Monday, August 25, 2008

Look how lucky we are

I've watched very little of the Olympics, but one thing I've noticed is the obvious American hegemony. Now, I have American pride; I always wear red, white and blue on July 4; but sometimes I just want to watch other countries, especially when they're the better team.

The New York Times published a very interesting account Monday describing how much effort--and how much American power--dominated the Games from the very beginning. A large part of it is Dick Ebersol, the chairman of NBC Sports, and his incredibly foresight and business savvy. Back in 2000, the Sydney Games were in late September, and the ratings weren't good. Even before Beijing was officially named the host of the 2008 Games, he managed to convince the president of the International Olympic Committee to move back the dates to August. Many assumed that the Games started on 8/8/08 because of the symmetry of the dates and because eight is a lucky number in Chinese. But that actually hadn't even occured to those in charge. Promising higher ratings, with that wonderful 12-hour difference that caused many events to be aired live in primetime in the East, Ebersol quickly deduced that the Summer Games will do best in mid-August when there is no football or tennis to distract viewers--or cause prime athletes to skip the Games--and when children can stay up late to watch without worrying about homework and school. By the way, American television money accounts for more cash for the I.O.C. than all the world’s other broadcasters combined.

Ebersol also decided months ago to shape the Games around Michael Phelps and his mother (though they neglected to mention anything of his father for days). He also convinced the gymnasts and swimmers to change their competing schedules to accomodate American television audiences.



petpluto said...

Wow. I'm ridiculously amazed at that guy's foresight. I watched A LOT of Olympics, and now I know who to thank.

I also kind of liked how they neglected Michael Phelps' father. From all accounts, the guy apparently turned into something of a deadbeat after he and Michael's mother divorced.

MediaMaven said...

My dad kept wondering why they never mentioned his father. It wasn't until several days into the Olympics that they mentioned it. I understand not wanting to bring it up, but it did seem like a glaring omission.