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Volume 24 No. 200

Olympics

Despite Gerard's win, NBC Sports' total audience delivery in primetime was the lowest since '06
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

NBC on Saturday averaged 21.4 million viewers for its primetime coverage of the Pyeongchang Games, which featured snowboarder Red Gerard winning the first Gold Medal for the U.S. Saturday primetime coverage also featured ice dancing and the women's short program for figure skating. When combined with cable and streaming, NBC Sports' total audience delivery in primetime on Saturday averaged 24.2 million viewers, which is still the lowest audience for the first Saturday of a Winter Games since the '06 Turin Games (23.2 million viewers). The addition of cable and digital to the NBC broadcast figure equated to a 13% increase in audience. NBC and NBCSN alone averaged 23.9 million viewers on Saturday night, with coverage peaking at 25.7 million viewers from 9:45-10:00pm ET. Salt Lake City was the top market in primetime on Saturday for the third night in a row (24.5 local rating) as it seeks to take its throne back from Minneapolis-St. Paul, which led the '14 Sochi Games in primetime. Meanwhile, NBCSN on Saturday (2:00-5:00pm) had its best afternoon audience on record, averaging 4.5 million viewers for coverage featuring women's biathlon, mixed doubles curling and speed skating. NBC Sports Digital also set a single-day Winter Games record on Saturday with an average minute audience of 234,000 viewers streaming in primetime (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor).

ADAM RAISED A CAIN: In San Jose, Chuck Barney notes some viewers "became angered" last night when NBC's Mike Tirico "ended a lively and entertaining interview with American figure skater Adam Rippon by raising the subject of his sexuality and his conflict with Vice President Mike Pence." Rippon, who is openly gay, has "criticized Pence for his opposition to gay rights and long-rumored support of conversion therapy." But Barney writes the critics on social media "had it wrong." The rift with Pence has "been in the news and therefore is fair game." Tirico’s interview with Rippon is "one of the early highlights of NBC’s coverage." They had an "easygoing rapport ... and Rippon was consistently charismatic and humorous as their conversation touched upon various subjects." Tirico has done a "commendable job in his first stint as NBC’s prime-time Olympics host." Tirico has "come across as relaxed, personable, highly prepared and informative" (San Jose MERCURY NEWS, 2/12). SLATE's Justin Peters writes Rippon has "given TV viewers a reason to watch a post-event interview," as his "ease on camera was evident throughout the interview." Peters: "NBC knows what it wants out of Adam Rippon. The network wants him to say sassy things and be America's wacky, lovable figure skating best friend for the next two weeks. ... Rippon, for his part, is happy to oblige" (SLATE.com, 2/12). SB Nation's Cyd Zeigler tweeted, "Thank you Mike Tirico for acknowledging Adam Rippon as an out gay athlete in primetime on @NBC!!!! That is the importance of @Adaripp and other athletes being out." But ESPNW.com's Katie Barnes posted, "Did anyone else interpret that Tirico question as 'How do you not let your gayness distract you?' Legitimately trying to figure out what he was asking."

MIKE CHECK: In L.A., Tom Hoffarth writes Tirico "checks off many boxes in how a network would want to stay as current and wide-appealing as possible." His "sense and sensibilities have already been vetted through recent major event coverage." NBC execs "have nothing to worry about" with Tirico despite the fact he "doesn’t quite have the resume" of predecessor Bob Costas. This is a "moment in Sports TV History when you can actually see a torch as it’s more-than-metaphorically being passed" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 2/11). Tirico said of Costas, "I’m not replacing him; I’m following him. I think trying to be Bob would be stupid. And that was one of his bits of advice: Be yourself. So I’m going to try to do that." He added of comparisons to Costas, "You’re human -- of course comparisons matter. But it’s not going to affect what I do or how I do it" (WASHINGTON POST, 2/10). CNBC's Jane Wells tweeted, "One thing I like about Mike Tirico is that it’s never about him. Never. That’s a rare thing these days. ... I’m liking the Tirico-Couric team." Rams reporter Myles Simmons: "Tirico is so dang good. I think he could host or do play-by-play for the white pages and I’d still be engaged."

