Let The Games Begin

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NBC is proud of showing every Olympics competition live online, and many on TV. So, it makes the decision to air Friday’s opening ceremony via tape delay a seemingly unnecessary provocation to followers accustomed to a see-it-immediately world.

The ceremony, narrated by Matt Lauer, Hoda Kotb and Meredith Vieira, was delayed by one hour on the U.S. East Coast, four hours out West. It was not offered live online. Much like four years ago when there was a longer delay from London, the move drew complaints on social media.

“There’s a huge world party going on right now without us because, you know, we’re American,” was one message on Twitter before the U.S. telecast started.

For some viewers, the experience was worsened by the pace of commercials, perhaps a shock to time-shifters accustomed to fast-forwarding through ads. NBC took eight commercial breaks in the first 65 minutes of the ceremony. Since the announcers were rightly hanging back and taking in the show, it seemed like Lauer was announcing an upcoming break half the time he opened his mouth.

“New drinking game: take a shot every time they go to a commercial,” one viewer tweeted.

NBC argued that the time delay allowed the network to edit for a smoother broadcast of what is essentially an entertainment spectacle. The ceremony is a celebration of Brazilian culture, said Mark Lazarus, chairman of the NBC Sports Group, and “we think it’s important that we’re able to put that in context for the viewer so it’s not just a flash of color.”

More importantly, the delay allowed NBC to show the ceremony entirely in prime-time across the country, for which advertisers pay a premium.

The network has some 40.7 million reasons to justify its stance. That was the viewership for the London opening ceremony, the kind of number that leads NBC to conclude that the vast majority of fans like things just as they are.

PARADE OF ATHLETES: Was the U.S. team making a political statement by having fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad, dressed in a hijab, the traditional Muslim head covering, march in the first row of its athletes entering the stadium? Credit NBC’s Vieira for pointing out Muhammad, but she made no mention of any political context.

TWEET OF THE NIGHT: “It’s like an adjective rainstorm when Bob Costas comes on.”

EYES RIGHT: Yes, social media can be a cruel place. Costas probably didn’t appreciate being reminded of the gooey eye infection that forced him off the air for a few nights during the Winter Olympics in Sochi. For the record, his eyes were clear and bright Friday.

RISE UP: It seemed jarring, at the end of Thursday’s Olympics preview, for NBC to debut a music video of Katy Perry’s new song, “Rise.” The network has declared the song its Olympics “anthem” and promised viewers they’ll be hearing it frequently over the next two weeks. That’s pretty sweet publicity for Perry, the sort most artists would die for. An NBC representative described it as a “value exchange” between the network and record company and if the song catches on, NBC can bask in the glow. The Olympics audience tends to skew old, and association with a pop star could be a way to bring in more young people.

 

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Most spectators are motivated by a mixture of curiosity—few know the rules of, say, the modern pentathlon—and nationalism. This means that the closer the games come to achieving their goal of promoting harmony among nations, the less interested casual observers will be. Fortunately for broadcasters, who have collectively paid $2.8 billion to air the games, the return of geopolitical tensions between Russia and the West will provide a cold-war-style edge that makes for must-see TV.

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Russia will not enter 2016 with the swagger it had in 2014, when it hosted the Winter Olympics and led the medal table. With a declining currency and shrinking sport budget, its teams have cut training time abroad, crucial for adapting to Rio’s tropical conditions. Moreover, its athletics team may be banned from competing if the country cannot convince international authorities that it has cleaned up its anti-doping safeguards. Nonetheless, Russia has never finished lower than fourth in the medal count. The best chance for a head-to-head contest with the United States may come in gymnastics, where Aliya Mustafina, who won four medals in 2012, will take on the defending all-round champion Gabby Douglas and a rising star, Simone Biles.

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The country with the most to gain from a big medal haul is the host. Facing a threat of impeachment, Ms Rousseff must be hoping for a halo effect. Expectations are modest: because it tends to channel athletes into football, Brazil has been a middling contender in most Olympic sports. The hosts have high hopes for volleyball—no surprise, especially in the beach version—and could do well in aquatic events like swimming and sailing, as well as athletics, martial arts and gymnastics. Infostrada Sports, a Dutch analytics company, forecasts a respectable 21 medals for Brazil, which would be its best performance ever.

