2014 Winter Olympics

I love the Olympics to watch the personalities and the different sports that you don’t see in a regular basis. The Olympics is the only place you get an education about the people and the sports and have found it fascinating.

Since the events were in Sochi, most of the events were late at night /early morning. It was somewhat difficult, but thanks to full highlight replays, I can get to see the event, in its entirety and don’t bother watching primetime since you know the result and you know what NBC is doing with their coverage. The only time I wanted to see something in primetime are the MVPs of NBC’s Olympics: Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir. They were honest, transparent, classy, and fashionable.

You can say second place goes to Bob Costas’s red-eye, but that would be cruel and also, it would give credit to Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira. I had an argument on Twitter that it’s alright to have newspeople to fill the hosting seat. I don’t have an issue with newspeople, but you need to bring some knowledge about the Olympic sports and I don’t see it with either Lauer or Vieira. Newspeople should be secondary in the Olympics, unless news breaks at the Olympics, then they can come in. Instead, NBC was trying to get in their drama-filled show and Lauer and Vieira are very good at creating drama, when there is none. The Olympics should be a sports show first. By the way, ratings are not good for NBC and with live-streaming, I think it’s time for NBC to rethink their strategy. Luckily in 2016, Rio is in the same time zone, so ratings will be strong. After that, expect low ratings since the Olympics are in South Korea and Japan, respectively.

As for the sports…

Disappointments: Shaun White, Shani Davis, the U.S. Men’s Hockey team, and anyone who was in the McDonald’s commercials, came home empty-handed.

Also, Under Armour needs to reconfigure after having no one medal in speedskating since 1984. Ouch.

Meeting/Exceeding Expectations: Meryl Davis and Charlie White got gold after going on an Edwin Moses-like run after Vancouver and just wipe the competition, including their rivals, Canada’s Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir.

Noelle Pikus-Pace lived up to the AT&T ads and won silver for skeleton.

 

The U.S. alpine skiing team, after a slow start of getting one medal in the first week of competition, get five overall. The skiing team looks good for the future with potential superstar, and Dick Ebersol’s (yes, I know he’s retired, but he’s still a consultant with NBC) next project, Mikela Shiffrin.

Another thing that meet expectations is the figure skating drama. I’m amazed figure skating is not popular not because of the sport itself, but it has components of sports, reality tv, and soap opera. With our viewing habits cut into segments, figure skating should have its moments during winter. Anyway, with the judging, Adelina Sotnikova won by 5 points over Yuna Kim. My personal opinion is that Sotnikova would have won anyway based on technical scores, but it wasn’t a 5-point victory. It was hometown cooking. Pyeongchang will be interesting in 2018.

Finally, anything new and anything extreme, the U.S. will win gold…most of the time.

As for the future: Sochi was really a transition period for Team USA with Lindsey Vonn injured, Shaun White and Shani Davis’s terrible performances, the US (really more NBC) needed superstars and got one in Mikela Shiffrin, who will be the focus of 2018.

Another group that should have the heavy spotlight in 2018 are the U.S. Women’s Hockey team. Three minutes away from gold and blew it (or got unlucky) and lost to Canada in OT. Expect lost of montages and segments of the Sochi 2014 gold medal game in 2018.

Speaking of hockey, the biggest question for 2018 is if the NHL players will return. After what happened to Nicklas Backstrom, Henrik Zetteberg, Jon Tavares, and others, Gary Bettman has his case of not sending the players overseas. However, Bettman has to tread carefully. If he doesn’t send NHL players to Pyeongchang, Bettman should expect a few international players to defect to the KHL. Another thing Bettman has to think about is would a World Cup of Hockey work? The only World Cup that works is soccer because it is global and FIFA makes it a spectacle. The only time the World Cup of Hockey worked was in 1996 when the U.S. defeated Canada in a best of three series. After that, it was gone. This leads to the biggest issue for Gary Bettman. The NBA has become popular globally because David Stern allowed his players to play in the Olympics and make them marketable not only as individuals, but as a team. Bettman (being a Stern disciple) would like to do that, but the culture of hockey doesn’t promote individualism; only team. The only two “marketable” stars in the NHL are Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin. Both are stars of the sport, but are not crossover stars like most NBA stars and Wayne Gretzky. Bettman needs transcending stars to market, but no one has taken the mantle.

The Sochi Olympics was like a clique: Canada won in hockey and curling, Netherlands won in speedskating, Norway won in biathlon, U.S. won on extreme sports, and Russia won on everything (except hockey) because they’re the host country. The only shocking thing is South Korea didn’t win any medals on short speed track, except if you count Viktor Ahn, who joined Russia a couple of years ago. In hindsight, nothing was memorable because the countries that suppose to win medals in their strongest sport did. It will interesting in 2018 how it would fare with a new batch of athletes and essentially a neutral field (except figure skating if Yuna Kim changes her mind).

This will be the last time we see most of the winter athletes until 2018, but that’s why I enjoy the Olympics: it is the only spectacle you have to wait a long time to see if they achieve something special. You know the saying, “You can get them next time.” Four years is a long wait to get them next time and why it’s still enjoyable to watch.

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