SEEING RED: In DC, Jacob Bogage noted a tape delay "spoiled the excitement for viewers watching NBC's prime-time broadcast" Saturday night of Red Gerard's win in the snowboard slopestyle, the "most climactic moment for its U.S. audience" to that point. NBC did not air Gerard's run "until about a half-hour" after it took place. Even with the delay, NBC "didn’t bleep some profanity Gerard let slip while celebrating" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 2/10). The AP's David Bauder wrote NBC did "superb camera work" during Gerard's run, "both of his high-flying moves and depicting the tension of waiting to see whether his score would hold up." But there were a "couple audible F-bombs during the celebration" (AP, 2/11). Pittsburgh-based KDKA-FM's Josh Rowntree tweeted, "So NBC tape delays snowboarding final and then has Tirico apologize for a kid dropping a f-bomb. Was no one able to find the censor button for 30 minutes or...?"

GOING GLOBAL: Bauder wrote with competition "ramping up and the United States still hunting for medals, NBC did a nice job Saturday afternoon focusing on some stars and sports more popular elsewhere in the world." Most notable were South Korean "triumphs in speedskating and the German stars Felix Loch in luge and biathlete Lauren Dahlmeier" (AP, 2/10).

WHO IS WATCHING? NBC’s Chuck Todd said new data from Gallup shows that "only about a third of younger Americans are planning to watch a great deal or a fair amount of the Olympics this year." That number "jumps to double digits when we look at middle-aged to older Americans, and more than half of 65 or older do plan to watch a decent amount of the Winter Games." There is a "divide by gender, even among older Americans" -- 43% of men 50+ are "planning to tune in regularly, while a majority of women in the same age group say they'll be frequent viewers" (“Meet the Press,” NBC, 2/11).

NBC's rendition of the ceremony took 15 minutes longer than the actual run time of two hours, 15 minutes
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

NBC's primetime broadcast of the Pyeongchang Opening Ceremony on Friday was "tailored for American viewers in a way that simultaneously was predictable yet baffling," according to Phil Rosenthal of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. The parade of nations took "50 minutes or so to complete in real life," but it "went 95 minutes in NBC's production." NBC's rendition of the ceremony as a whole, which "ditched much of the speechifying by Olympic and South Korean leaders and trimmed other elements, took only 15 minutes longer than the actual running time of two hours, 15 minutes." Some of the expansion was "just so NBC could show more U.S. athletes." NBC made "no attempt to hide its handiwork," as the net's Mike Tirico "acknowledged the network did some editing" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 2/11). DEADLINE's Dominic Patten wrote some critics may "pinch NBC for editing elements of the Opening Ceremony" for its primetime coverage, but that is the "nature of such events" (DEADLINE.com, 2/9). In L.A., Meredith Blake writes NBC's broadcast of the Opening Ceremony was "instructive and mostly intelligent, though not without embarrassing moments." The net "emphasized the geopolitical stakes" of this year's Games and "plugged the arrival of the unified Korean team almost as enthusiastically as the season finale" of NBC show "This Is Us." NBC at times "laid on the international intrigue a bit thick." Meanwhile, the "cringe-worthy commentary was refreshingly rare and mostly came courtesy" of Joshua Cooper Ramo, who made "numerous broad generalizations about 'Asian culture' that felt like rehashed stereotypes" (L.A. TIMES, 2/12). Ramo was removed from NBC's coverage going forward after saying that Japan's occupied of Korea from 1910-45 had "served as a key 'example' in South Korea's transformation" (BBC.com, 2/12).

