• Sochi opening ceremony down from 2010, but high for non-live event

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    NBC earned a 17.0 fast-national rating and 31.7 million viewers for the tape-delayed opening ceremony of the Sochi Olympics Friday night from 8-11:08 p.m. ET.

    That figure is off slightly from the live opening to the 2010 Vancouver Games, which drew a 17.3 rating and 32.7 million viewers. Last night’s telecast marks the most-viewed, non-live opening ceremony since the 1994 Lillehammer Games, beating out the 12.8 rating and 22.8 million viewers for the 2006 Turin Games.

    Minneapolis-St. Paul led all U.S. markets with a 26.0 local rating.

    Tags: NBC, Olympics
  • Sochi Games prompt sponsors to break new ad creative

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    Procter & Gamble is one of many Olympic sponsors breaking new creative during the Sochi Games.
    The U.S. Olympic Committee and NBC said more companies broke creative during the 2014 opening ceremony than ever before.

    Companies ranging from Procter & Gamble to Liberty Mutual all developed Olympic-themed advertising for the broadcast. The total number of Olympic sponsors advertising during the Sochi Games has risen from less than 10 to more than 15, and almost all of those sponsors developed Olympic-themed creative for the Games.

    “It’s second only to the Super Bowl (in new creative),” said Seth Winter NBC Sports executive vice president of ad sales.

    USOC Chief Marketing Officer Lisa Baird said that NBC’s promotion of the Winter Games and research showing that it would attract a large audience inspired many sponsors to advertise.

    “The combination of what (NBC Sports chief marketer) John Miller has done to market the Games, and Russia is an enigma, a place of mystery and romance, and that has people wanting to see the Olympics,” Baird said.

    NBC’s ad sales suffered during the Vancouver Games in 2010 because it took place at the end of the recession, but the economy rebounded and the Sochi Games will be profitable for the network. The number of sponsors the USOC has added since Vancouver helped NBC’s sales. Many of those sponsors will advertise during their first Winter Games, including Liberty Mutual, Chobani, Smuckers, Kellogg’s and USG.

    Budweiser and Hilton are the only USOC sponsors that opted not to advertise during the Sochi Olympics, while Panasonic was one of the only consumer-facing sponsors of the International Olympic Committee not to advertise.

    Liberty Mutual worked with its agency, Hill Holiday, to develop three spots that highlight comeback stories like Kerri Strug’s vault at the 1996 Olympics and the “Miracle on Ice” of the 1980 Olympics. It ties those stories of overcoming obstacles in sports back to people overcoming obstacles in life like the devastation of a tornado.

    United, which hasn’t advertised during recent Olympics, is breaking a spot with a voice-over provided by Matt Damon. The 60-second ad, titled “Athletes Abroad,” features figure skater Gracie Gold, speedskater Shani Davis and 10 other Olympians.

    “We’re pushing athletes and pushing sponsors to use them because we think they’re the best spokespeople in the world,” Baird said.

    There were also national governing body sponsors breaking commercials during the opening ceremony. Century 21, which is sponsoring USA Bobsled, is running a spot with the tagline “Smarter. Bolder. Faster.”

    “This Winter Olympics has come into its own,” Baird said. “We have a team America is really excited about.”

    Sochi Olympic Advertisers
    TD Ameritrade
    Liberty Mutual
    Procter & Gamble
    Century 21*

    * USA Bobsled sponsor

    Tags: NBC, Super Bowl, Olympics
  • Overbooked cruise ship forces Ludus Tours to move 100 guests

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    Hospitality company Ludus Tours had to move 100 of its guests booked on the Grand Holiday cruise ship in Sochi because Sochi Olympic organizers overbooked the ship’s rooms.

    “It was severely overbooked,” Ludus Tours founder Adam Dailey said. “We’re talking hundreds of rooms.”

    Families of U.S. and Canadian hockey team members also experienced overbooked rooms on the ship, according to sources.

    The Sochi Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games (SOCOG), which managed the booking, didn’t reply to a request for comment.

    Dailey said that SOCOG informed Ludus Tours that their guests would have to move just before they arrived at the Sochi airport. SOCOG made arrangements for Ludus Tours’ guests to stay at another hotel, which was built for the Games. But Dailey said their guests were frustrated by the last-minute change in plans.

    “If they had told us two weeks ago, I could have negotiated to get our money back, but they waited until (our guests) were in the air and told us,” Dailey said. “We’re meeting them at the airport with bad news. For the most part people understand, but it’s a group and some are saying, ‘This is not what we wanted.’”

