The 2014 Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony took place in Sochi, Russia on Sunday night, February 23.  The ceremony went well, had no mechanical issues, and Russia even threw in a little bit of humor – spoofing the mess up from the Opening Ceremony where the fifth snowflake didn’t open.  Even so, only 15.1 million viewers tuned in to watch on Sunday.  That number is 29 percent less than that of the Vancouver Olympics four years ago.

Before the closing ceremonies, NBC aired the new documentary Nancy & Tonya as a part of their 90-minute Sochi Gold programming that same night.  The documentary had 12.6 million viewers.  Does this make you

Nancy_Kerriganwonder why almost as many tuned in to watch a documentary as the closing ceremonies?

This year marks the twentieth anniversary of Olympic figure skater Tonya Harding’s plan to attack her Olympic teammate Nancy Kerrigan.  Harding had allegedly collaborated with her ex-husband Jeff Gillooly and her bodyguard Shawn Eckhardt, hiring a man named Shane Stant to break Kerrigan’s leg and stop her from competing.  The attack was initially supposed to take place at her training rink in Massachusetts, but Kerrigan never showed the day Stant went to the facility.  Because of this, he traveled to Detroit’s Cobo Hall, where he waited until Kerrigan had finished a practice session before striking her with a collapsible metal baton on her right knee and escaping the scene in a getaway vehicle.  Because of her injuries, Kerrigan was forced out of the Olympic trials.

A few weeks later, Harding acknowledged that the men were involved in the arrangement of the attack and that she had helped them hide what they did.  Harding and Kerrigan were named to the U.S. Olympic team for the 1994 Winter Games in Lillehammer, Norway.  The U.S. Olympic Committee had seemingly considered excluding Harding from the team once the details of her participation began to evolve, but after she filed a $20 million lawsuit against them they allowed her to go on.  Fortunately, Harding only finished in 8th place while Kerrigan finished second, taking home the silver medal.

Nancy also got a different type of revenge as the attack was covered all around the world by all different types of media as a “good versus evil” kind of story, in which Nancy Kerrigan became the media’s sweetheart and Tonya Harding became the ugly duckling.  Back then, this story was the main focus of the Olympics.  But what would have happened if this attack occurred in today’s social media based society instead of mainly on television, radio and print?

If it happened today, not only would the story spread faster, but there would be countless memes, hashtag explosions, and viral videos of cell phone footage, from the exact moment, from bystanders at a thousand different angles.  We would hear more, and we would know more, a lot faster.  It almost seems like that is just normal now.  We are almost always waiting for the next big thing to emerge.

This year, something strange happened at the Olympics.  Media sources, spectators, and even Russia themselves were expecting some type of crisis to take place, and well, nothing did, nothing at all.  So what does the media do in this kind of situation?  In the absence of news, they make their own news.

As we discussed in a previous blog, the media blew up with posts about how “horrible” the conditions were in Sochi.  Were they really that bad or was this just something for the media to talk about?  With a lack of any serious crisis in this year’s Olympic Games, the media instead brought back a crisis from twenty years ago and put a large emphasis on that, taking away from the focus on this year’s Winter Olympics Closing Ceremonies.  Doesn’t this make you wonder what kind of “horrible conditions” or small, “newsworthy” events have taken place at pre-social media Olympics that we never heard about?


Stay tuned…




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