• TV Timeout: Getting Their Phil?

    As speculation continues to build surrounding the Knicks possibly hiring Basketball HOFer Phil Jackson as President of Basketball Operations, national media has chimed in with their views on the matter.

    ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith said, “It’s Phil Jackson’s job to lose. If he wants it, he’ll have it. If he doesn’t, then he’ll move on with his life and the New York Knicks will remain the cesspool that they are until they get somebody reputable to represent their franchise” (“SportsCenter, ESPN, 3/8).

    The N.Y. Times’ William Rhoden said, “It doesn’t matter what you do, your legacy is going to be destroyed. That is what we do in New York. We love to do this” (“The Sports Reporters,” ESPN, 3/9).

    ESPN’s Bill Simmons: “This seems like a money grab. … Just remember, he’s the same guy who released the same book twice. He had a book a couple of years ago and then he wrote another one that was basically the same book over again. Phil Jackson likes money. If (Knicks Owner) James Dolan is going to cut him a big check, he’s going to take it” (“NBA Countdown,” ABC, 3/9).

    QUEEN’S FEAST: Charlotte Mayor Pro Tem Michael Barnes said of the CIAA tournament staying in the city another six years, "It keeps us viable as a city that can host large events. We were good with the DNC. We've been really good with the CIAA” ("Flashpoint," WCNC-NBC, 3/9).

    NOT SHORT-SELLING: Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban said of sleeved jerseys, “They're selling and for obvious reasons. They're selling because you can actually wear them around and wear them to school. I think it's a great product but there are better ways to market them than the regular season" (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 3/10).

    BY THE TAIL: NBC’s Johnny Miller, on Tiger Woods: “He’s given us a lot of insight to his life that he never would do when he was younger.  He wouldn’t give you a thing” (“WGC-Cadillac Championship,” NBC, 3/9).

  • PGA Tour Players Give Travelers Exec Warm Welcome

    Andy Bessette, chief administrative office for Travelers and the lead negotiator on the company’s new 10-year title sponsorship deal with the PGA Tour, told me he was blown away this week by how much appreciation players have showed for the company’s commitment to the June tournament in Hartford.

    Bessette, Travelers Championship tournament director Nathan Grube, and Malcolm Turner from Wasserman Media Group visited Doral on Wednesday to recruit players and check out the new Blue course. Wasserman works with Travelers on its golf strategy.

    Henrik Stenson, the reigning FedEx Cup champion, was especially gracious, Bessette said.

    “Nothing feels better as a sponsor than to have someone show their appreciation,” Bessette said. “Most of the guys on the PGA Tour really get it and that’s one of the reasons we are so committed. A few don’t, but most of them do.”

    It’s a common practice for tournament directors like Grube to visit the driving range at other PGA Tour events to recruit players. It’s not all that common to see a high-ranking executive from the title sponsor walking the range as well.

    Bessette has a whole slew of responsibilities at Travelers, from internal investigations and corporate real estate to aviation and sports sponsorships. He estimates that the Travelers Championship now occupies about 15 percent of his job.

    “Our motto is that every year has to be better than the last,” he said.

    Tags: PGA Tour, Travelers, Ford Motor Co., Champion, Champions, Media, Wasserman Media Group, Golf, On The Ground
  • The NHL Shift: Numbers and notes, 3/7/2014

    A look at the past week in the NHL and a glimpse at what’s ahead:

    BY THE NUMBERS
    20: Trades made in the final six hours before the NHL’s 3 p.m. ET trade deadline on Wednesday. In those trades, 38 players changed teams.

    483,000: Viewers in Canada watching TSN’s trade deadline coverage at 3 p.m., according to the network. (TSN’s “TradeCentre” show was also seen in the U.S. on the NHL Network).

    19,000: Retweets Roberto Luongo received after he posted an illustration of a palm tree on his Twitter feed (@strombone1) upon hearing the news of his trade from Vancouver to Florida on Tuesday.

    160,000: Twitter followers added by St. Louis Blues forward T.J. Oshie since scoring four times in the shootout in Team USA’s preliminary-round victory over Russia in Sochi three weeks ago. Before the Olympics, Oshie had 92,000 followers. Now, he has 254,000.

    2: Members of the Philadelphia Flyers, Claude Giroux and Wayne Simmonds, who will play for the World All-Stars opposition team when the Harlem Globetrotters come to Wells Fargo Center on Sunday afternoon.

    3 months: The duration of Pat LaFontaine’s tenure as president of business operations for the Buffalo Sabres, now concluded. LaFontaine resigned last Saturday and has returned to his community relations and hockey development position with the NHL.

