• Sochi Games generate 120M interactions on Facebook

    Nearly 45 million people chatted about the Sochi Games on Facebook from Feb. 6-23 for a total of 120 million combined posts, comments and likes, according to data from the social media company.

    Among all athletes at the Games, U.S. snowboarder Shaun White had the most Facebook mentions, followed by U.S. men’s hockey team star T.J. Oshie and South Korean female figure skater Yuna Kim. The most-mentioned Olympic sports were ice hockey, figure skating and bobsledding. Men ages 18-34 was the top demo “buzzing” about the Olympics, followed by women 18-34 and women 35-49.

    Tags: Facebook, Olympics
  • NBC’s Sochi ratings up slightly from Turin, down from Vancouver

    NBC's coverage of Sunday night's closing ceremony drew an 8.7 rating and 15.1 million viewers.
    NBC finished the Sochi Games with a 12.3 final rating for 17 prime-time telecasts (excluding the opening Thursday), up slightly from the last European Winter Olympics in Turin in 2006, which had a 12.2 rating. Compared to the live Vancouver Games telecasts in 2010, NBC’s average was down 11 percent from a 13.8 rating (see chart). Putting the network over the hump was likely a shorter closing ceremony in 2014 compared to 2006.

    NBC drew an 8.7 rating for last night’s two-hour telecast (8:33-10:36 p.m. ET), which had competition from Fox’s rain-delayed Daytona 500 telecast and AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” while the three-hour closing ceremony in 2006 drew an 8.9 rating. Viewership for last night’s telecast was at 15.1 million viewers, up from 14.8 million viewers in 2006.

    Meanwhile, NBC drew a 7.8 rating and 12.7 million viewers for the “Nancy & Tonya” documentary from 7-8:33 p.m.

    Tags: NBC, Olympics
  • White, Kenworthy and Gold top final Twitter rankings

    Shaun White was tops among Winter Olympians on Twitter in terms of new followers gained during the Sochi Games.
    With the Sochi Games in the rearview mirror, the final tally shows that Shaun White remains the most popular U.S. athlete on Twitter by both total and new followers. His 117,000 new additions were just higher than the 106,039 new followers Gus Kenworthy gained during the 19-day period. Figure skater Gracie Gold came in third with more than 76,000 new fans.

    Most athletes found in the top 20 medaled in Sochi, with the exception of popular names from action sports like White and Bobby Brown. Another exception is luge star Kate Hansen, who was the recipient of publicity based on the viral wolf hoax instigated by Jimmy Kimmel.

    Olympians who starred early in the Games like Sage Kotsenburg and Jamie Anderson seemed to get a bigger bump in followers, while late winners like Mikaela Shiffrin got significantly less traction on Twitter.

    On the international side, Canadian snowboarder Mark McMorris remains a breakout star, gaining more than 130,000 new followers to top even White. Other notable foreign names include Russian figure skater Evgeni Plushenko, British snowboarder Jenny Jones and Dutch speedskater Sven Kramer, all of whom gained more than 50,000 new followers.

    Twitter followers were measured on Feb. 5 and again on Feb. 24. Professional hockey players were not included in this data.

    U.S. Olympians in Sochi

        Feb. 5 Feb. 13 Feb. 20 Feb. 24 TOTAL ADDITIONS MEDAL
    Figure Skating
    Gracie Gold @GraceEGold 25,286 57,185 82,461 102,030 76,744 BRONZE (TEAM)
    Meryl Davis @Meryl_Davis 20,873 34,497 73,742 81,706 60,833 GOLD, BRONZE (TEAM)
    Ashley Wagner @AshWagner2010 29,714 56,141 71,540 83,075 53,361 BRONZE (TEAM)
    Charlie White @CharlieaWhite 18,435 30,196 58,532 65,686 47,251 GOLD, BRONZE (TEAM)
    Jason Brown @jasonbskates 10,013 16,157 38,563 45,311 35,298 BRONZE (TEAM)
    Jeremy Abbott @jeremyabbottpcf 26,240 29,784 40,128 42,916 16,676 BRONZE (TEAM)
    Maia Shibutani @MaiaShibutani 12,681 15,869 20,061 21,661 8,980  
    Alex Shibutani @AlexShibutani 13,651 16,513 20,954 22,541 8,890  
     
    Skiing
    Gus Kenworthy @guskenworthy 13,606 25,816 106,520 119,645 106,039 SILVER
    Nick Goepper @NickGoepper 11,164 21,624 64,859 68,556 57,392 BRONZE
    Bode Miller @MillerBode 37,407 47,834 84,211 87,243 49,836 BRONZE
    Joss Christensen @josschristensen 8,724 9,723 28,799 31,888 23,164 GOLD
    Julia Mancuso @JuliaMancuso 54,016 66,557 73,201 74,912 20,896 BRONZE
    Bobby Brown @Bobby_Brown1 33,189 38,327 47,125 48,423 15,234  
    Ted Ligety @tedligety 42,807 46,607 54,031 57,274 14,467 GOLD
    Mikaela Shiffrin @MikaelaShiffrin 21,587 24,126 27,759 35,430 13,843 GOLD
    Sarah Hendrickson @schendrickson 5,078 11,996 14,223 14,567 9,489  
    Torin Yater-Wallace @TorinWallace 13,654 15,949 20,502 21,319 7,665  
    Hannah Kearney @HK_Ski 3,333 7,389 9,446 9,911 6,578 BRONZE
    David Wise @mrDavidWise 4,723 5,920 8,895 9,855 5,132 GOLD
    Devin Logan @dlogan 1,979 3,344 4,409 4,625 2,646 SILVER
    Kikkan Randall @kikkanimal 11,165 12,329 12,921 13,047 1,882  
    Andrew Weibrecht @a_weibrecht 3,081 3,479 4,682 4,833 1,752 SILVER
    Maddie Bowman @maddiebowman 3,995 4,103 4,187 4,235 240 GOLD
     
