How to fix the Winter Olympics

In his article, “Games Saver,” in the Feb. 22 issue of ESPN The Magazine, Luke Cyphers recommends a few ways to rekindle interest in the Winter Olympic Games. I particularly like his first two suggestions:

Back in 1992, you could rely on certain big events hitting every four years. A leap year. A presidential election. And the Olympics, both Winter and Summer in one 12-month span. That made them a scarce commodity. But, acting on a plan hatched eight years earlier, the IOC monkeyed with the calendar in 1994, putting the Winter Games in “off” even-numbered years. What was intended to make them more visible did just the opposite. The Games need to get back on Olympic Standard Time, one year for all. It would solve one huge and growing problem — competition with the World Cup for ad dollars and attention.

Vancouver’s financial mess is a warning to future bidders: Stay away. Suckering new cities to create a billion-dollar playground is simply unsustainable. More sites means more sprawl, more CO2 and more global warming — counter-productive when you race on snow. As the Greeks did, the Olympic organizers need to pick a single stage they can dust off every four years, preferably a city that already has facilities in place. We vote for Innsbruck, site of Franz Klammer’s downhill, Dorothy Hamill’s haircut and an active spot for all major winter sports. At the very least, the IOC should rotate the Games among single hosts on each of the three continents that have held them before. In addition to Innsbruck, recycle Salt Lake, and Sapporo in Asia too.

Holding the Winter Olympics and Summer Olympics in the same calendar year would increase interest in the former since it would wet the palette of those looking forward to the Summer Games. Also, Cyphers point about the World Cup is a strong one. Soccer is only getting bigger.

I also like his idea about rotating the Games through three venues, one on each continent of Europe, Asia and North America. It’s pretty ridiculous that a city has to build all of these venues just to hold these Games for a few weeks. It’s a waste of resources, especially when there are very nice facilities available in other cities that have already hosted the event. They should do the same thing for the Summer Games — rotating amongst, say, Athens, Sydney and Los Angeles — for the same reasons.

Ratings for the Vancouver Games have been decent.

NBC is still exceeding its ratings guarantee to advertising of a 14.0 average prime-time household rating. Through Friday, it was averaging a 14.7 rating and 26.2 million viewers over the first eight nights of the Olympics.

According to Cyphers, Salt Lake had a 19.2 rating and Torino had a 12.2.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

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