By McKenzie Clarke
I love the Olympic Games.
Not only because SBX Group has an Olympics division, which I happen to manage, but because of the stories of athletes, teams and countries to get there; the power of the Games to connect and inspire people around the world; and the platform it gives athletes to use for good — whether that is inspiring the next generation or shedding light on an important social cause.
In fact, one of my favourite moments while I was completing my undergraduate degree in Sports Management was being able to blend my minor in Tourism and Sustainability with my passion for sports. My final thesis paper provided a comparative analysis and examination of the social, economic, political, cultural, and environmental impacts of each Olympic Games from 2002 to 2012. However, I won’t bore you with my findings.
Instead, here is a recap of some of my favourite moments from PyeongChang 2018:
IOC rules dictate that events and disciplines can be added or removed up until three years before each Games cycle.
In 2015, the IOC announced that it approved the inclusion of four new sports in the 2018 Olympic Winter Games: Big Air in snowboarding, Mixed Doubles in curling, Mixed Team in alpine skiing, and Mass Start in speed skating, along with the removal of the Parallel Slalom event in snowboarding.
Personally, I am a fan of rejuvenating the Games with this concept in order to attract more youth, increase viewership, add intrigue, and promote inclusivity – particularly where and when the world is watching. The Olympics, just like any other product, must continue to adapt to changing markets, societal issues, and audience demand.
It was just 20 years ago at the Nagano 1998 Olympic Games that snowboarding was added to the roster of contested sports – starting with two events – Halfpipe and Giant Slalom. That year, Canada’s own Ross Rebagliati won Gold in the men’s Giant Slalom event. But things really picked up in 2006 when a then 19-year old Shaun White of Team USA burst onto the scene and has been inspiring snowboarders, action sports fans, and young adults ever since.
Surprises at the Games
Fresh Faces – What was interesting to see in this Olympics cycle was that many of the medal winners, who helped make their respective countries victorious, were fresh faces on the scene. It’s always exciting to see new talent come through the ranks, providing new barrier-breaking stories, hopeful futures, and unofficial passing of the torch ceremonies.
Hockey Upsets – Not only were NHL players not present at the Games (they have been part of the Olympics since 1998), but for the first time in 20 years, Team USA’s women’s hockey team won gold over Canada, breaking the Country’s streak of four consecutive Olympic wins.
It was obvious that many of the typical top men’s teams struggled without their roster of regular professional players, instead replaced with collegiate athletes and European league players. But that then begs the question – have we been relying on professional talent too much in this sport (amongst others) when the Olympics started as a platform to celebrate amateurism?
Turning Controversies into Inspiration
With the Olympics, there will always be controversies. Two of the most prevalent issues this year were geographic – with the state of Korea and Russia in the Games.
However, what could have been disasters for the PyeongChang 2018 legacy turned out to be somewhat of a PR dream.
To kick off the Games, North and South Korea marched together under the same flag in the Olympics Opening Ceremony as a gesture of unity to represent a break in the tensions between the two nations. The last time this happened was at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Italy and is a rare occurrence.
After the IOC banned Russia from PyeongChang 2018 over the state-sponsored doping case arising from the 2014 Sochi Olympics, any Russian athletes wanting to take part in the Games had to prove they had a history of being clean, seeking exemptions from an anti-doping panel. Moreover, they even lost their ability to represent their Country, competing under the more generic flag: Olympic Athletes from Russia (OAR) and wearing neutral apparel in ceremonies and competitions.
It was unclear how many Russian athletes would be present after evidence showed more than 1,000 had been involved in doping since 2011. But it was surprising to see 168 compete (down 64 from Sochi) – the third largest delegation at the 2018 Games. For the Russians, these Olympics were a humbling sporting moment but also a chance to show the world they weren’t giving up without a fight.
I think you can say that the Olympics are a special type of event and stories like I’ve mentioned above definitely shows the world why.
Next time, I’ll discuss the business of sponsorship in the Olympics, its changing landscape, and what’s next for these athletes post-Games.