    Speedskating
    JR Celski @jrcelski 20,828 26,936 29,769 31,944 11,116 SILVER (TEAM)
    Shani Davis @ShaniDavis 14,681 20,894 22,829 23,443 8,762  
    Jordan Malone @J2K111 4,033 4,402 5,106 5,503 1,470 SILVER (TEAM)
    Eddy Alvarez @eddyalvarez90 4,064 4,448 4,832 5,024 960 SILVER (TEAM)
    Lauren Cholewinski @LMCHOLEWINSKI 17,896 18,167 18,371 18,653 757  
    Chris Creveling @TophCrev 1,334 1,424 1,494 1,534 200 SILVER (TEAM)
     
    Snowboarding
    Shaun White @shaun_white 1,258,623 1,348,363 1,369,667 1,375,828 117,205  
    Sage Kotsenburg @sagekotsenburg 7,425 61,846 69,549 72,625 65,200 GOLD
    Jamie Anderson @Jme_Anderson 11,490 43,036 47,634 49,224 37,734 GOLD
    Kaitlyn Farrington @KaitlynFarr 2,370 10,831 16,914 18,030 15,660 GOLD
    Hannah Teter @hannahteter 26,980 34,289 37,244 38,110 11,130  
    Kelly Clark @Kellyclarkfdn 14,469 19,310 22,160 22,891 8,422 BRONZE
    Danny Davis @theDDeadshow 18,064 23,738 25,663 26,250 8,186  
    Greg Bretz @gregbretzz 10,100 12,382 12,928 13,008 2,908  
    Scotty Lago @scottylago 42,002 44,100 44,604 44,754 2,752  
    Alex Deibold @adeibold 977 2,246 3,188 3,490 2,513 BRONZE
     
    Bobsled
    Lolo Jones @lolojones 378,543 385,149 391,165 392,624 14,081  
    Johnny Quinn @JohnnyQuinnUSA 14,073 25,673 26,491 26,970 12,897  
    Steven Langton @StevenLangton 2,583 6,079 8,856 11,595 9,012 2 BRONZE (TEAM)
    Steven Holcomb @StevenHolcomb 13,112 13,880 16,321 17,457 4,345 2 BRONZE (TEAM)
    Dallas Robinson @DRobUSA 9,445 11,874 12,894 12,934 3,489  
    Jamie Greubel @JamieGreubel 1,445 2,848 4,102 4,431 2,986 BRONZE (TEAM)
    Elana Myers @eamslider24 5,067 6,193 7,562 7,856 2,789 SILVER (TEAM)
    Aja Evans @AjaLEvans 2,197 2,755 4,350 4,845 2,648 BRONZE (TEAM)
    Curt Tomasevicz @ctomasevicz 3,657 3,810 4,727 5,435 1,778 BRONZE (TEAM)
    Lauryn Williams @LaurynCwilliams 8,283 8,643 8,795 9,246 963 SILVER (TEAM)
    Chris Fogt @christopherfogt 2,432 2,657 2,857 2,932 500 BRONZE (TEAM)
     
    Women's Hockey
    Hillary Knight @Hilary_Knight 14,785 23,657 28,799 33,427 18,642 SILVER (TEAM)
    Julie Chu @juliechu13 5,807 8,790 11,862 15,743 9,936 SILVER (TEAM)
     
    Skeleton/Luge
    Kate Hansen @k8ertotz 6,844 12,801 20,837 23,222 16,378  
    Noelle Pikus Pace @noellepikuspace 2,059 3,033 15,395 16,335 14,276 SILVER
    Erin Hamlin @erinhamlin 3,864 9,275 10,613 11,221 7,357 BRONZE
    Katie Uhlaender @KatieU11 4,567 6,709 10,949 11,531 6,964  
    Matt Antoine @MattAntoine 1,464 1,516 3,257 3,408 1,944 BRONZE

    POPULAR INTERNATIONAL OLYMPIANS

    ATHLETE Twitter Handle Feb. 5 - Twitter Followers Feb. 24 - Twitter Followers ADDITIONS SPORT COUNTRY
    Mark McMorris @markmcmorris 50,220 180,879 130,659 Snowboarding Canada
    Evgeni Plushenko @EvgeniPlushenko 130,702 188,871 58,169 Figure Skating Russia
    Jenny Jones @jennyjonessnow 18,172 73,395 55,223 Snowboarding Great Britain
    Sven Kramer @SvenKramer86 105,768 158,476 52,708 Speedskating Netherlands
    Yuna Kim @Yunaaaa 712,549 753,441 40,892 Figure Skating South Korea
    Lizzy Yarnold @TheYarnold 17,222 52,121 34,899 Skeleton Great Britain
    Martin Fourcade @martinfkde 19,418 44,360 24,942 Cross-Country Skiing France
    Patrick Chan @Pchiddy 29,997 54,723 24,726 Figure Skating Canada
    Torah Bright @TorahBright 122,970 145,894 22,924 Snowboarding Australia
    Silje Norendal @SiljeNorendal 14,066 33,565 19,499 Snowboarding Norway
    Ireen Wüst @Ireenw 67,830 86,148 18,318 Speedskating Netherlands
    Aksel Lund Svindal @akselsvindal 83,336 93,302 9,966 Alpine Skiing Norway
    Tina Maze @TinaMaze 31,240 41,138 9,898 Alpine Skiing Slovenia
    Lara Gut @Laragut 42,161 51,190 9,029 Alpine Skiing Switzerland
    Maria Hoefl-Riesch @Maria 46,242 55,063 8,821 Alpine Skiing Germany
    Anna Fenninger @annafenninger 19,995 27,749 7,754 Alpine Skiing Austria
    Petter Northug @PetterNorthug1 36,762 41,455 4,693 Cross-Country Skiing Norway
    Marcel Hirscher @MarcelHirscher 26,288 30,367 4,079 Alpine Skiing Austria

