all. She said it hadn’t.
Several USOC sponsors, including AT&T, Devry, and Chobani, recently released statements criticizing Russia’s anti-gay propaganda law.
February 6, 2014 09:25 AM
Financial terms of the deal weren’t available. TOP deals are typically valued at more than $100 million over four years, which would make Panasonic’s deal worth more than $200 million.
Panasonic today held an official signing ceremony for the extension in Sochi. The agreement comes six months after Tokyo was awarded the 2020 Olympics. Panasonic, which is headquartered in Osaka, Japan, was interested in supporting the Olympics in its home country, and the IOC was able to leverage that interest to secure a long-term deal.
“As a Japanese company with a long, global Olympic experience, I’m sure (the sponsorship) will be of great assistance, in particular for the organization of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games,” IOC Marketing Chairman Gerhard Heiberg said in a statement.
The deal is the first the IOC has signed beyond the 2017-20 quadrennium. The organization’s other TOP sponsors — Coca-Cola, Dow Chemical, GE, McDonald’s, Procter & Gamble and Visa — are signed through 2020. The IOC remains in renewal conversations with Samsung, which has a deal through 2016.
Until signing with Panasonic, the IOC had capped its sponsorship extensions until 2020. It did so in order to allow it to negotiate a new revenue-sharing agreement with the U.S. Olympic Committee. The IOC and USOC signed a new revenue-sharing agreement in 2012, curtailing the amount of new sponsorship revenue the USOC receives.
The IOC also had planned to re-evaluate its TOP program after 2020. It was considering changing the way the program is structured and increasing the price of sponsorships. Heiberg, who will step down as chairman of the IOC marketing commission, said last week that his successor would make those decisions and suggested changes could be introduced as soon as 2021. But the deal with Panasonic appears to push potential changes back until 2025.
Panasonic is providing the Sochi Organizing Committee with LED displays, TVs and the largest supply of security cameras in the history of the Olympics. Unlike at the Vancouver Games and London Games, Panasonic does not have a showcase pavilion in Sochi’s Olympic Park.
February 5, 2014 10:07 AM
U.S. snowboarder Shaun White
Photo by:Getty Images
Despite pulling out of the slopestyle event Wednesday morning, snowboarder Shaun White is still the most recognizable athlete to the American audience.
According to Repucom, 63 percent of the general U.S. population is, at the very least, aware of White. His score peaked in March 2010 with 76 percent awareness, shortly after winning his second Olympic gold medal at the Vancouver Games. His score has fallen since Vancouver.
Bode Miller ranked second among competing athletes with 54 percent awareness. Miller also scored high in appeal, with 91 percent of those polled reporting that they like him, which is on par with, for example, golfer Phil Mickelson. At the same time, according to the research, a lot of people don’t consider Miller trustworthy.
Potential Sochi breakout stars include alpine skiers Ted Ligety and Mikaela Shiffrin as well as figure skater Gracie Gold. Those athletes have awareness scores that could easily increase with medal contention. Shiffrin and Gold both score high in likability, while Ligety’s strongest attribute is his endorsing power.
A lack of star power among U.S. athletes in Sochi is evident by the high scores found by Repucom among former winter Olympians. Apolo Ohno and Michelle Kwan both scored in the 70-75 percent range of awareness, significantly higher than any current Olympians. Skier Lindsey Vonn, who was not able to compete in Sochi because of a knee injury, also scored high in awareness with 55 percent.