SOME TOPICS LEFT ALONE: VARIETY's Maureen Ryan wrote there were a "few odd elements" of the Opening Ceremony that "couldn't have been anticipated." The NBC commentary team "noted an event that had been edited out of the main part of the ceremony." Additionally, an "unauthorized person made his way on to the arena's stage twice, and footage was shown of the man being hustled away by security." NBC to its credit "allowed this odd moment to become part of the story." Tirico and Katie Couric also "explained that Russian athletes had been allowed to compete ... but the nation itself had been banned" from the Games after a doping scandal. The NBC hosts also "noted that earlier in his trip to South Korea," Vice President Pence had "met with the family of Otto Warmbier, a student who had been held by the North Korean regime and died soon after being returned to his parents" (VARIETY.com, 2/9). USA TODAY's A.J. Perez noted NBC's broadcast "lacked more than just a brief mention of the IOC's ban of Russia for leading a state-sponsored doping system." Tirico also "didn't go into much detail" when mentioning Pence, who was in attendance. That meant there was "nothing on the war of words" between the Trump administration and North Korea, or the "controversy between Pence and openly gay Team USA figure skater Adam Rippon" (USATODAY.com, 2/10). Meanwhile, the AP's David Bauder noted it was a "serious omission" for NBC not to mention U.S. speedsakter Shani Davis' "anger at losing a coin toss to determine the flag bearer" for the U.S., and his decision not to attend the Opening Ceremony (AP, 2/10).

TRYING TO DO TOO MUCH: In Tampa, Tom Jones writes Tirico and Couric during the broadcast "took turns treating viewers like second-graders with bad humor, condescending tones and stories that felt lifted straight from Wikipedia." The net was "trying to spice up a show that really doesn't need to be spiced up." The pageantry is "more than enough to satisfy the viewer." The hosts "need not fill time with scripted conversation that isn't as funny or as entertaining as the hosts think it is." That need to "constantly fill time with forced banter not only can be annoying, but it can lead to awful missteps, as NBC found out" when Ramo made a comment that offended many Koreans (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 2/12). The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER's David Rooney wrote there were the "usual banalities" during NBC's broadcast. Biding time before the U.S. team's entry, Tirico "felt the need to identify Mongolia as 'one of the 53 countries competing never to have won a Winter Games medal." Couric was "hardly taxing herself when she shared that the U.S. team's Ralph Lauren outfits were indeed 'toasty'" (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 2/9).

NBC's Joshua Cooper Ramo "has been relieved" from the net's Pyeongchang Games coverage after "enraging many Koreans with ignorant remarks about their country" during the Opening Ceremony broadcast, according to Jung Min-ho of the KOREA TIMES. An NBC Sports spokesperson said that Ramo has been "removed from the role." The spokesperson said, "It was possible for him to do more with us here; now it is no longer possible." Ramo during the Opening Ceremony said, "Every Korean will tell you that Japan is a cultural and technological and economic example that has been so important to their own transformation" (KOREATIMES.co.kr, 2/11). MSN.com's Chris Chase wrote that Ramo's comment was "insinuating that South Korea had forgotten about the 35 brutal years of Japanese rule that ended after World War II." NBC "issued an apology a few hours later" in a statement "read live on NBCSN early Saturday" (MSN.com, 2/10). In N.Y., David Li noted Japan's occupation of Korea "remains a sore point" between the two countries, and Japan "only formally lukewarm-apologized two years ago for the sexual enslavement of thousands of Korean women during World War II" (NYPOST.com, 2/11). Also in N.Y., Amy Qin noted critics also "seized on other remarks made during the broadcast" by Ramo, who "shared in both Peabody and Emmy awards for his work for NBC" during the '08 Beijing Games. Ramo's remarks "appeared to reinforce growing concerns among some South Koreans" that the U.S. was "favoring its partnership with Japan over that of its other longtime ally in the region, South Korea" (NYTIMES.com, 2/11).

Weir (r) said he would not be able to do his job without telling the truth about every aspect of figure skating
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

NBC's Johnny Weir took to Twitter on Saturday to "clear up just one thing about how critical he was during the first figure skating events earlier this week -- and what to expect" later in the Games, according to Nina Mandell of USA TODAY. Weir tweeted, "I’m a commentator, not a 'complimentator.' Explaining falls and rough skates is hard because I have been that skater, and truth can hurt. But I would never be able to do my job without telling the truth about every aspect of figure skating and the performances you’ll see" (USATODAY.com, 2/10). GLAMOUR's Erin Reimel wrote social media "quickly exploded with comments about the pair's brutally honest reactions" to Thursday's coverage, while other users "were shook at just how brutal they were" (GLAMOUR.com, 2/10). In Chicago, Phil Rosenthal wrote if social media is any indication, some viewers think Weir and fellow analyst Tara Lipinski were "mean for their honest criticism on NBC as figure skaters stumbled, slipped and fell Thursday night." However, it is "better to get the straightforward insights of knowledgeable critics than be fed puffy platitudes about tough breaks from an apologist playing publicist" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 2/10).