    $731,707: The amount that IOC and IIHF insurance will pay as New York Islanders center John Tavares is sidelined for the rest of the season. Tavares suffered a torn meniscus in a game against Latvia in Sochi and is missing the Islanders’ final 22 games of the season. As part of the agreement reached for NHL players’ participation in this year’s Olympics, the IOC and IIHF were responsible for salaries after a player injured in Sochi missed 10 NHL games. Tavares is making $5 million this season.

    $38: The cost of a lower-bowl ticket to upcoming Islanders home games, discounted from a face value of $87, as offered to New York customers by Amazon Local. With Tavares out for the year and the Islanders out of the playoff race, there is plenty of ticket availability for the home stretch.

    85: The number of hires the first-year ownership of the New Jersey Devils have made in the last six months, the most recent being the naming last week of former MSG executive Adam Davis as executive vice president of corporate partnerships.

    27th: The current ranking of the Devils in attendance among the NHL’s 30 teams. New Jersey is averaging 14,604 fans per game.

    1-4-1: The record of the designated “home” teams in the six NHL outdoor games this year. While Detroit got a standings point for losing in a shootout to Toronto in the Winter Classic, the “visiting” Ducks and the “visiting” Rangers (twice) won their Stadium Series games. (Yes, the Islanders and Devils — not the Rangers — were designated as the home teams for the games at Yankee Stadium). Last weekend, the Blackhawks beat the Penguins at Soldier Field, but the Canucks lost to the Senators at GM Place.

    7,600: The approximate number of pretzels that were sold last Saturday at the Blackhawks-Penguins game, according to Aramark’s Chicago365 Hospitality, the food and beverage provider at Soldier Field.
     
    LOOKING AHEAD
    Wednesday: NBCSN’s “Rivalry Night” matchup features a rare appearance by a Canadian team, as the Bruins play in Montreal. The game will be the home debut of the Habs’ big trade deadline acquisition, Thomas Vanek.

    Tags: On The Ground
  • TV Timeout: Island Of Despair

    SNY's Sal Licata said of the Islanders, “The NHL has to step in, get rid of (GM) Garth Snow, get (Owner Charles Wang) out of there. …They have ruined what was once a great franchise" ("Daily News Live," SNY, 3/5).

    YOU MEAN ME? NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said, “It takes me back a little bit when I hear people say, ‘Commissioner.’ I look over my shoulder thinking David Stern must be standing behind me” (USATODAY.com, 3/6).

    NEW LOOK: Golf Channel’s Holly Sonders, on the renovated course at Trump National Doral for the WGC-Cadillac Championship: “There’s gold, there’s marble, and it has definitely been Donald Trump-ized” (“Morning Drive,” Golf Channel, 3/6).

  • TV Timeout: Card-Carrying Member

    NBC's Bob Costas addressed the negative reaction from some corners about his critical coverage of Russia President Vladimir Putin during NBC's Olympic coverage. Costas said, “This is a controversy only for those looking for the most flimsy pretext for a controversy and a kind of cut and paste thing that isn't even journalism." Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly said of Costas’ criticism of Putin, “You're not some raving lunatic leftist. You're basically a baseball guy. When you were a kid you were collecting baseball cards, you weren't studying Herbert Hoover like I was." Costas, who reached into his suit jacket to reveal a baseball card said, "Just because I have Mickey Mantle's 1958 baseball card … doesn't mean that I don't know (Hoover)." O'Reilly somewhat jokingly said, "You're not smart enough to be ideologue, you’re a baseball kid." Costas: "Line up some ideologues and tell me how smart some of these clowns are" ("The O'Reilly Factor," Fox News, 3/3).

    IN BAD TASTE: ESPN's Keith Olbermann, on the new uniforms for the Buccaneers and the U.S. soccer teams: "Both uniforms stink. Not because they're at the extremes of a spectrum in which the next step past the Buc uniform is giving the team Flavor Flav's giant watch chain to wear around their necks or the next step past the U.S. team's kit is, 'What else do you have for 12-and-under at the boys shop here at Sears?' It's that in each case there is an attempt to manufacture instant tradition" ("Olbermann," ESPN2, 3/3).

    BETTER INGREDIENTS? FS1's Jay Onrait said of Broncos QB Peyton Manning being cleared to play next season, "That means his $20 million salary is fully guaranteed next season and that means more Papa John's franchises to add to his empire. Can I suggest a location or two in Sochi where again, we can't stress enough, the food options were lacking?" ("Fox Sports Live," FS1, 3/4).

  • 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
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