The 2014 Winter Olympics have come and gone, and won’t be back until 2018. So were they any good?
Well, USA took home its fair share of medals — 9 gold and 28 total — and the display of athleticism was top notch, as always. But between Russia’s poor planning, police brutality and a morning show ratings war between ABC and NBC, the international sporting event was definitely tainted by some bad publicity.
Thanks to comedic opportunist Jimmy Kimmel, however, the event’s PR problem turned into a hilarious prank that non-sports fans could get a kick out of, too.
Here are the good, the bad, and the ugliest aspects of the Winter Olympics in Sochi.
Jimmy Kimmel’s “#SochiFail” Wolf Prank
Kimmel’s signature schtick has become faking out the world wide web’s most gullible (that’s just about everyone, by the way), and he took his act all the way to Sochi last week when U.S. Olympian Kate Hansen tweeted out a YouTube video of a “wolf” wandering her housing in the Olympic Village. Turns out, the video was actually shot all the way in Kimmel’s Hollywood studio, and the Russian wolf was actually an adorable American Timber Wolf mix named Rugby. Still, living conditions were so bad at the athletes’ dormitories, that the media sprung into action to report the security breach, while “security started freaking out,” too, according to Hansen.
Bob Costas’ commitment to his job
You gotta give this guy credit. Although his untimely eye infection ultimately caused him to sit out of NBC’s coverage of the Winter Olympics for a week, he gave it a go for one night before Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira stepped in to relieve Costas’ eyes, which were apparently so sensitive to the studio lights, that even a pair of “Peabody and Sherman” spectacles couldn’t help. Costas spent six days nursing his watery eyes before returning for the last week of coverage.
USA Men’s Hockey
Well, maybe not the very end, where they lost the Bronze medal game to Finland. But for a moment, USA Men’s Hockey owned the sporting world, thanks to the shootout prowess of T.J. Oshie. On Feb. 15, in a preliminary-round game against Russia, Oshie made 4 of 6 shot attempts in the thrilling shootout, which ultimately resulted in a 3-2 American victory. It was mostly downhill from there.
Overall, NBC’s Sochi Games coverage was down 12 percent in viewers versus 2010’s Vancouver Olympics. This is partially due to the tape-delayed nature of European Olympics versus the live telecast of a North American Olympics. As a matter of fact, Sochi was actually up 6 percent versus 2006’s Torino Games, which had a similar delay. The Sochi Closing Ceremony was down 29 percent in comparison to Vancouver’s.
Opening Ceremony Olympic Rings Malfunction
During the opening ceremony of the Winter Games, four of the Olympic rings lit up as snowflakes — the fifth spectacularly flickered out.
The dormitories for the athletes and hotels for spectators were so bad that they were great for comedy, but before Kimmel took advantage of Russia’s poor planning for his viral “#SochiFail” wolf prank, he took his viewers on a guided tour of the awful living conditions tourists had to endure. On top of unsafe drinking water and a pillow shortage, sights to see at Sochi accommodations included upside down toilet lids, electric panels in showers and elevator-less elevator shafts.
NBC Reporter Brings Olympic Skier Bode Miller to Tears
Christin Cooper badgering bronze-medalist alpine skier Bode Miller about his dead brother until he wept launched a thousand tweets of outrage. While Miller urged viewers to cut her some slack, critics of the Winter Games coverage singled out the interview as an exemplification of all that was wrong with Olympic journalism.
Pussy Riot Beaten and Arrested
Members of the punk rock collective — that has been making headlines since a 2012 anti-Putin protest in a cathedral — weren’t shy in speaking out against Putin’s hand in the Olympics, and the Russian authorities weren’t shy in abusing or arresting them when they showed up. Nadya Tolokonnikova and Masha Alekhina, two former members who were imprisoned in Russia and released in December, reported daily harassment and detainment. A disturbing video the Associated Press released last week showed current Pussy Riot members being beaten, pepper-sprayed, and horse-whipped by Russian police during a demonstration outside an Olympics venue.
‘Today’ vs. ‘GMA’ Morning Show Ratings War
The network hosting the Olympics pretty much always wins the following morning show ratings battle. Almost. ABC’s “Good Morning America” gave “Today” a run for its money this time around, even claiming a morning or two in viewers. Of course, NBC pushed back on exactly how rare an achievement this actually was. Then ABC returned some mud of their own, and TheWrap was caught in the mess.