STANDING APART: In Tampa, Tom Jones writes Weir and Lipinski are the "best part of NBC’s coverage." They are "intelligent, charismatic, honest, unafraid, funny." Everything about them is "completely mesmerizing." Jones: "I’m far from a figure skating fan, but figure skating has become must-see TV because of Lipinski and Weir." NBC "has struck gold" with the duo (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 2/12). The AP's David Bauder wrote Weir and Lipinski have been "solid, with less of the 'look at me!' vibe of Sochi." They have "done their homework, yet they haven't forgotten that many of their viewers watch skating infrequently." Additionally, neither are "afraid to be critical" (AP, 2/11). In Chicago, Thompson, Rosenthal & Bannon wrote Weir and Lipinski "came to Pyeongchang to critique figure skaters, not sing them lullabies" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 2/12). In Dallas, Barry Horn writes the duo "may emerge as bigger stars than any other skaters they'll be talking about." Viewers will "either love Weir and Lipinski or hate them" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 2/10). The N.Y. Times' James Poniewozik tweeted, "I support Mean Johnny Weir. He's an announcer, not the skaters' damn publicist." Altitude Sports' Vic Lombardi: "Lipinski and Johnny Weir are the best analysts in sports. Not close." ABC's Meghan McCain: "I will always, always need more Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski in my life. ... Waiting between Olympics for them is too long!" CBS Sports' Pete Blackburn: "Idea: A TV subscription service that just broadcasts sporting events normally, but always has Johnny Weir & Tara Lipinski commentating."

WHAT'D YOU SAY? U.S. figure skaters Maia and Alex Shibutani yesterday were "having none" of NBC reporter Andrea Joyce's assessment of their routine. Joyce prefaced her first interview question by saying the Americans were "not at (their) best today." But Maia said that she and her brother "thought they skated pretty well." Alex said that they were "surprised by the judging" (AP, 2/11).

Olympic advertisers GM, P&G and AT&T, are "expected to spend less on this year’s Games" than they did in '14, according to sources cited by Alexandra Bruell of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. Some advertisers are "moving away from big, expensive events in favor of more targeted media and digital platforms." Others are "concerned about viewership for the Games, because of changes in media-consumption habits and less buzz around the winter edition than the summer Games." An NBC Sports spokesperson in a statement said that the network will "have national TV and digital ad sales" of over $900M, with "roughly 60% from new advertisers, 'a sign that the Olympic movement remains of great interest.'” Still, the cuts by "stalwart Olympics advertisers raise questions about whether their concerns could resonate with other brands in the future." Sources said that P&G and AT&T are "both expected to trim their Olympic ad spending by at least 30%" compared to Sochi. Both companies had "increased their ad spending substantially in the previous two Winter Olympics cycles." IOC TOP sponsor P&G spent $51M on U.S. TV ads in the '14 Games. Sources said that TOP sponsor Coca-Cola also "anticipates spending less in this year’s Games." Meanwhile, sources also said that BMW, which was a sponsor in Sochi, is "cutting back since it ceded its sponsorship role" to new IOC TOP sponsor Toyota (WSJ.com, 2/9).

MISSING IN ACTION: REUTERS' Liana Baker noted Toyota is "oddly invisible" at the Games. Unlike other TOP sponsors like Coca-Cola and Visa, Toyota is "nowhere to be seen, having sent only a few dozen representatives to South Korea for the event." Its cars are "missing from Olympic fleets, the logo is nowhere to be seen." Toyota signed its nine-year deal with the IOC in '15, after Pyeongchang was "awarded the Games, the result of a 10-year campaign that had been backed by Hyundai and Kia which were already in separate sponsorship talks with local organizers." Toyota still has the right as global IOC sponsor to "use the Olympics logos in its advertising elsewhere in the world" (REUTERS, 2/11).