    Top 20 U.S. Olympians in Sochi

    RANK U.S. Athlete Twitter Handle Twitter Followers Twitter Followers TOTAL ADDITIONS MEDAL(S)
    1 Shaun White @shaun_white 1,258,623 1,375,828 117,205  
    2 Gus Kenworthy @guskenworthy 13,606 119,645 106,039 SILVER
    3 Gracie Gold @GraceEGold 25,286 102,030 76,744 BRONZE (TEAM)
    4 Sage Kotsenburg @sagekotsenburg 7,425 72,625 65,200 GOLD
    5 Meryl Davis @Meryl_Davis 20,873 81,706 60,833 GOLD, BRONZE (TEAM)
    6 Nick Goepper @NickGoepper 11,164 68,556 57,392 BRONZE
    7 Ashley Wagner @AshWagner2010 29,714 83,075 53,361 BRONZE (TEAM)
    8 Bode Miller @MillerBode 37,407 87,243 49,836 BRONZE
    9 Charlie White @CharlieaWhite 18,435 65,686 47,251 GOLD, BRONZE (TEAM)
    10 Jamie Anderson @Jme_Anderson 11,490 49,224 37,734 GOLD
    11 Jason Brown @jasonbskates 10,013 45,311 35,298 BRONZE (TEAM)
    12 Joss Christensen @josschristensen 8,724 31,888 23,164 GOLD
    13 Julia Mancuso @JuliaMancuso 54,016 74,912 20,896 BRONZE
    14 Hillary Knight @Hilary_Knight 14,785 33,427 18,642 SILVER (TEAM)
    15 Jeremy Abbott @jeremyabbottpcf 26,240 42,916 16,676 BRONZE (TEAM)
    16 Kate Hansen @k8ertotz 6,844 23,222 16,378  
    17 Kaitlyn Farrington @KaitlynFarr 2,370 18,030 15,660 GOLD
    18 Bobby Brown @Bobby_Brown1 33,189 48,423 15,234  
    19 Ted Ligety @tedligety 42,807 57,274 14,467 GOLD
    20 Noelle Pikus Pace @noellepikuspace 2,059 16,335 14,276 SILVER

    Tags: Twitter, Olympics
  • NBC Olympic rating flat compared to Turin heading into closing ceremony

    A smaller audience for NBC’s prime-time coverage on Friday and Saturday put the network’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 2006 Turin Games.

    NBC on Saturday saw a second-consecutive night of record-low Olympic prime-time ratings. The network drew a 7.8 final rating and 13.3 million viewers for Sochi coverage from 8:30-11 p.m. 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 and features the top six finishers from both the men’s and ladies’ individual events, as well as the top five couples from the pairs and ice dancing events. Also airing on Saturday night was the four-man bobsled, as well as gold-medal finals for men’s alpine skiing (slalom), men’s snowboarding (parallel slalom) and men’s/women’s speedskating (team pursuit).

    The comparable Saturday night at the 2010 Vancouver Games drew an 11.7 rating and 20.6 million viewers, while the 2006 Turin Games drew a 9.7 rating and 16.5 million viewers (to see ratings chart comparing the past four Winter Games, click here).

    Meanwhile, NBC Sports Network 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 on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

    Tags: NBC, Olympics
  • Sochi Games leave a complex legacy

    A collective sense of dread gripped the Olympic industry ahead of the Sochi Games. Concerns mounted about security, protests and incomplete hotels.

    But after the Olympic flame was lit and the Games began, a gradual realization set in: Russia was delivering one of the most operationally sound and unique Olympics in recent years.

    Once the flame was lit, some of Sochi’s negatives melted away.
    Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
    The yin and yang of what was anticipated and what was reality reflects how these Games will be remembered for many.

    SBJ Podcast:
    From Sochi: Olympics writer Tripp Mickle assesses the Sochi Games with Terrence Burns, managing director of Teneo, who helped Sochi secure the 2014 Winter Olympics.

    Sochi 2014 was an Olympics of contrasts. The weather was spring-like, but the competition was for winter sports. The security was everywhere, but it was discreet. The first Olympic Park was massive, but it also was compact enough to see multiple events in one afternoon. The resorts in Krasnaya Polyana were still under construction, but the views of the surrounding mountains were stunning. Hotels remained a work in progress for some, but were well-run for others. President Vladimir Putin showed the world a new Russia, but many in the West only saw a repressive, totalitarian regime.

    “This is the most challenging Games we’ve ever had to plan and I can’t say it was easy, but it’s turned out remarkably well,” said Jan Katzoff of GMR Marketing, which worked with four global Olympic sponsors in Sochi.

    “It’s been one of the smoothest Games we’ve ever done.”

    Former International Olympic Committee marketing director Michael Payne said, “It will be a case study in expectation management. People came here with concerns and they didn’t materialize. From an operational perspective or the key things that matter, it’s as good as it gets.”

    The contrasts between expectation and reality underscore a larger challenge about issuing a verdict on the 2014 Olympics.

    With Sochi, the International Olympic Committee took the Games to a city that had to be built from scratch. The Russians spent $51 billion doing it. The result was an amazing 18 days, but what happens when everyone leaves? Will Russians and other tourists visit and prove the investment worthwhile? Or will Sochi fall off the international map, damaging the Olympic brand and leaving Russia saddled with debt it can’t repay?

    “Sochi proved you can build an Olympics from scratch,” USOC Chief Executive Officer Scott Blackmun said. “Whether or not it’s prudent to do, I’ll leave to the IOC. Is it the right financial model for the future? I don’t know.”

    No one does, and no one can, at least not yet. For now, they can only reflect on the 18 days of the Sochi Games.

