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Volume 20 No. 42


Digital media outlets will take their largest percentage of credentials ever for an Olympic Games next year.

Outlets ranging from Yahoo to to will receive 25 percent of the more than 400 credentials allocated to the U.S. for the 2014 Sochi Games. That’s a major increase from the 15 percent of credentials digital outlets took for the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver and the 9 percent of credentials digital outlets received for the 2006 Games in Turin. There are traditionally fewer credentials issued for Winter Games, which has only eight sports, compared to summer, which has more than 20 sports.

The shift reflects the continuing challenges that traditional newspapers face. Outlets ranging from The New York Times to The Seattle Times, which traditionally send a large contingent to the Winter Games, either offered buyouts or laid off staff last year.

As those papers have struggled to adjust to changes in the advertising business, digital outlets have filled the void and found ways to monetize online Olympic coverage., Sports Illustrated, USA Today Sports Media Group and Yahoo Sports all developed special websites and editorial content for the London Games. They also secured advertising support from Olympic and non-Olympic sponsors as a way to produce revenue from those special sections.

Last summer, IOC sponsor P&G advertised on Yahoo, U.S. Olympic Committee sponsors Citi and DeVry advertised with Fox Sports, and non-Olympic sponsor Lexus advertised with Sports Illustrated.

The USOC, which credentials U.S. media, has seen the total number of credentials it receives from the International Olympic Committee decline 10 percent since the last Winter Games in Vancouver, from 480 credentials to between 400 and 450. The organization has allocated all of its credentials for the Sochi Games and is requesting additional credentials for media.

USA Today, Sports Illustrated and The New York Times are the most credentialed outlets for Sochi, but fewer local outlets are sending reporters than in the past, USOC Chief Communications Officer Patrick Sandusky said.

“We’ve certainly seen a shift to more of the national publications putting an emphasis on the Olympics,” Sandusky said. “Regional papers send fewer reporters and utilize the wire papers more, but we still have people coming from Indiana, Chicago, Boston. Smaller papers have scaled back, but generally coverage is up because you’re getting more wire and more national coverage from outlets that have staffed up and are sending more people.”

The U.S. Olympic Committee is downsizing its hospitality plans for the Sochi Games.

The organization, which set up two hospitality centers in Vancouver, will have just one in Sochi. The USOC still is looking for locations for that hospitality center, known as USA House, and hopes to have a location finalized in the coming months.

The USOC had this hospitality house in Vancouver as well as another closer to alpine events for the 2010 Games, but will have just one such venue in Sochi.
The decision to reduce its hospitality footprint from Vancouver comes as no surprise. The organization anticipated an increase in guests at its USA House in Vancouver because it was a North American Olympics, and it opted to have a hospitality center in Vancouver, which hosted hockey, figure skating and curling, and Whistler, which hosted the alpine events, because the two locations were separated by a two-hour drive.

Sochi will have a coastal cluster of venues that host figure skating and hockey and a mountain cluster that hosts alpine events. Spectators can take a 30-minute train ride between the two sites.

“Sochi is close enough that the mountain venues and city venues are nearby, so we’re able to have one gathering place, which we prefer,” said USOC Chief Communications Officer Patrick Sandusky. “This will be much more like a Summer Games with one venue.”

The USA House facilities serve as a gathering place for members of the USOC, Team USA, corporate partners, sponsors, suppliers and licensees. The first USA House was erected in Salt Lake City, and it has grown in each subsequent Olympics. It’s a place where partners can conduct meetings, dine or attend after-hours athlete medal celebrations.

Sandusky said the USOC is considering locating next year’s USA House inside the Olympic Park in Sochi’s coastal cluster.

In evaluating a venue inside the park, the USOC will have to weigh whether Sochi’s plans to develop a spectator-pass system would prohibit potential guests from visiting USA House. Sochi organizers currently plan to require ticket holders to have a spectator’s pass in order to enter the Olympic Park and attend events. Those passes can only be secured in advance by providing the Russian government with background information ranging from passport details to biographical information.

USA House typically hosts events for everyone from sponsors to IOC dignitaries. Requiring those guests to go through security outside the Olympic Park in order to reach the hospitality center might deter guests from visiting.

Sandusky said that the spectator-pass system was something the USOC was evaluating. It hasn’t set a deadline for when it wants to have a venue selected or determined how large the venue needs to be.

It announced the location of its USA House in Vancouver six months before the Olympics. The total square footage of the USA House sites in Vancouver (25,000 square feet) and Whistler (3,500 square feet) were twice as large as what the USOC offered for the Winter Games in Salt Lake City and Turin, Italy, in 2002 and 2006, respectively.

“We’re just trying to work to find a location that serves our needs and our sponsor needs and fits our budget,” Sandusky said.