HEY, YOU, GET ON MY CLOUD: IOC TOP sponsor Alibaba President Michael Evans noted there is a "very interesting alignment between the vision and the mission of what the IOC represents and what we're all about." Alibaba is the official cloud service provider for the Olympics, and Evans said, “It's not about taking share from anyone. It's about changing the nature of the Olympics and digitizing every aspect of it, from the front to the back end in terms of the way a fan would participate, in terms of the way athletes and media look at data and look at the event. Ten years from now we think it will be a completely different experience: more fun, more interactive, more immersive and a lot more interesting” (“Squawk Alley,” CNBC, 2/9).

More postponements of ski competitions are possible with 20 mph gusts in the forecast through Wednesday
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Fierce winds at the Pyeongchang Games have led to "postponements of competition and difficult conditions for some events that are continuing as scheduled," according to Madhani & Armour of USA TODAY. Today's women's giant slalom was postponed because of "strong winds and will now take place Thursday." The men’s downhill yesterday was "moved for the same reason" to Thursday. The women’s snowboard slopestyle went on as scheduled today, but the winds "wreaked havoc with only five of the 25 riders able to complete their first of two runs." POCOG spokesperson Sung Baik-you warned that more postponements of ski competitions are "possible for the days ahead with 20 mph gusts in the forecast through Wednesday." IOC Dir of Communications Mark Adams added that committee officials "weren’t concerned that the postponements would have an impact on completing all the Games on time" (USA TODAY, 2/12). In Salt Lake City, Christopher Kamrani writes the winds are "taking the first few days of these Games by hostage," throwing one of the "most popular portions of the Games into a blustery flux." The rest of the week could "potentially lead to more postponements," and the alpine events will start to be "stacked atop one another at the various venues" (SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 2/12).

NOTHING TO WORRY ABOUT: IOC President Thomas Bach today described the Olympics as "'off to a great start' and dismissed the fact that high winds forced the first two Alpine skiing races to be rescheduled for later in the week when the cold and wind is expected to moderate." Bach: "These cancellations do not worry us at all. The international federations, with whom we have talked, they have told us there is no reason to worry. We have two weeks to go. We are an outdoor sport and we manage these kind of cancellations" (AP, 2/12). In N.Y., Bill Pennington notes officials had been "hoping to avoid running two Alpine races on the same day since it diminishes the profile of each event." However, with no Alpine events having been contested four days into the Games, officials knew they had to "start holding some races and handing out some medals as soon as possible" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/12).

SAFETY SHOULD COME FIRST: The AP's Eddie Pells notes today will go down as "one of the most unpleasant, dangerous days snowboarding has ever seen." Hundreds of fans "streamed toward the exits" while the women's snowboard slopestyle was ongoing, and the stands were "half empty as the afternoon wore on, with wind chills dipping to 5 degrees and below." Of the 50 runs, 41 "ended with a rider on her backside, or in a face plant, or ... in a slow ride toward the bottom after simply pulling up because they couldn't build enough speed to reach the crest of a ramp." Pells: "Why were organizers so quick to cancel the men's downhill Sunday and the women's giant slalom Monday in other parts of the mountains of Pyeongchang but insistent on staging both the men's and women's slopestyle contests? Both were weather-affected, watered-down affairs that did not show the sport at its best" (AP, 2/12). NBC’s Willie Geist notes the wind was “blowing so hard” during the slopestyle competition “as the jumpers went up in the air, you could actually see them being blown across and being slowed down” (“Today,” NBC, 2/12). U.S. snowboarder Jamie Anderson, who won Gold in the event, said the wind "was a huge situation.” Anderson: "I was pretty shook up, just scared" (“Winter Olympics,” NBCSN, 2/12).