    OPERATIONAL EXCELLENCE

    Sochi 2014 organizers earned high praise for the concept they conceived and designed of two competition clusters, one along the coast and one in the mountains. They developed the first Olympic Park for a Winter Games, and spectators appreciated being able to walk to multiple events in a single afternoon. The mountain venues were just an hour away by train, making it possible to see snow and arena events in the same day.

    Sponsors benefited from a design that put their showcase pavilions right at the spectator entrance to the park. Samsung one day had 20,000 visitors to its showcase, which emphasized its new Galaxy Note 3, while Coca-Cola averaged 2,000 visitors a day.

    Olympic Park, with its cluster of competition venues, was a boon for spectators, sponsors and athletes.
    Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
    Athletes, in particular, enjoyed the fact that their lodging was inside the security perimeter and less than a mile from the venues. The Finnish hockey team biked to a game last week, and NHL stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin strolled across the Olympic Park.

    “This is the most competition-friendly Olympics we’ve been to,” NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said. “Players can be out and seen if they want, or tucked away if they don’t.”

    The concept also helped Russia’s transportation and security plans. There were only two competition zones, which simplified the bus, train and private cars ferrying media, fans and IOC members to and from events.

    As one hospitality organizer said, bus drivers only had to leave the park, turn right at Adler and drive 45 minutes to the mountains. Traffic was minimal. And spectator trains that said they would depart at 6:40 pulled into the station a few minutes beforehand and pulled out right on time.

    The security operation took what many Olympic experts considered a risk when it decided to require spectators to register their passport information and scan “spectator passes” each time they entered the park. In Beijing, a similar system had created hourlong lines at the security gate before the opening ceremony. But in Sochi, security managed to process each guest in 2 1/2 minutes the first day and 30 seconds later in the week.

    The checks were thorough. Each spectator was patted down. Hands ran beneath belt loops, and fingers poked inside the ankles of boots. It bordered on invasive at times, but everyone cooperated because they knew security was important after the nearby Volgograd bombings in the weeks leading up to the Games.

    WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING

    “The Russians did a fantastic job of taking an unbelievably ambitious plan and executing it almost to exactly how they described it when we first came here five years ago.”
    — Gary Zenkel, NBC Olympics president


    “The concerns [before Sochi 2014] had nothing do with the Games. It was geopolitical, without knowing this country, without knowing the future of this country, the desire of this country  [to] open up. It was a dated perspective. These Games were remarkable. They will remain a very warm Games.
    “What I will remember is the warmth of the people, the efficiency, and discovering a country I didn’t know. I will leave Monday with the fondest of memories.”
    — Jean-Claude Killy, IOC member and head of the coordination commission for Sochi 2014


    “The journey was epic, but it’s fantastic. It’s a beautiful Olympic experience.”
    — Emmanuel Seuge, Coca-Cola vice president of global alliances and ventures


    “For those of us that attended, they’re going to remember how incredible the infrastructure is. They’ve pulled something off here that frankly I’m not sure anyone expected.”
    — Chris Overholt,
    Canadian Olympic Committee CEO


    “Hats off to the Russian government and Sochi organizing committee for transforming the region around Sochi. A legacy well beyond sports venues has been built with the Olympic Games as the catalyst.
    “This was my 18th Olympic Games, which I have attended in a variety of roles. That has allowed me to witness and experience many Games operations and see the growth of the Games firsthand. The lead-up to the Games was similar to many in recent years. Many questions about infrastructure readiness, cost, security, societal issues and others. …
    “The organizing committee did a tremendous job implementing every aspect of the Games with few flaws. As it should, sport and athletic achievement became the focal point for a global audience who witnessed another historic Games.”
    — Mike Plant, U.S. Speedskating chairman and Atlanta Braves vice president


    “Hotels. That was the No. 1 challenge. It was 24 hours of effort to get them ready.”
    — Jan Katzoff, GMR Marketing head of global sports and entertainment


    “One of the story lines is that Russia overcame a lot of adversity and outperformed everybody’s expectations by a mile. The volunteers have been unbelievable. Happy, supportive, service-oriented, smiling and genuinely caring about our experience. That’s something special. That’s something I felt in Sydney [in 2000] and not something I felt everywhere.”
    — Scott Blackmun,
    U.S. Olympic Committee CEO


    “Dmitry [Chernyshenko, head of Sochi 2014] and the team have delivered an excellent Games. Getting here, the lead-up to it was difficult. But the venues are beautiful and the volunteers are great. Operationally, these have been a great Games. But the troubles getting to this, construction and everything else, were difficult.”
    — Scott McCune, Coca-Cola vice president, global partnerships and experiential marketing


    “How many times can you go to Whistler or Vail or Courchevel or Kitzbuhel? People travel a lot these days. I am sure [the hotel issues at the start of the Games] will have an impact on whether some people will come back here or not. It did cause a little damage. But they were focused on building the venues. Building the train.
    “The goal was to survive in this tough environment and deliver great service.”
    — Sead Dizdarevic, Jet Set Sports founder


    “Russia’s our fastest-growing market in the world. What happened during the Games is not as important as what happened the last two or three years. Because of the Olympics, we developed joint activities with Aeroflot, supermarket chains and Sberbank. The Games were a catalyst for us to bring all these things together.”
    — Ricardo Fort, Visa global head of marketing


    “The people couldn’t have been more friendly. Everyone has a smile. Everyone is trying to be helpful. They take you to your seats.”
    — Ann Wool, Ketchum Sports & Entertainment partner and managing director


    “I’m a lot more bullish on the legacy potential than I was coming in. The ski resorts and quality is amazing. The facilities here for conventions and activities are excellent. Will it change Russians going to Courchevel? No. But there are middle-class Russians who want their own ski resort.”
    — Michael Payne,
    former director of IOC marketing


    — Compiled by Tripp Mickle
    Guns were few and far between on security officials, and while the Russian army had sniper nests on the mountains and army tents stationed along the train line, none of it was intrusive. Most people credited the venue plan with making that possible.