    Dailey said that was frustrating because an earlier notice would have enabled Ludus to find other accommodations that their guests may have liked.

    Ludus Tours has put together hospitality programs for six Olympics, the first being the Athens Games in 2004. The company typically arranges trips for individual clients and national governing bodies.

    “I’ve never heard of overbooking for an Olympics,” Dailey said. “Usually, rooms come available late but there’s not overbooking. The communication is the worst thing — just not telling us there was a problem two weeks ago.”

    Tags: Hockey, Olympics, Russia
  • From Tchaikovsky to Tolstoy, Sochi Games open with a spectacle

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    Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
    The Sochi Games opened with a spectacle of ballet, fireworks and references to greats of Russian culture from Tchaikovsky to Tolstoy.

    But the ceremony, as visually striking and creative as it was, couldn’t escape the long shadow of politics and controversy cast over these Olympics.

    The Sochi Games have been a flashpoint for criticism in the West, largely because of the anti-gay-propaganda law Russia passed last year.

    IOC President Thomas Bach addressed the issue in his speech to open the Games, touting the diversity of Olympic athletes as an example for all nations to follow and condemning efforts by politicians to use the Olympics to score political points.

    “The Olympic Games wherever they take place set an example for a peaceful society,” Bach said. “Olympic Games are always about bringing people together. Olympic Games are never about erecting walls to keep people apart. Olympic Games are a sports festival embracing human diversity in great unity. Therefore, I say to the political leaders of the world: Thank you for supporting your athletes. Please respect their Olympic message of goodwill, of tolerance, of excellence and of peace. Have the courage to address your disagreements in a peaceful, direct political dialogue and not on the backs of these athletes.”

    Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
    The production, as all opening ceremonies do, tried to capture and convey the evolution of the host country. Playing off the theme “Dreams of Russia,” it began with a series of floating islands designed to replicate pieces of the Russian landscape, which runs from Europe to Asia.

    It featured everything from a massive troika to an imperial ball from Tolstoy’s classic novel “War and Peace,” which was brought to life by 140 dancers and 40 ballet soloists.

    The Russian Revolution of 1917 was shown against a backdrop of jarring music as some 450 cast members rolled enormous red wheels around in a scene that was reminiscent of director Danny Boyle’s interpretation of the Industrial Revolution at the 2012 London Olympics ceremony.

    The Soviet era that followed featured an enormous sickle and hammer that rode into the stadium suspended from the ceiling. The ceremony closed with a rendition of Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake,” which played as ballerinas dressed in white twirled LED strands in the air to mimic the flight of doves.

    Russian hockey legend Vladislav Tretiak and figure skater Irina Rodnin jointly lit the Olympic flame, which towers above a pool of water at the center of the Olympic Park. The ceremony ended with a 10-minute fireworks display.

    The event had only one glitch. Five large, glowing snowflakes suspended from the ceiling were supposed to expand into the Olympic rings, but only four united. One remained a snowflake, creating what looked like an asterisk beside an incomplete Olympic emblem.

    Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
    Fisht Stadium, where the ceremony took place, appeared built with the opening ceremony in mind. A pulley system suspended from the rafters supported enormous sculptures of trains and athletes. Open end zones served as staging areas for actors and props.

    The stadium inside was completely finished, but outside there were areas that were still not done. Temporary bathrooms had been installed in the concourses and green wraps concealed columns that hadn’t been wrapped with the rainbow colors Sochi is using as its official pattern.

    But those minor issues didn’t dampen organizers’ enthusiasm to get the Games under way.

    “We are proud to have the honor to host the entire world,” said Sochi 2014 CEO Dmitry Chernyshenko. “Our Games will be yours. All of yours. Because when we come together in all our diversity, it is the Olympic Games that unite us all.”

    Tags: Russia, Olympics, IOC
  • After all the concern, crowds move smoothly through Olympic Park

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    Crowds were able to get into Sochi's Olympic Park for today's opening ceremony with few hassles.
    Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
    Caren Mangiacapre knows sports security and operations. The New York resident worked for the U.S. Tennis Association for 34 years as director of events at the National Tennis Center.

    So when Mangiacapre left her cruise ship in the Black Sea for the first Olympic ceremony of her life, she left extra early.

    “I expected there to be long lines,” she said. “It took two seconds.”

    There was a lot of concern going into the Sochi Games about long lines to enter the Olympic Park, but on the day of the park’s first big event, the opening ceremony, security lines were moving swiftly and smoothly.

