Could The Pandemic Or A Boycott Trip Up Another Olympics?

The 2020 Summer Tokyo Olympics were postponed until this year, due to the pandemic. But what about current pandemic issues? Now consider the 2022 Beijing Winter Games coming in February. That’s a more complicated question.

Let’s first start with a potential resurgence of the pandemic virus in this summer's Tokyo games. The numbers are a big issue for thousands of athletes, spectators and participants. Government officials have yet to talk about restricting attendance. Reports say many of Japan’s citizens aren't vaccinated.

Now, look several months out to the Beijing Winter Olympics in February. It’s still possible the virus may make havoc there, too. And that’s not the end of that story.

The issue of alleged human-rights violations by China is something nations are considering n terms of a response. The word “boycott” has been floated.



For its part, after some conflicting reports, the U.S. State Department says this is not the case. While they are not talking boycott, they have specific concerns over human rights.

The Olympics is a massive moneymaking machine for NBCUniversal, which airs the two-week event every other year.

It regularly pulls in $1.1 billion to $1.3 billion in national TV advertising per event, with the Summer Games earning a bit more than the Winter Games. It is also a major marketing platform for U.S. companies.

Let’s talk boycotts: In 1980, the U.S. boycotted the Moscow Summer Games in response to the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan. In turn, the Soviet Union boycotted the Los Angeles Summer Olympics Games in 1984, claiming its athletes would not be safe from protests and possible physical attacks.

Concerning TV coverage, NBC aired far fewer images of the Moscow games than the planned 150-hour coverage. Many NBC affiliates even refused to air highlights in their local news coverage.

For NBCUniversal, there’s a bigger picture about sports content going forward -- a least over the next nine months.

The media company does well with the NFL’s “Sunday Night Football.” But beyond that, there is much less high-profile sports stuff that can be monetized in a big way. In fact, at the end of this year, it is abandoning NBCSN, its national sports TV channel.

By way of comparison, the only thing rivaling this is the $450 million or $500 million take from the Super Bowl. NBC is one of a handful of TV networks to get this plum assignment every couple of years, along with ABC, Fox and CBS.

At last count -- March 2020 -- NBC totaled $1.25 billion in national TV ad spend for the Tokyo Games. So, for the TV network group and U.S. based TV marketers, now what?

1 comment about "Could The Pandemic Or A Boycott Trip Up Another Olympics?".
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  1. Tony Jarvis from Olympic Media Consultancy, April 9, 2021 at 2:14 p.m.

    As an Olympian the athlete's predicament must be fully addressed.  My plea in Media Post in March last year that honorary 2020 Olympic Teams be recognised across all sports in each  country driven by the local Olympic Organsiations, Olympic advertisers, National Sports Federations and the major official media had little take up.
    This initiative would have given proper recognition to those established top one or two athletes in each discipline for whom their official 2020 trials never took place as well as those "officially qualifiying" in a trial who, for unforessen circumstances, cannot compete in Tokyo in 2021. The latter could include athletes unable or unwilling to compete due to COVID related factors. 
    Already we have the dillemma of athletes not managing to qualify in an offical 2020 trial having their nation's #1 performance this year.  Remember that each country can only send a strictly imited number of athletes to compete in any individual event.  So, does a current star get left behind?  I have not even addressed the difficulty of team event selections over this unforeseen extended time! 
    As outlined by Wayne the money involved is boggling and has been for every Olympics.  My bottom line is that the Tokyo Olympics must go on even if event attendance is severely reduced and strictly medically controlled, whatever the loss in revenues are on any dimension.  Surely after a year of lockdowns we all need to cheer our sporting heros more than ever and wildy celebrate their often incredible performances?  If I am right, the World will be watching this high profile event more intensely than ever even if it is not from the stands.  Consequently it could be an audience bonanza for Advertisers and media networks.
    My earnest plea is to still properly recognize those top top athletes unable to officialy qualify in 2020 due to the cancellation of their trials and who do not make the "2021 team" as well as those 2020 official qualifiers that, for whatever reason, do not make it to Tokyo.  How can "we" make this happen???

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