    “It’s truly working to the advantage of us and the athletes just how perfectly constructed this plan was to confine the venues to these two distinct locations connected by really efficient transportation,” NBC Olympics President Gary Zenkel said. “That’s made everyone’s life easy.”

    PROBLEMS PERSISTED

    Sochi was far from perfect. In Vancouver, spectators walked out of venues and walked through town back to their hotels, stopping in bars or mingling on the street with local residents and fans. But the decision to build the Olympic Park in an undeveloped area some 45 minutes away from the city of Sochi gave the 2014 Games an isolated and sterile feel at times.

    The effort to build 22,000 new hotel rooms also turned out to be an issue. Two sponsor hotels in the mountains were never finished, and a third required a week of effort by Jet Set Sports’ staff, which did everything from install phone lines to buy items for the mini-bars, to open on time.

    Some of the new hotels remained an issue throughout the Games. Residents at the Bridge, where Procter & Gamble, McDonald’s, the NHL Players’ Association and others stayed, didn’t have shower curtains for their rooms. Holes opened in some bathroom ceilings. As of last week, the hotel still hadn’t installed phones in the rooms.

    Others were fortunate. Omega, Visa and NBC stayed at the Radisson Blu, which was considered one of the nicest hotels built for the Olympics.

    “We knew it was going to be what it is,” said Ricardo Fort, Visa’s head of global partnership marketing. “For us the hotel was great. The operation is working well. All the things in the park, in the mountains, worked well. Clients are happy. But I understand other sponsors have had a different experience.”

    There also was plenty of quirkiness about the Sochi Games. Shops that were shuttered one day became a jeans store the next; a gondola was installed just to ferry spectators to events; an amusement park sat empty because it wasn’t completed in time to get permits for riders; and a mall in Krasnaya Polyana had a third floor filled with sand, palm trees and a beach volleyball court. But there was something charming and impressive about all of it.

    “They did it their way, as any country does,” said Terrence Burns, a managing partner with Teneo Holdings and a consultant on Sochi’s bid to host the Games. “Think about building a city in seven years. There are only two countries that can do that — Russia and China. They said we want the Games, we’ll deliver it, and they did it.”

    WEIGHING THE COST

    The overall legacy of these Games won’t be known for years for either Russia or the International Olympic Committee. So many things were built so fast for so much money — $51 billion in all — that it’s impossible to judge after a mere 18 days if it was worth it. Answering that question will take five, 10, maybe even 15 or more years.

    Will people fill the 22,000 hotel rooms built after the Olympics end? Will domestic and international tourists visit the three new ski resorts? Will anyone ride the $8 billion train or drive the $9 billion highway between Adler on the coast and Krasnaya Polyana in the mountains?

    There’s some optimism that Russian officials have taken the necessary measures to keep Sochi on the map globally. It’s secured a seven-year contract for Formula One races in the Olympic Park. Fisht Stadium, which hosted the opening ceremony, will be the site of World Cup games in 2018.

    Domestically, interest in visiting the area is mixed. Alexander Popich, a St. Petersburg resident working in the private airline industry, said he would prefer skiing in Europe. Sergey Godov, a 21-year-old resident of Yekaterinburg, said he and friends usually snowboard in Italy but would probably work Sochi into their rotation.

    “I will tell my friends it’s pretty OK here and advise them to come,” Godov said.

    Putin was more involved in the Sochi Games than any head of state had ever been involved in an Olympic operation. He wanted to not just show the world a different Russia (“Great, New, Open!”) but also restore confidence to the Russian people, who are still struggling with their identity in a post-Soviet world, that they can host a world-class event and win at sports.

    Putin failed for now on showing the West a different Russia. The anti-gay propaganda legislation passed by Russia’s parliament a year before the Games and the detention of protesters such as punk rock group Pussy Riot only underscored the differences between his authoritarian regime and Western democracies. But he seemed to succeed in bolstering the confidence of Russians.

    “We have not too many big national ideas like the Games,” said Vlas Larkin, managing partner at RSCM Sport, a Russian sports marketing agency. “It’s very good because it gives everyone some target. People coming here see it all, and see it’s a real good thing and it can influence for ages. There was just a field here [before]. Now, it’s so many things.”

    Vladimir Lednev, a professor at Russia’s Olympic University in Moscow, agreed, adding, “We showed the world we can organize this major event. Only a great country can host a great Games.”

    When asked about whether the $51 billion spent was worth it, Russian after Russian pointed at the venues and the train and the highway and noted how much infrastructure existed now in a place where there was nothing. They were aware of allegations of graft but treated that as the cost of doing business in Russia.

    “It’s much better to build it with high prices and huge expenses than it go somewhere else and not build anything,” Godov said.

    LOOKING AHEAD

    The use of the venues, the hotels, the railways and the highways will go a long way to determining the legacy of Sochi for the IOC, as well.

    The $51 billion price tag associated with Sochi has created a perception worldwide that the Olympics are too costly to be worth hosting. Munich residents rejected a referendum to bid for the 2022 Games, and Oslo residents narrowly voted in favor of bidding.

    One question to be answered: Will ski resorts built for the Games draw tourists?
    Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
    If Sochi becomes a tourist destination and justifies the expense, it could mitigate some of the negativity surrounding the cost. That could encourage cities to bid on the Games in the future, which is integral.

    “Bid cities are like seedlings,” Burns said. “You have to keep focused on that or else you don’t have a forest.”

    Olympic industry vets say one thing appears certain: The IOC will not take the Games to another city that needs to be built from scratch again the way that Sochi was.