WAS IT NECESSARY? Canadian snowboarder Spencer O'Brien said that "none of the riders had been consulted about going ahead, which is typical at professional events." O'Brien: "At the very least ... our opinions are taken into consideration. And that wasn't done here, on either day. I think 90 per cent of the women did not want to ride today." The GLOBE & MAIL's Cathal Kelly writes the event went on as scheduled because NBC and other broadcasters have their schedules "written in ink for months." Sponsors have "trucked VIP clients in from around the world to stand on a ski hill on a specific day, and goddammit they're going to see some snowboarding" (GLOBE & MAIL, 2/12). O'Brien added, "I don’t know why we weren’t asked and I don’t know why it was ran, to be honest. Because no one wanted to go." USA TODAY's Rachel Axon writes someone could have "gotten hurt, and badly." The FIS is "lucky that didn’t happen." But even "without catastrophe, the federation did these riders a disservice" (USA TODAY, 2/12). British snowboarder Aimee Fuller: "I don't feel like I had a fair shot at putting down my best run. The wind just took me sideways on the last hit. ... It's not the best show of women's slopestyle at all" (L.A. TIMES, 2/12).

Bus delays have impacted 55,000 workers and volunteers who have been forced to wait in freezing weather
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

POCOG today said that it would "spend an additional" $2.77M in a bid to "solve transport problems" at the Pyeongchang Games, according to Tim Hart of REUTERS. POCOG Dir General of Transportation Kang Hee-up said that the "demands placed on the bus system outweighed the resources." Kang: "We have thoroughly prepared the transport system but it is true that there are some problems as we are operating them and implementing the plans on site. And I would like to apologize." Kang added, "We have limited resources and there were also the mountainous areas here in Pyeongchang and the shortage of infrastructure in this region was all of the factors we had to deal with. We have prepared accordingly but now as we are operating on site, some of our plans are going over our capacity" (REUTERS, 2/12). The AP's Stephen Wade notes there have been up to "two-hour bus delays impacting 55,000 workers and volunteers who have been forced to wait in cold, freezing weather." Buses have been "irregular, slow moving and there have been too few for some of those working the Olympics." POCOG said that transportation for dignitaries and athletes had been "going off without a hitch." Officials added that they are using 1,800 buses at the Olympics, and "hope to add" about 10% more to "meet the demand." IOC President Thomas Bach: "I cannot remember any games when we did not have transportation problems in the beginning. You cannot rehearse an Olympic Games in regard to transport" (AP, 2/12).

SPEAKING MY LANGUAGE: In DC, Chelsea Janes wrote she "expected the language barrier to be a primary cause of misadventure here, but it hasn’t caused as much trouble" as expected. In the Olympic facilities, and in the towns around them that planned for foreign tourists, "most signs include English." Even though these Olympics are "well organized and well labeled, the logistics still present challenges, too." Janes: "I triple-check the bus routes about eight times before getting on a bus" (WASHINGTON POST, 2/11).

NOT FEELING IT: In Pittsburgh, Ron Cook writes, "I can’t remember an Olympics with so little buzz." Cook: "Every day, I hang around people who love sports. I have yet to find one person who is talking about the Games." Maybe it "would be different if the NHL players were participating." Cook: "I can’t name more than two Olympians on the entire U.S. team. ... The Olympics time has passed" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 2/12). ESPN’s Michael Wilbon said NBC has turned the Olympics “into a figure skating show, which is great for ... my mother and all the grammas.” Wilbon: “I’m going to watch the Cavaliers. I’m not going to try to find MSNBC-squared to watch the (Olympics)” (“PTI,” ESPN, 2/9). 

Sports House includes a shop selling red T-shirts reading "Russia in my heart" in English and Russian
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