    Sochi organizers are the first Olympic hosts to use a spectator-pass system. It requires every spectator to register their passport and contact information with the organizing committee in exchange for a credential they scan at the entrances to the park. There was some concern among security experts that the addition of passes would create a logjam for the opening ceremony, but lines were moving fast — much faster, in fact, than the hour-long lines for the opening ceremony of the Beijing Games.

    “It was nothing,” Mangiacapre said.

    According to a source familiar with security at the event, Sochi security personnel were able to cut the processing time per spectator from two and a half minutes to just 30 seconds.

    In a park dominated by Russian spectators, Mangiacapre and her friend Sarah Wallace, a former New York resident who now lives in Genoa, Italy, stuck out. Mangiacapre had two American flags tucked into the belt wrapped around her puffy, maroon jacket. Wallace had a U.S. flag scarf wrapped around her neck.

    They had spent the week reading about unfinished hotels and escalated security and were concerned about how long it might take to get to Fisht Stadium for the opening ceremony. They took the public train from the coast, where they’re staying on the Louis Olympia cruise ship, and went through security twice. First to get on the train and then again after it arrived at the Olympic Park.

    “There were 10 people for every (security) station,” Wallace said. “For security, they’re the most efficient I’ve ever seen.”

    Mangiacapre added, “My job was operations. I was shocked.”

    The trip took an hour and a half, but not because of security. Mangiacapre and Wallace said the trouble they ran into actually occurred because they kept getting bad direction from volunteers, most of whom didn’t speak English.

    “They sent us to an entrance, but it was only for accredited people,” Mangiacapre said.

    “The committee could have a few more people that speak English,” Wallace said.

    The lesson they learned was that they need to leave early to get to events, just in case they get lost. But Mangiacapre and Wallace said they won’t worry about security again.

    “We read so many negative things this week,” Wallace said. “They redeemed themselves.”

    Tags: Russia, Olympics
  • TV Timeout: Security remains a hot topic on U.S. news shows

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    Leading up to Friday's opening ceremony, the news cycle in the U.S. was still focused on the myriad issues surrounding the Sochi Games, most notably the security presence. THE DAILY offers a sampling from news and sports telecasts on Thursday and Friday:

    The Economist's Arkady Ostrovsky said, "Concerns are very real and the security on the ground is incredibly stringent. It almost feels like the whole place has been occupied by security forces" ("Worldwide Exchange," CNBC, 2/7).

    The AP's Steve Wilson: "Security measures seem to the most stringent we've ever had at any Olympic Games. … There was a sense of foreboding coming to these Games, but now that it's about to start, people on the ground are at work, they're ready for the Games to start" ("PBS NewsHour," PBS, 2/6).

    ESPN's Stan Verrett said, "Usually covering the Olympics is a dream for a sports reporter, a career bucket list item. But it sounds like a nightmare right now at the Winter Games in Sochi. Journalists are reporting problems with poorly constructed housing with broken fixtures and bad tap water." Verrett noted the Twitter account "@sochiproblems" had "more followers than the official account for the Games" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 2/7).

    ABC's Matt Gutman said of Shaun White withdrawing from the slopestyle event as several athletes have already been injured, "It's why some are calling these the 'Concussion Games'" ("World News," ABC, 2/6). NBC's Brian Williams: "Despite all those other issues, there actually is great anticipation here in Sochi" ("Nightly News," NBC, 2/6).

    FS1's Jay Onrait and Dan O'Toole are broadcasting from Sochi during the Olympics, with O'Toole saying, "To clear a few misconceptions, first off there are toilets in our rooms, the water works and there are no dogs in our rooms." Onrait: "I'm kind of sad about that part. I wanted a puppy in my room" ("Fox Sports Live," FS1, 2/7).

  • NBC wins prime-time battle Thursday behind ‘bonus’ night of coverage

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    NBC got its broadcast of the Sochi Games off on the right foot Thursday, winning the prime-time TV battle with what the network has deemed a "bonus" night of coverage.

    NBC earned an 11.8 overnight Nielsen rating, the best overnight rating for a Thursday on any network since the NFL season-opening Ravens-Broncos game on NBC Sept. 5. The Olympic coverage was the top broadcast for each half-hour window.

    Minneapolis topped all local markets with a 17.7 overnight rating, followed by Indianapolis, Kansas City and Denver. Thursday's coverage will not be factored into NBC's overall cumulative ratings for Sochi.

