[IIoT]What Happens to the Olympics Now That Russia Is Out of the 2018 Winter Games?2018-02-02 11:26:18
The 2018 Winter Olympics Games will begin in a little more than two months. When they do, Russia will not be part of the celebrations or any of the competitions.
On Tuesday, the country was banned from the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. The IOC levied perhaps the strictest punishment in its history as punishment for a massive state-sponsored doping scheme carried out by Russia.
"This was an unprecedented attack on the integrity of the Olympic Games and sport," IOC president Thomas Bach said in a statement. "As an athlete myself, I feel very sorry for all the clean athletes from all [National Olympic Committees] who are suffering from this manipulation.
The IOC's decision came after it conducted an investigation into rumors that Russia engaged in a systemic program to give its athletes an unfair advantage. The ban keeps Russia out of the 2018 Games, including the opening and closing ceremony, and prevents the country's athletes from competing under the Russian flag.
Russia is a perennial winter powerhouse that led all nations in medals in the 2014 games, albeit while allegedly carrying out a massive cheating system that led to the ban. Any Russian athlete deemed "clean" by the IOC will be able to compete in a neutral uniform. But President Vladimir Putin seemingly predicted a boycott of the games if the ban went through, according to the New York Times.
Figure skating coach Tatiana Tarasova speaks to the media on December 5, 2017 in Moscow, after the International Olympic Committee announced the decision to ban Russia from 2018 Winter Olympics. Russia were banned from the 2018 Olympics on December 5, 2017 over state-sponsored doping but the International Olympic Committee said Russian competitors would be able to compete 'under strict conditions'. MAXIM ZMEYEV/AFP/Getty Images
The fallout from the doping scandal and Russia's Olympic ban will be far reaching. Every competition will be affected by the absence of Russian athletes, and every national team will be under greater scrutiny for any hint of cheating or trying to gain an unfair advantage.
And then there's the business implications of the punishment. It can cost anywhere from a couple billion dollars to some $55 billion to host the games. If Russian athletes are kept out, that means fewer tourist dollars spent in Pyeongchang by friends and families.
It could also mean lower ratings for the Olympic broadcasts. The competition pool will be shallower, and it will be difficult for commentators to "stick to sports" when one of the largest nations on Earth has been kept out of the Games.
In the U.S., NBC is especially invested in the Games. In 2011, the network paid $4.38 billion to broadcast the Olympics from 2014-2020; three years later it dished out $7.65 billion to extend the rights to 2032.
"The Olympics are all about storytelling and weaving these great narratives of these athletes who have struggled and this is a once in a lifetime chance for them," said David Carter, executive director of the USC Marshall Sports Business Institute. That will be more difficult for NBC as it contends with the Russian ban without one of its chief storytellers. Last week, NBC fired Matt Lauer, a longtime Olympics coverage host, after an allegation of sexual misconduct.
NBC did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Newsweek.
Jessica Jerome and Sarah Hendrickson of the USA Ski Jumping team chat with Matt Lauer of the NBC TODAY Show in the Rosa Khutor Mountain Village ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics on February 6, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. Scott Halleran/Getty Images
Of course, there's always the possibility that American viewers just won't care about Russia not being in the Games. In fact, with the investigation into President Trump and his campaign's possible ties to Russia, some viewers might celebrate the lack of Russian competitors.
"[It's] hard to know, but my opinion is that this won't hurt ratings in any way," Victor Matheson, a sports economics professor at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, said in an email. He pointed to the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles in which more than a dozen countries participated in a boycott led by the Soviet Union.
"The 1984 Summer Games aren't a perfect comparison since they were on our soil, meaning that they had optimal television broadcasting times, but nevertheless, these Games were wildly popular in the U.S. despite the absence of not only the Soviet Union but also at least 14 other countries including big rivals like East Germany," he wrote.
No matter the business outcome for the 2018 Games, the IOC decision to ban Russia could have long-term benefits—for the Olympics and the networks that broadcast them. The ban could offer "reassurance to those who fund sports that it's a worthy investment," Carter said.
But in order for that to be true, he added, the IOC needs to hold itself to this new standard in the future and prove "this new approach to fighting this global issue of doping is just not symbolic. Otherwise it looks like window dressing."