The feeling of Russian pride at the Pyeongchang Games is "unmistakable," as Sports House, a converted seafront wedding hall decked in all manner of Russian paraphernalia, is "serving as Russia’s social headquarters," according to Tariq Panja of the N.Y. TIMES. A giant nesting doll plastered onto a wall "identifies the entrance" to the house, and a "flight of stairs leads into a main room filled with memorabilia evoking Russian Olympic success and culture." Guests can "grab tea from large samovars before viewing an exhibit of jerseys and medals from the country’s hockey successes, dating to the Soviet period when the Red Machine ruled." The nationalist fervor is "at odds with the demands issued" by the IOC, which "barred the country’s Olympic officials from attending, prohibited the official display of the country’s flag and uniforms, and refused the playing of its national anthem as punishment for a yearslong doping program." The IOC in a statement said the Russian Sports House “is a hospitality venue that is available to all sports fans to celebrate the Olympic Winter Games Pyeongchang 2018." It is run by a "commercial third party, and the IOC has made the operator aware of the conduct guidelines" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/12). Sports House coordinator Anna Dunaeva said, “It’s not a secret party. We’ve submitted our design to the IOC, and we’re ready to make changes if necessary.” The WALL STREET JOURNAL's David Gauthier-Villars notes one of Dunaeva's concerns is making sure "no fans put a Russian flag on the shoulders of a Russian athlete visiting the house." The house includes a shop "selling red T-shirts reading 'Russia in my heart,' and an exhibit about Russia’s bilateral relations with South Korea" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 2/12).

FASHION SHOW: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Jason Gay wrote in the "underground but wildly important fashion show that is the Winter Games, the Russians may wind up being the most stylish athletes in Pyeongchang." Gay: "Designs I’ve seen from the Russian brand Zasport and Nike are impressively sharp, simple and -- what’s the word? Clean." Team USA got "solid reviews for its Ralph Lauren get-ups at Friday’s Opening Ceremony, but I’d put it on the busier side of things." Team OAR was "low-fi." The OAR athletes at the Opening Ceremony "wore plain gray jackets, jeans and gray scarfs." There "wasn’t a lot going on" and it was "unpretentious, easygoing, not trying too hard" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 2/11).

RUSSIA TAKES AIM AT U.S.: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov yesterday said that the U.S. "manufactured doping allegations against his country, leading to a ban from the Olympics, because the Americans 'can’t beat us fairly.'" In DC, Des Bieler notes there is "no official Russian contingent" at the Games, although 168 athletes are competing as the OAR. Russia President Vladimir Putin in December suggested that U.S. authorities have been giving Grigory Rodchenkov, former director of Russia's antidoping lab, "'some kind of substances' so he 'says what’s required' to harm Russian interests." His comments were echoed yesterday by Lavrov, who said the Games are a "form of competition without scruples because the U.S. team, obviously, are not capable of beating us fairly at sport” (WASHINGTON POST, 2/12).

USA TODAY's Nicole Poell noted one accessory for Team USA "stood out" during the Opening Ceremony: the "enormous suede gloves, complete with Western-style fringe." While the gloves were "widely mocked on Twitter, they were popular." Even with a $995 price tag, they were "listed as out of stock on the Ralph Lauren website." A Ralph Lauren spokesperson confirmed that the gloves "are sold out, and there are no plans to increase inventory at the moment" (USATODAY.com, 2/10).

TAPE DELAY: U.S. figure skater Mirai Nagasu had some viewers wondering if she had a "giant 'USA' tattoo on her inner thigh" during a performance today. She instead was "using some Team USA-branded kinesiology tape under her tights." KT Tape "sprung into social-media action to let inquiring minds know the story" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 2/11).

JUST FOR KICKS: There is "always a have-to-have-it souvenir at the Olympics, and this year, it’s a pair of Stan Smith-style Pyeongchang 2018 sneakers." The shoes "may not be appropriate footwear for trudging through the slush at biathlon, but are handsome and nicely priced" at $46 (WSJ.com, 2/12).

SLIP N' SLIDE: Custom footwear maker ISlide last fall got in touch with the Nigerian women's bobsled team to produce "high-end sport sandals." ISlide "isn’t sure whether the three athletes will even wear the green slides ... on television or anywhere that lots of people would even see them." The company also "reached out to American speed skater Erin Jackson, the first African-American long-track speed skater, who also got a pair of the company’s slides, designed in purple with the company’s logo arranged like the Olympic rings" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 2/9).

