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Volume 24 No. 179
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U.S. Sponsors Could See Better Return During Olympics Without Russia Presence

The IOC's ban of Russia from the Pyeongchang Games likely means additional medals for Team USA, and the "subsequent ratings bump for NBC telecasts, are likely to please" USOC sponsors, according to Kevin Draper of the N.Y. TIMES. A dearth of Russian athletes will "make Americans more competitive and more likely to win medals," which has been an "essential ingredient for a highly watched and financially successful Olympics" among U.S. viewers. NBC Broadcasting & Sports Chair Mark Lazarus said, "There is no doubt that our audience likes to see Americans performing well." Draper writes the IOC's ruling "delivered much-needed buzz and attention to an event that research and slow ticket sales suggest has been severely lacking in both areas." Lazarus said that the scandal "took the story 'off the sports page and onto the front pages,' which could bring more viewers." Experts added that Russia's absence "should not harm" IOC TOP sponsors such as Coca-Cola, Visa, Samsung and Toyota. Most TOP sponsors have long-term contracts and will applaud the IOC's decision, "because it might restore public confidence in the organization and show it is committed to preventing cheating athletes from competing" (N.Y. TIMES, 12/8).

Sanders gave the impression that U.S. athletes might not take part in Pyeongchang
GAMES OF STATE: In DC, Rick Maese notes top Trump administration officials have recently "cast uncertainty on the prospects of sending U.S. athletes to South Korea, before quickly softening their stance." The rhetoric comes even as the USOC "insisted there have been no discussions about skipping" Pyeongchang. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Thursday said "no official decision has been made" about whether the U.S. would be sending athletes. She added that a decision "won’t come until a later date." However, within minutes of those statements, Sanders tweeted a clarification of sorts, saying: “The U.S. looks forward to participating in the Winter Olympics in South Korea. The protection of Americans is our top priority and we are engaged with the South Koreans and other partner nations to secure the venues.” Maese notes the USOC is not a government agency and "receives no direct government funding, but it works closely with several federal departments in its Olympic preparations, including the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security." An NBC spokesperson said the net is monitoring the situation and has “no plans to change our preparation” (WASHINGTON POST, 12/8).

LET THE STORM PASS
: USA TODAY's Nancy Armour writes the Trump administration "gave the impression" that U.S. athletes might be forced to miss Pyeongchang because of tensions in North Korea, but nothing "could be further from the truth." There is a "small matter of this not even being the White House's decision." The USOC will "make the call" and has been "unequivocal in saying the U.S. team is going." Sanders and Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley "ought to have known better." Armour: "They might have thought they were making throwaway statements, but they have a real impact on athletes who have spent their lives training for this moment" (USA TODAY, 12/8). In Colorado Springs, David Ramsey writes the "storm" over Haley and Sanders' comments "will pass." They both are "busy women who did not appear fully prepared for those Olympic questions." Taking their initial answers "too seriously would be a mistake" (Colorado Springs GAZETTE, 12/8).