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February 24, 2014 09:06 AM
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
“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
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
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.”
February 24, 2014 09:04 AM
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
“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
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.
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.”
February 24, 2014 09:02 AM
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.
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.
From Sochi: Olympics writer Tripp Mickle discusses the atmosphere in Sochi and which sponsors did well on the ground with Ann Wool of Ketchum Sports & Entertainment and Jan Katzoff of GMR Marketing
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.”
February 24, 2014 09:00 AM
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.
February 24, 2014 09:00 AM
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.
“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
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
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.
February 24, 2014 08:59 AM
Each day during the Winter Games, SportsBusiness Journal offered its take on the business performances of some of the people, sponsors, broadcasters and other entities around Sochi. Below is the final version of those Medal Stands. To see the entire 18 days' worth of Medal Stands, click here.
The Sochi Games defied expectations. Security was thorough and efficient. Transportation was smooth and punctual. Venues were stunning and vibrant. Sure, there were some hotel issues at the start, but most people found rooms that worked for them. Organizing an Olympics is filled with challenges, and building a host city from scratch only added to the difficulties that Sochi organizers faced. But, political controversies aside, they pulled off a remarkable Games.
Ukraine's gold-medal-winning women's biathlon team provided a moment of pride, and reflection, as the Sochi Games came to a close.
The Ukrainian biathlon team’s surprise gold medal at the end of the Games underscored what makes the Olympics so much greater than any other sports event. At a time when their countrymen’s protest of the Ukrainian government was met with a violent and deadly crackdown, the underdog team managed to win an event and give the country it’s first gold medal of the Sochi Games. They then asked all the media to stand and observe a moment of silence to honor the lives that had been lost in Kiev that week.
What the Dutch speedskating team achieved in Sochi is nothing short of amazing. The team won 23 medals and swept the podium four times. It was one of the most dominating team performances in the history of an Olympic Games. There was a reason Heineken House (the Dutch home away from home) was the most fun place to be in Sochi.
As everyone knows by now, that was the exorbitant cost of these Games. There’s plenty to show for it — trains, highways, resorts — but no one knows if those will be used. And the cost has alarmed bid cities of the future and caused citizens to question the value of spending so much to host an Olympics. Good bid cities gives the IOC good host cities, and good host cities keep the Olympics brand healthy.
February 23, 2014 11:36 AM
Skiing legend and French IOC member Jean-Claude Killy praised the Sochi Games.
■ “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 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 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 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
■ “I think the LGBT community should thank the Olympic committee. If it weren’t for the Olympics, the issues of the LGBT community here would never have been around the world. The Games made everyone aware of them. The Games are so much more than sport.”
— Terrence Burns, Teneo Holdings managing director who helped Sochi secure the Games
■ “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
■ “One of the storylines 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 senior 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. My clients are telling me this is great because we prepared them with expectations. We made (expectations) very low. They are coming and saying this is fantastic because they didn’t expect it.”
— 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
■ “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
■ “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
February 23, 2014 11:17 AM
YouTube's Claude Ruibal
Photo by:MARC BRYAN-BROWNS
The effort is one of the largest YouTube has undertaken for a Winter Games, said Claude Ruibal, YouTube’s global head of sports content. The company offered live streams of the 2012 London Games in 65 countries, but Ruibal said that the video-on-demand services it’s offering in places like Australia, Canada, France and other nations fits with the company’s business model.
“We’re all about being a catch-up destination,” Ruibal said. “All of the countries where we’re catch-up, it’s close to real-time catch-up. There’s probably some delays. There are a few countries that won’t put up video-on-demand until after the Games.”
YouTube and the International Olympic Committee declined to share details on what countries were streaming the most content. The two partnered last year to provide live digital broadcasts of the Sochi Games in South and Central America. Under terms of the agreement, YouTube and the IOC share in advertising revenue on the broadcasts.
The Winter Games are less popular in those regions than the U.S., but Ruibal said that YouTube offers the IOC a way to distribute the content and reach a younger demographic than traditional broadcast TV.
“If you look at the USA, the average age of a U.S. Olympic TV viewer is 35-plus or higher,” Ruibal said. “Our viewers trend between 12 and 25. If you’re any sport, and Major League Baseball launched with us last year, and one of their motivations was to have a digital offering that spoke to those 12- to 25-year-olds.
“I’d like to think the IOC thinks it’s important to have great coverage like NBC offers, which is pervasive, digital, broadcast but at the same time, in a lot of markets, have good distribution on social platforms. I think YouTube is one of those social platforms that can really speak to the next generation.”
Ruibal said one of YouTube’s goals after the Sochi Games is to begin adding channels that show other Olympic sports in markets where they aren’t distributed. A sport like handball, for example, has strong distribution on linear TV in Germany where it’s popular, but YouTube would like to become a distributor for that sport in the U.S. where it’s not as popular.
“We become a good long-tail platform for a lot of those sports,” Ruibal said. “World Badminton Federation has been working with us, putting their live world championships on YouTube in markets (where) they don’t have distribution. I think we’re going to keep helping with that. I think the federations have an understanding that they do need to create their own vehicle speaking to consumers.”
February 23, 2014 10:45 AM
Coverage on Friday night included gold-medal finals for women’s alpine skiing (slalom), men’s short-track speedskating (500 meters and 5,000-meter relay) and women’s short-track speedskating (1,000 meters). The comparable third Friday night during the 2010 Vancouver Games drew a 13.9 rating and 24.5 million viewers for coverage that featured U.S. short-track speedskater Apolo Ohno’s final race, as well as the final skiing race at those Games for Lindsey Vonn.
The comparable night at the 2006 Turin Games drew a 9.7 rating and 15.9 million viewers for coverage featuring the figure-skating gala.
February 23, 2014 10:40 AM