    The Sochi Games went great, but building interest in the Olympics in a relatively unknown city is challenging, and undertaking so much construction creates too many opportunities for something to go wrong.

    “This was an Olympic Games built from nothing,” said Scott McCune, Coca-Cola’s vice president, global partnerships and experiential marketing. “I don’t think we’ll ever see that again, and I don’t think this is necessarily the blueprint for the future. This was what Russia needed and they did it.”

    Payne agreed, adding, “The IOC took one helluva risk. It would be hard to dispute that. But it paid off.”

    Tags: Russia, Olympics
  • Bach energizes IOC membership

    International Olympic Committee member Jean-Claude Killy stood in the lobby of the Radisson Blu last week and talked enthusiastically about his time in Sochi.

    “We have a new energy,” Killy said.

    The new energy Killy spoke of can be traced to the Feb. 4-7 IOC Session in the days preceding the official opening of the Sochi Games. It was President Thomas Bach’s first as head of the IOC, and it gave members their first exposure to his leadership style.

    New IOC President Thomas Bach
    Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
    Bach encouraged all members, including new ones, to offer their opinions, and he devoted an entire day to discussing “Olympic Agenda 2020,” an effort to make a number of changes to the IOC’s approach to bidding and organizing the Olympics.

    “It’s a different type of person with a different type of leadership,” said Rene Fasel, an IOC member and the head of the International Ice Hockey Federation. “I like it. I was very happy with [former President] Jacques [Rogge’s] approach. I appreciate that Thomas is looking for dialogue and trying

    SBJ Podcast:
    From Sochi: Olympics writer Tripp Mickle has a fun, irreverent and insightful conversation about the Sochi Games with Greg Wyshynski of Yahoo's Puck Daddy blog

    to change things.”

    Change is not a word heard often at the IOC Session. The organization generally embraces the status quo and hasn’t made many major changes over the last decade. But Bach is pushing for it, and he’s encouraging all the members to contribute.

    The changes being considered include allowing two cities or even two countries to jointly host a Summer or Winter Games, creating a more flexible system to add new sports to the Olympics, and launching an Olympic network.

    A series of commissions have been created to evaluate potential changes. The commissions are expected to put forward proposals later this year that will be voted on at an IOC Session in Monte Carlo, Monaco, in early December.

    Members have embraced Bach’s effort to make changes as well as his leadership style. Killy said that Rogge in 2001 was able to come in after the Salt Lake City scandal and create new safeguards to restore credibility and stability to the IOC, which was what the organization needed at the time. Bach is “young, smart, energetic and he knows the business inside out,” which is what the organization needs now, Killy said.

    “We change habits, techniques,” he said. “It’s a leap forward.”

    U.S. IOC member Angela Ruggiero added: “The IOC president seems to have taken an inclusive tone in his leadership style, encouraging all IOC members to offer their opinions as it regards to the 2020 agenda and the future of the Olympic movement. In fact, every athletes commission member spoke during the last session, a testament to the fact that President Bach's process is in line to his Presidential commitment of strength in diversity.”

    The differences between Bach and his predecessor extend beyond his leadership style. At an event where IOC sponsor McDonald’s dedicated a playground, Bach spent nearly 20 minutes afterward helping children down the slide and riding a carousel with them. It was the type of thing his more reserved and sometimes shy predecessor never would have done.

    The combination of his new approach, which encourages member contributions, and the success of the Sochi Games, which concerned many before it began, had most IOC members optimistic about the future of the Olympics.

    “The beginning of December will be extraordinary,” said Sergey Bubka, an IOC member from Ukraine. “We will build a road map for the future. You need to listen to people. You need to build steps ahead. We are doing that.”

    Tags: IOC, Olympics
  • USOC wants to pick 2024 bid city by end of year

    With the Sochi Games behind it, the U.S. Olympic Committee plans to turn its attention to a potential bid for the 2024 Summer Games.

    International Olympic Committee members have encouraged the U.S. to bid, and the USOC is intent on selecting a potential bid city by the end of the year. Candidates include San Francisco, Boston, Los Angeles, New York City, Dallas, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. IOC members are said to favor a bid from San Francisco, but the USOC hasn’t identified a favorite.

    USOC CEO Scott Blackmun will be meeting mayors.
    Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
    USOC Chief Executive Officer Scott Blackmun said the organization will spend the rest of the year meeting with mayors and city leaders to evaluate the viability of a bid from each city. It hopes to select a city by the third quarter of this year and have its board vote by March 2015 on whether the U.S. will put forward a bid.

    “There’s no matrix for how we’ll choose a city,” Blackmun said. “There’s no scoring system. It’s going to be which city has the most voter appeal, which city can provide the best

    SBJ Podcast:
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    experience to athletes, which city can provide the best experience for spectators and which city has the best economic situation to host a Games. We don’t want to take substantial financial risks.”

    The U.S. hasn’t hosted a Summer Olympics since the 1996 Atlanta Games. It last hosted a Winter Olympics in 2002 in Salt Lake City. Bids by New York for the 2012 Games and Chicago for the 2016 Games were rejected by the IOC.

    A bid for the 2024 Summer Games would face stiff competition. Rome and Paris, which would be celebrating the centennial of its second Olympics that year, both plan to bid. Doha, Qatar, and South Africa also have expressed interest.

    Blackmun said that the competition a U.S. bid city faces wouldn’t weigh heavily on the USOC’s decision to put forward a bid.

    “We need to determine whether we can put forth a quality bid that can win,” he said. “If we think we will do that, we will bid irrespective of what other cities are in the process.”

    When it selected Chicago as a bid city for the 2016 Games, the USOC held a domestic bid process and picked the Illinois city over Los Angeles. It plans to forgo that process this time because the cost for bid cities can be more than $10 million.

    “The more formal you make the process, the more difficult you make it for the cities that don’t win,” Blackmun said. “We want to build the Olympic movement in the U.S. We want to designate a partner but not alienate cities as we have in the past.”

