The 2022 Winter Olympics has wrapped up its fourth day of competition in Beijing and, judging by the ratings, you didn't even know they had started. The truth is, midway through the first week of the Games, the event has been a disaster.
So far, the Olympics are drawing record-low ratings and it's a pattern that looks poised to continue. There are a number of reasons why this has happened, and all of them were completely expected and avoidable.
The first and most most obvious reason is the fact that the International Olympic Committee awarded the Games to China again despite its atrocious record of human rights abuses. The country has seemingly been rewarded by the IOC for not ending a horrific pattern of abuse of inhabitants of its own country. We have plenty of evidence this is going on, yet the IOC has turned a blind eye, leading countries to execute diplomatic boycotts of the games.
Another major reason these Games are a muted affair is the lack of spectators due to COVID. As we saw with the 2020 Summer Olympics (which actually happened in 2021), there's something different when groups of wild fans aren't in the stands. It feels different and somehow less important when cheering is muted. That's happened again this time around. And this isn't even considering the athletes who are testing positive and missing their events.
The time difference in the U.S. is also a big factor. This is the third straight Olympics to take place in Eastern Asia. The 2018 Winter Olympics were in PyeongChang, South Korea, the 2020 Summer Games were in Tokyo and now in 2022 they're in Beijing. Beijing is 13 hours ahead of New York City, which makes, which means most of the primetime is happening while Americans are asleep. Given how important U.S. television ratings are to the success of the Olympics, it might be smart to mix up the locations a bit.
There are plenty of other reasons this exercise has been such a failure so far. Another simple one is the fact that the U.S. sports media machine is currently focused on promoting other things, and isn't directing eyeballs to the Olympics. We're smack dab in the middle of the buildup to Super Bowl LVI and the NBA trade deadline is Thursday. There's only so much time on daily shows to hit different topics. The Olympics is getting squeezed out.
It would have been much smarter for the IOC to launch the Olympics immediately after the Super Bowl or the following day. NBC could have used its Super Bowl coverage to promote the hell out of it. But I guess that would have taken foresight and, you know, planning.
The 2022 Winter Olympics have been a complete bust so far. From human rights concerns, to COVID, to fake snow, to almost everything else, the Games have been a mess. I'm not sure there's a way to salvage the "Forgotten Games" at this point.
Maybe the U.S. can make a run in curling again to make this entire exercise feel worth it.