    Tags: NBC, Olympics
  • World leaders attend first-ever IOC President’s Dinner

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    International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach on Thursday welcomed international leaders from the world of politics, business, media, science, culture and sport to the inaugural IOC President’s Dinner on the eve of the opening ceremony for the Sochi Games.

    Heads of states, governments and international organizations in attendance included Vladimir Putin, president of Russia; United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon; President of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping; and Karolos Papoulias, president of Greece. Other political dignitaries attended from Japan, Germany, Finland, Bulgaria, Iceland, Lebanon and several other counties.

    Also in attendance were Muhtar Kent, CEO of Coca-Cola; Kazuhiro Tsuga, CEO of Panasonic; Donald Thompson, CEO of McDonald’s; Stephen Urquhart, CEO of Omega; and top executives from Comcast/NBC and Russian broadcasters Channel One, VGTRK and NTV.

    Heads of state who are also IOC members included HSH Sovereign Prince Albert II of Monaco and HRH Grand Duke Jean of Luxembourg.

    “The purpose of this dinner is to show that the IOC is reaching out to society at large and is looking forward to an open dialogue with the worlds of politics, business, the media, science and culture,” Bach said in his welcome speech, according to a press release. “We want to share with you the Olympic spirit and the Olympic values.”

    Tags: IOC, Olympics
  • IOC’s Bach ready for competition to outshine complaints

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    IOC President Thomas Bach
    International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach is ready to move past conversations about incomplete hotels and last-minute construction and concentrate on sports and competition.

    “I hear and read about the many, many discussions, this is why I’m longing forward to tonight, the opening ceremony,” Bach said, during his final press conference before the Sochi Games begin.

    The remarks came at the end of a week in which headlines and social media about Sochi was dominated by news about incomplete hotels, stray dogs, security concerns and gay rights.

    Bach fielded a host of questions about those topics at his press conference but repeatedly turned the conversation back to athletes. He said that the atmosphere in the Olympic Village where athletes are staying is “very good” and would “spill over” to the venues and the Olympics once the Games begin.

    “The sun is shining on the Games and on the athletes,” Bach said. “I am sure this will encourage and motivate the athletes even more to have great competitions and deliver their personal bests.”

    Security remains a major concern in Sochi. The 2014 Games are the first to face public threats from terrorists indicating that they plan to attack the Games. But Bach downplayed security concerns and said that tight security has been part of the Olympics since he participated in the 1976 Montreal Games as a fencer. Those Games were the first after terrorists killed 11 Israeli athletes and coaches at the 1972 Munich Games.

    “I still remember when we arrived with our team, we were led from (the) bus by armed policemen with machine guns over their shoulders,” Bach said. “Helicopters were flying.”

    He added, “I am (confident) this atmosphere will spill over to the audience and to the Games.”

    Bach also was asked if he had any concerns that Russian President Vladimir Putin would use the opening ceremony for propaganda purposes. Bach said no and added that only one head of state has disobeyed the rules of the IOC charter.

    Rather than simply saying, “I declare open the Games of Salt Lake City,” as the charter allows, President George W. Bush in 2002 began with the preamble: “On behalf of a proud, determined and grateful nation.”

    “All the other heads of state respected the charter,” Bach said, “and I’m sure the charter will be respected tonight.”

    Tags: IOC, Russia, Olympics
  • Jet Set, USOC’s ticket broker, finds demand for Sochi

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    Jet Set Sports, the U.S. Olympic Committee’s official Olympic ticket seller, completed 85 percent of its ticket sales prior to the Sochi Games.

    The company ordered approximately 37,000 tickets and had sold more than 31,000 of them by late January, Jet Set founder Sead Dizdarevic said.

    Jet Set ordered far less tickets for Sochi than it did for the 2010 Vancouver Games but more than it did for the 2006 Torino Games. In 2010, it ordered 100,000 tickets because it expected high demand from American customers in the Pacific Northwest. It ordered just 27,000 tickets in 2006, which was the last Winter Olympics outside North America.

    “We gauged the market correctly,” Dizdarevic said.

    The company also sells corporate packages to USOC sponsors and other national Olympic committees. Its corporate sales revenue for Sochi was comparable to Vancouver largely because the USOC has added several new sponsors since the 2010 Games.

    “We have new customers from the USA,” Dizdarevic said. “They are all going to Sochi but they are smaller in size than Vancouver, which is natural, but we supplement that with (corporate packages for) Russian companies.”

    Dizdarevic said that none of Jet Set’s clients had asked for refunds because of security concerns.

    Tags: USOC, Torino, Olympics, North America
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