    The less formal approach also gives the USOC the flexibility to not put forward a bid if it doesn’t find a city it believes can win. The organization has said that if it doesn’t bid for 2024, it will look at bidding for the 2026 Winter Games. Cities such as Salt Lake, Reno-Tahoe and Denver have expressed interest in those Games. But for now, the focus is on the 2024 Summer Games.

    The USOC has spent the last four years restoring its standing in the international Olympic movement. It reworked its revenue-sharing agreement with the IOC, and Blackmun and USOC Chairman Larry Probst have worked hard to build relationships with IOC members and sports federations.

    The result of their efforts was evident last year when Probst was made an IOC member.

    “The U.S. Olympic Committee under its leadership [has] moved mountains of perception of the USOC in the IOC, and they’ve done that not to bid but to benefit the Olympic movement, and people respect that,” said Terrence Burns, an Olympic bid consultant and marketer who works for Teneo Holdings.

    Some of those efforts were undermined by the Obama administration’s decision not to send a senior member of its leadership to the opening ceremony of the Sochi Games. Instead, it sent a group of openly gay athletes in a political statement, which IOC President Thomas Bach criticized prior to the Sochi Games, saying the Olympics weren’t a place for politics.

    “I don’t think the U.S. political performance the last month will be helping [a bid],” said Michael Payne, the IOC’s former director of marketing. “There’s the potential it might become quite a competitive race.”

    Tags: USOC, IOC, Olympics
  • Three more deals lined up for Rio 2016

    Rio 2016 is on the cusp of announcing three tier-two sponsorships that will boost total sponsorship revenue to two-thirds of its goal of raising $1.3 billion.

    “We should be close to London [which raised $1 billion] two years before the Games,” said Renato Ciuchini, Rio 2016’s chief commercial officer.

    Since joining the staff in 2012, Rio 2016 has added deals with InBev, Cisco, Correos, Sadia (packaged foods) and Batavo (dairy). The organizing committee already had deals with Nissan, Bradesco, Embratel, Nike and others.

    Ciuchini and his team are working on deals with a language services provider, a data storage company and a market research company. He hopes to add an airline sponsor, software company and two apparel companies — one for volunteer outfits and another for opening ceremony attire for the Brazilian national team.

    “We have split tech and divided it because not any one company can do all these products,” Ciuchini said.

    SBJ Podcast:
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    Ciuchini also is looking for one more tier-one sponsor. He believes it could be an industrial company, and he’s eyeing the steel and gas industries.

    Though the Brazilian economy has cooled considerably since Rio was awarded the Games in 2009, Ciuchini said that hasn’t dampened sponsorship interest “because the decision is at the board level and it’s a long-term decision.”

    “Emerging market economies are going through a critical moment,” he said, “but my perception is executives believe in emerging economies.”

    Rio 2016 is preparing for potential protests during the 2016 Games, but Ciuchini said he plans to work with sponsors to mitigate the risk that could mean for sponsors. He hopes everyone will work together to highlight how many people the Rio Games will employ and what social responsibility efforts sponsors are undertaking.

    Despite the protests during last year’s FIFA Confederations Cup in Brazil, sponsors are expressing major interest in doing hospitality programs in Rio. That doesn’t surprise Ciuchini.

    “Rio has this combination of being a cool place with cool people and beautiful beaches,” he said. “It’s set in an emerging economy. People want to be there.”

    Tags: Brazil, Olympics
  • After three weeks, I’m still not sure what to make of Sochi

    On my last morning in Sochi, I reached the curb outside my hotel at 4 a.m. to catch a bus to the airport. But when a 15-minute wait became a 20-minute delay, I gave up on the bus and climbed into a cab.

    The bus would have come eventually. Everything seemed to come eventually in Sochi. The hotel rooms were completed gradually. The atmosphere in Olympic Park perked up after about a week. And stores and restaurants in the mountains that were shuttered one day opened as a Gloria Jeans or Baskin-Robbins the next.

    Everything was slightly delayed, and that was one of the more charming things about Sochi.

    I’ve been to more fun Olympics (Vancouver and London)*. I’ve attended more geopolitically significant Olympics (Beijing). But Sochi is the most memorable and unusual Olympics I’ve ever attended.

    I’m still not sure what to make of it. There was something fascinating about its idiosyncrasies, something surprising about its work-in-progress feel, and something amazing about its ability to avert disaster and pull off an efficient, well-run event.

    One of the most memorable things for me about Sochi will always be my hotel room. Few people received rooms that were complete when they arrived. Almost everyone was missing something: lightbulbs, a shower curtain, a wastebasket, a shower rod. And I was no exception to that.

    But, every other day, something new arrived in my room. Coming home was kind of like playing Photo Hunt. I did inventory checks to see what they added. One day it was a shower rod. Another day coat hangers. Then a TV. A telephone. And a day before I left, I got a piece of furniture to conceal the mini-fridge.

    Who knew a work in progress could be so fun?

    The people, at times, could be as unpredictable and mysterious as my room. My first few days there I was struck by how stoic, stern and unemotional many Russians looked. Smiles were few and far between. Sochi isn’t an international tourist destination, and it seemed like many locals were unsure of the foreigners running around town for the Games.

    I asked one of the English-speaking security workers about it one night. Were people happy we were here? Were they happy to have the Olympics? She said some were but some weren’t.

    “Why aren’t some?” I asked.

    “They keep secrets,” she said.

    And that was it. She wouldn’t elaborate. She wouldn’t say anything more. Just: They keep secrets.

    The quirkiness didn’t end with my room or people keeping secrets. It was everywhere in Sochi.

    A few sponsor executives went on a tour of a new mall in Krasnaya Polyana and were blown away when they went up the elevator to the third floor. The door opened and revealed a beach. An entire floor of sand and palm trees and beach volleyball courts.

