Sunday marked the end to another memorable Winter Olympics as host Pyeongchang bid farewell to the rest of the world. We witnessed many spectacular performances and surprising results across every sport. Now that the Games have concluded, let’s take a step back, relax, and review three major takeaways from Pyeongchang 2018.
1. Norway Rules the Medal Count
Three weeks ago, if you had predicted the Scandinavian country of Norway would dominate the medal count table in Pyeongchang, then you may have been alone. Domination may even be an understatement as the nation with a population of only 5.2 million broke the record for most medals won, 39, during a single Winter Olympics. Though Norway is a perennial powerhouse at cross-country skiing, exceptional performances in other sports like speed skating, ski jumping, and curling helped to increase its stack of medals during these Games.
Germany, boosted by a silver medal in Men’s Ice Hockey, finished second in the medal count followed by Canada and the United States. While Canada seemingly underperformed in two of its marquee sports, ice hockey and curling, over the last few days of competition, the Great White North earned medals across a large variety of sports including bobsled, ice dancing, and snowboarding. While the United States experienced a slow start in Pyeongchang, a successful last few days saw the Americans win gold in some of the most prominent events, including Men’s Curling and Women’s Ice Hockey, to gain ground in the medal count.
Many experts and fans alike view the United States’ overall performance as disappointing, however, as few expected a fourth-place finish with only 23 medals across all events. While the U.S. has regularly performed well in figure skating, speed skating, and alpine skiing, surprisingly only a few medals were earned in these sports. The USOC will surely be looking forward to the Summer Games in Tokyo in two years as the United States attempts to re-gain the medal lead.
2. Empty Seats Aplenty in Pyeongchang and Growing Budget Concerns
Though the competition in Pyeongchang was both fierce and entertaining, venues were left with many empty seats that were difficult to hide on NBC’s live and delayed broadcasts. While some international fans chose not to attend due to political unrest in the region, lagging attendance figures were also attributed to local Koreans who boycotted events in protest. Similar to Brazilians with the 2016 Rio Olympics, South Koreans have long been unhappy with the large amount of funding poured in to these Olympics instead of other sectors deemed in greater need of the same resources.
The split support for the Pyeongchang Games mirrors every other Olympics in recent memory, including Sochi and London, in regard to concern over skyrocketing budgets required to host the world for one month. In fact, the combined cost of the past three Olympics before Pyeongchang was estimated at over $41 billion. With a continuously growing requirement for hosts to maintain world class security forces at the Games along with increasing funds needed to build and improve infrastructure, we can expect costs to keep rising over time. Final figures for Pyeongchang are still to be determined, but early estimations arrived at over $13 billion.
In terms of the business side of hosting the Olympics, two questions remain: How many countries are still financially capable of hosting the Games and how many on that list have a desire to do so due to the financial implications? The next decade or so should present us with at least partial answers to these questions as more nations are considered to host future Olympics.
3. Worldwide Coverage of Games Draws Mixed Reviews
Though the 14-hour time difference between Pyeongchang and the U.S. East Coast was always going to present broadcasting issues during these Olympics, viewers appeared to have plenty of other issues with network coverage over the last couple weeks. While many complained about the ratio of event air time to commercials, other critiques revolved around the unreliability and inconvenience of broadcasts shown in the U.S.
Prior to the Games, NBC announced that it would be broadcasting record-breaking content around the clock via its family of multiple cable networks and on its website. The addition of 4K viewing capabilities was seen as a boost to NBC’s coverage, but many viewers found the cross-scheduling between network channels to be inconvenient and confusing especially during live events.
On the marketing side, sponsors certainly benefited from widespread brand exposure online and on television screens, but a disappointing performance in terms of ratings and viewership is sure to transform future agreements. NBC has official broadcasting rights through the 2032 Olympics, and it will be fascinating to see how the network’s relationship with the IOC, sponsors, and viewers continues to evolve over time.