Olympics More Popular
Hm. Some are crediting NBC’s Olympic ratings success to the individual pursuits of swimmer Michael Phelps. There’s ratings data to back it up:
For Phelps’ first gold medal – in the 400-meter individual medley – last Saturday night, NBC drew 24.4 million viewers; for his second gold, on Sunday, 33 million; Monday, 30.2 million; and Tuesday, when Phelps won two gold medals, 34 million. On Wednesday, Phelps rested and ratings dipped to 27.7 million.
But I wonder if, just maybe, it has more to do with China. While I suspect U.S. audiences are interested in learning more about this relatively closed society–and NBC is giving us the puff pieces to scratch that itch–there is a developing theme coming out of these Olympics: the Chinese are attempting a massive PR campaign and they are willing to do anything to win the “medal count”.
Exhibit “A” is the continuing controversy over the age of the Chinese gymnasts while the International Olympic Committee looks the other way. To American audiences, it appears as if a conspiracy is afoot. And there’s nothing like a little good guy/bad guy to stoke the nationalistic flames of competition. In fact, isn’t that the ultimate irony of the whole Olympic “experience”?
The theory is to have peaceful competition, sing “We are the World” and, well, win some medals. In actuality, the games tend to stoke pre-existing national rivalries–or create new ones. It looks to my eye like this Olympiad has finally put the long simmering US/China front and center for the American people. Even if Russia is trying its best to remind us all of the Cold War Olympic era by starting a war during this year’s games.