    A purple roller coaster that was built just inside the entrance of the Olympic Park sat unused the entirety of the Games. Why? Apparently, it had been completed just before the Olympics but not in time to get the permits needed to operate during the Games.

    A police car parked in the middle of a traffic-free intersection in Olympic Park and barked in English at jaywalkers — “crosswalk, please.” You couldn’t help but marvel at the effort to prevent jaywalking at an Olympics that cost $51 billion largely because of alleged kickbacks and rampant graft.

    A walk across Olympic Park always revealed something unexpected. A pack of musicians in rabbit costumes roamed everywhere. A clown in spandex and skis trekked across the asphalt. One day there were even teepees on the edge of the Park with smoke rising from their roofs.

    The list of oddities could go on and on and on. Sochi was full of them.

    It will take years before we’ll know if spending $51 billion on the Olympics and a new resort town in southern Russia was worth it. It will take years before history determines whether or not awarding the Olympics to a Putin-run Russia was a mistake. But like everything in Sochi — from my hotel room to the atmosphere — answers will come eventually.

    Right now, all we have are offbeat recollections of quirky sights and conversations. And that’s what made it such a memorable Games.


    * The combination of security fears, the isolation of the Olympic Park, the lack of established facilities and Russians’ eagerness to overcharge foreigners meant there were almost no parties in Sochi.

    In London, Omega threw parties every other night. In Vancouver, non-Olympic sponsors like Target hosted parties for athletes. But in Sochi, the only party I heard about was one thrown by Lululemon, and someone who went said it was like a house kegger for 15 people.

    “It was weird,” he said.

    There were plenty of reasons for brands not to have parties. One club in the mountains, the Star Lounge, was quoting a rental fee of $250,000 per night a year before the Olympics. It dropped its prices to $30,000 a few weeks before the Games, but by then, the Volgograd bombings had spooked so many Westerners that companies started canceling trips and limiting their hospitality to Olympic events inside secure areas.

    Even the USA House and Canada House couldn’t host people the way they usually do. In Vancouver and London, those places fill up from midnight to 2 a.m. with people who just left events. But in Sochi, houses in the Olympic Park had to stop serving alcohol by 11:30 p.m.

    Oh, and there was the whole alcohol situation on the Park itself. There were three concession stands to buy beer, one restaurant to hang out at and lots of asphalt in between.

    It would be easy to confuse Sochi — which is in a country where men under the age of 55 are five times more likely to die from drinking alcohol than they are in the U.S. — for Salt Lake City, where alcohol isn’t permitted by the Mormon faith.

    Granted, my hotel compound had no trouble making its own fun. A karaoke-wine bar cranked up at around 1 a.m. and volunteers, journalists and locals took turns singing until 4 in the morning.

    EDITOR'S NOTE: To read more of Tripp Mickle's insights from Russia, click here.

    Tags: Olympics, Russia
  • NHL ratings bump from Sochi hockey unlikely

    The U.S. men’s hockey team’s shootout win over Russia at the Olympics drew 4.1 million viewers, the biggest audience to watch a hockey game on NBC Sports Network. Four days later, NBC Sports Group set an online record when 798,337 unique users streamed the U.S. team’s win over the Czech Republic, the most for any Olympic event.

    Both records were certain to fall again last week, with the U.S. playing Canada in a semifinal game on Friday.

    With the NHL scheduled to resume its season this week, executives close to the sport are monitoring whether an Olympic halo effect will draw more interest to the league. But based on a review of TV ratings from past years, analysts say the NHL should not expect much of an Olympic bounce — a situation that could reinforce the question about whether the league will allow its players to participate in future Olympic Games.

    “An NHL ratings bump from the Olympics has never happened before,” said Horizon Media research director Brad Adgate. “They have two different allegiances. The Olympics is event programming: a live sporting event that’s on a global stage with national pride at stake. The NHL hasn’t reached that level yet.”

    Four years ago, the U.S.-Canada gold-medal

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    hockey game from Vancouver posted huge television numbers: a 15.3 rating and 27.6 million viewers for its Sunday afternoon broadcast on NBC. Those levels were on par with NFL playoff games from the previous month.

    But NHL games on NBC and NBCSN, which was then called Versus, registered only a small subsequent lift — immediately and years later — from those games. The year before the 2010 Olympics, NHL games on NBC during March and April averaged a 0.7 rating; in the months after the Vancouver Games (in March and April 2010) they averaged a 0.8 rating. NBCSN posted similar numbers: In March and April of 2009, NHL games averaged a 0.1 rating; in March and April of 2010, they averaged a 0.2.

    Adgate described those ratings increases as relatively insignificant, and some in the ad buying community expected the bump to be much higher at that time after such a popular gold-medal game.

    “The feeling is that if the U.S. Olympic team does well, then the NHL does well,” said Jeremy Carey, U.S. director for Optimum Sports. “But that doesn’t always translate. We’re always hopeful that there’s some impact.”

    Going into the Sochi Games, NBC had averaged a 1.3 rating and 2.3 million viewers for its five NHL games, and NBCSN had averaged a 0.2 rating and 344,000 viewers for its 54 games. Those numbers include the Winter Classic and several Stadium Series events that earned strong TV ratings.

    Insiders will be monitoring the numbers closely to see if the popularity of Olympic hockey will lead to increased ratings. The answer could factor into the league’s thinking on whether it will continue to participate in future Olympic Games. Rumors have persisted this year that these Olympics would be the last ones to include NHL players.

    Last week, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman told reporters in Sochi that the NHL has not made a decision on the future, but he did point out that the league loses 17 days of being on national and local television because of its Olympics break.

    League officials will ask if it makes sense to put their season on hold fif the league does not get a significant ratings bump.

    Tags: Media, NBC, Olympics
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