Mazdzer became the first U.S. man to reach the podium for luge after winning the Silver Medal
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Silver Medal-winning U.S. luger Chris Mazdzer is becoming the "hottest breakout star" at the Pyeongchang Games to date. He became the "first U.S. man to reach the podium" for luge. Mazdzer now goes from "just another face in the crowd to a sex symbol" (DENVER POST, 2/12). Meanwhile, U.S. snowboarder Red Gerard was the first American to win a Gold Medal in Pyeongchang, and the WALL STREET JOURNAL's Jason Gay writes the first Gold for any U.S. athlete at the Olympics is the "best medal." Gay: "There’s tons of attention, NBC dips you in prime time rainbow sauce, Wheaties sends you flirty messages, and you can basically goof off the rest of the Games" (WSJ.com, 2/12). ESPN's Michael Eaves noted Gerard later in the Games "will go for another medal in Big Air ... but not before he's expected to fly back to the States for TV and sponsor appearances" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 2/11).

FOLLOW THE LEADER: U.S. skier Gus Kenworthy has "embraced his role as an LGBT leader at the Olympics, even it means irking the White House." Kenworthy "released a photo on Instagram of him hugging openly gay figure skater and U.S. Olympic teammate Adam Rippon" at the Opening Ceremony -- "taking aim at a Trump administration that refuses to embrace the LGBT community." The post had the "not-so-subtle message" for the Vice President -- "Eat your heart out, Pence" (DENVERPOST.com, 2/11). Kenworthy yesterday also was asked about meeting Pence, who led the U.S. delegation in Pyeongchang. He said, "I don't think I have any inclination for a meeting. I think in terms of distractions, that would be a much bigger distraction for me, and I'm just focused on competing" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 2/12). Meanwhile, NBC's Terry Gannon said, "You may have followed it on the news or social media, the back and forth with Adam Rippon and the office of Vice President Mike Pence. Adam came here and said, 'Look, from this point forward I want it to be about competition, everything that takes place on the ice. I don't want to take away the attention from any other athlete here in Pyeongchang'" ("Winter Olympics," NBC, 2/11).

LOOSE CLOTHING: South Korean figure skater Yura Min yesterday "had a wardrobe malfunction" during the team event. Min said of the hook on the back of her outfit that holds it together, "Five seconds into the routine, my hook came undone." Min then "ad-libbed the entire routine, forcing herself to keep her arms back, trying to keep her costume from coming undone" (FREEP.com, 2/11).

PEACE CORPS: American IOC member Angela Ruggiero yesterday called for the joint North Korea-South Korea women's ice hockey team to be "nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize." Ruggiero said that she would "ask others to nominate the team, which included 12 players from North Korea, which is still technically at war with the South." These Games "marked the first time an inter-Korean team had competed" at the Olympics (REUTERS, 2/11). 

FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS: Newseum in DC on Friday night held an Opening Ceremony party for Comcast/NBCU "complete with igloos, fake snow and a couple fires outside to roast marshmallows." Comcast Senior Exec VP & Chief Diversity Officer David Cohen, NBC News Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent Andrea Mitchell, NBC News White House Correspondent Peter Alexander and Huffington Post Global Editorial Dir Howard Fineman were among those in attendance (POLITICO.com, 2/10).

Each day during the Olympics, THE DAILY offers our take on the business performances of some of the people, sponsors, broadcasters and other entities around Pyeongchang.

GOLD: RED GERARD -- The wide-eyed, infectious 17-year-old gave the U.S. its first medal of the Games with a gold in snowboard slopestyle. 

SILVER: SHOOTING STAR DRONES -- Intel’s quadcopters played a starring role in NBC’s coverage of Friday night’s Opening Ceremony, lighting up the Pyeongchang sky with the Olympic rings and giving the sponsor a unique position in the Games’ signature celebration.

BRONZE: USOC -- The organization said all the right things as the Games opened, and leadership under Larry Probst in the absence of Scott Blackmun is moving along fine, but the organization faces uneasy challenges ahead.

TIN: JOSHUA COOPER RAMO -- You’d think NBC’s Asian correspondent would know better than to ignore South Korea’s history of brutal Japanese rule. Instead, he offended an entire country by saying “every Korean” respected Japan for its achievements. NBC has had to give multiple public apologies, including one directly to the Pyeongchang organizing committee.