The country most likely to deliver a positive surprise at the games is New Zealand. Infostrada expects the Kiwis to sneak into the top ten in 2016 with nine golds—a remarkable feat, given that their economy is one-seventh the size of the smallest country ahead of them. The debut of rugby sevens is sure to benefit New Zealand, the world’s rugby powerhouse. (It may also enable tiny Fiji to take home its first-ever medal.)

Vladimir Putin would love to see the end of America’s streak of winning the most medals in every summer games since 1992. But the smart money is on the bonanza continuing. The return of golf after 112 years should bolster America’s total, since its four best male golfers are all ranked in the world’s top eight. America could also recapture the gold in the men’s 100-metre race: although Usain Bolt, the record-setting Jamaican, did defend his title at the World Championships in 2015, he edged out America’s Justin Gatlin by just a hundredth of a second.

The Rio games will have to clear two hurdles to be seen as a success. One is doping. In August 2015 a dataset of 12,000 blood tests on track athletes was leaked, revealing that one in seven competitors’ samples showed results “highly suggestive of doping”. Mr Gatlin himself has already been suspended twice, though he insists he is innocent. Nothing makes the creed of “solidarity and fair play” sound more hollow than superhuman-looking performances turning out to be, in fact, superhuman.

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The second test will be the event’s impact on Rio. The games have historically provided an abysmal return on investment. The Tokyo 2020 organising committee has come under fierce criticism for overspending, and just two cities—Beijing and Almaty—wound up bidding for the 2022 winter games. If the Rio Olympics are a triumph, the vote for the 2024 summer games, which will be held in 2017, will be fiercely contested. On the other hand, if they follow the pattern of previous Olympics and leave the “marvellous city” billions poorer and littered with white elephants, enough potential hosts may vote with their feet to force the International Olympic Committee to reform.

With over 10,000 athletes from more than 200 countries competing in Rio and 6,755 hours of Olympic programming will the health scare affect the games?

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The World Health Organization rejected numerous calls from over 150 health experts to consider postponing or moving the Rio Summer Olympics due to the Zika virus in hard-hit Brazil, arguing that the shift would make no significant difference to the spread of the virus. Moving or postponing the games would be the nail in the coffin for Brazil. It has bet the farm, the animals and their hopes and dreams on this Olympic games.

It was an almost unbelievable project to propose to rebuild a city that needed improvements in 1960 let alone now in 2016. I personally think Brazil should be commended for getting it done. It is a big bold efforts to play on the global market.

Hundreds of thousands of people from around the world are expected to travel to Rio de Janeiro and other Brazilian destinations this summer to see some 10,000 athletes compete at the games.

IzikapicThe authors also noted that despite increased efforts to wipe out the mosquitoes that spread Zika, the number of infections in Rio de Janeiro have gone up rather than down.

.” It argued that Brazil is only one of dozens of countries where mosquitoes transmit the Zika virus and says “people continue to travel between these countries and territories for a variety of reasons.”

travelers-reading-zika-virus-brochures-on-airplane-Reuters-640x480“Based on the current assessment of the Zika virus circulating in almost 60 countries globally and 39 in the Americas, there is no public health justification for postponing or cancelling the games,” it said. “WHO will continue to monitor the situation and update our advice as necessary.”

“We need to do a better job, perhaps, of communicating everything that’s being done,” he said.

Not all scientists agree that the Rio Olympics posed a problem.

“We live in an incredibly interconnected world. Global travel and trade are daily activities that offer the Zika virus an opportunity to spread,” said Jonathan Ball, a professor of molecular virology at the University of Nottingham. “By comparison to these routine activities, the increased risk that the Olympics poses is a drop in the ocean.”

542861A0-FF39-4444-A48C-EB6E69019FC1_w640_r1_sHe added, though, that people should still take care to both avoid mosquito bites and avoid places undergoing Zika outbreaks if they are or might become pregnant.

Rio claims they are ready willing and very able to host the 2016 Summer Olympics.

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