In the Loop: Winter Olympic coverage spotlight undermined by imperfections of Sochi

When the Olympics come to the world stage every two years, they provide a refreshing change from the traditional sporting events that consume a bulk of media attention in the United States. The 2014 Sochi Olympics featured upward of 2,800 athletes from 88 countries — both Olympic records. For two weeks, NBC’s Olympic coverage redirected attention from the U.S. power sports leagues — the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL.

Unfortunately criticism of Sochi’s performance as Olympic host undermined the true focus of the games — the athletes and athletic competition.

Sochi received criticism for subpar host execution after spending a reported record $51 billion on Olympic preparation. Points of criticism included a technical error during the opening ceremony, stray dogs roaming the streets and unfinished hotel rooms for Sochi guests. Social media shared these stories with “SochiFails” and “SochiProblems” hashtags.

It was discouraging to see Sochi imperfections take attention away from Olympic competitions. The coverage of the four U.S. power sports commonly feature millionaire male athletes between the ages of 20 and 30. The Olympics expose the viewership to the world’s best male and female athletes of wide age ranges in a multitude of disciplines, often giving viewers new appreciation for the sports and athletic talent.

Mikaela Shiffrin, an 18-year-old U.S. high school student, won the women’s slalom — defeating a field that included a 32-year-old slalom competitor highly regarded as the sport’s best-ever. LoLo Jones and Lauryn Smith Williams, U.S. Summer Olympics track stars, competed on the U.S. bobsled team at the Winter Olympics. The Philippines had its first ever figure skating athlete, Michael Christian Martinez, in the 2014 games. These storylines, among others, can give viewers new appreciation for Olympic athletes — which are often vastly different from the storylines of major-sport athletes that consume the bulk of U.S. sports media coverage.

There is legitimate reason to critique Sochi’s performance as host of the 2014 games — all Olympics host sites are under scrutiny. But this editorial board encourages Olympic fans to recognize the refreshing athlete storylines and performances the Olympics provide, before turning to critique and nitpick venue imperfections.

Editorials in the “In the Loop” section reflect the majority opinion of the Editorial Board, comprised of five editors. 

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