Rio 2016 – The Presence of the Media, Who Came Out on Top, and Canada’s Future Fuelled by Winning
So the end has come. Through highs and lows came two weeks of fierce competition which ended with (surprise, surprise) absolute domination by the United States of America. While the athletic side of the games came second to the financial struggles of the Brazilian people, these may have been the most mediatized games in Olympic history. Fortunately, what started as coverage of unfortunate circumstances in Brazil became developments on the athletic achievements, as it should always be.
Despite the need for coverage on “how not to organize an Olympic Event” which included green pools and drama caused by a tumbling overhead camera, the viewers’ power to bring deeper and more positive subjects to light. Thanks, in part, to the power of pictures, a “bromance” that will last forever in the hearts of track fans, and most importantly, the domination of Canadian female athletes in the pool, on the mats, in the gymnasium, and on the track will always forever be in our hearts. These moments were not planned since we were all told to prepare ourselves for an apocalyptic two weeks.
And here we are, Canadians, looking back on our most successful Olympic Games in years.
Now, yes. The media did in fact push to focus on the poverty of the country and every potential flaw to distract you from amazing athletic feats since devastating news always grabs better ratings. Viewers did prevail however with more talk being about the gracious yet overwhelmingly powerful Simone Biles or the triple-triple that Usain Bolt captured. Records were broken and feelings of joy and awe were shared from the four corners of the world. With the media’s attention re-focused on the games despite continuing controversy within the chaotic federal government, it is absolutely fair to ask yourself if the headlines prior to Rio 2016 were simply a lure for TV and media companies to gain traction. With that said, did the overwhelmingly negative headlines brew a rebellious attitude from the public which, like a phoenix from the ashes, drove us to focus on the athletes more than ever before? And do we now have enough proof that athletic events will always prevail despite the conditions of the games themselves? These are crucial questions to ask yourselves as a preface to the highly controversial 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
So, in the end, who truly came out winners from Rio 2016? We can all agree that Brazil, as a country dismantled by radical gaps in poverty and its governmental issues has come out less popular than before the games (if that’s even possible). With lack of stable security, horrible standards for their own volunteers, and underwhelming ticket sales, the work left behind for organizers will leave a sour taste in the mouth of the International Olympic Committee and more importantly, the Brazilian citizens who will see the effects of it all first hand.
What about Canada? While the land of polar bears and hockey came out with its most medals since 1996 and furthermore in new disciplines, some of our medal hopefuls including pole vaulter Shawn Barber and kayaker Adam Van Koeverden simply did not make the cut. On the flip-side, the emergence of Penny “Lucky Penny” Oleksiak in the pool had us all glued to the TV every night when she competed. I want to remind you that she has just recently turned 16 years old, does not have her G1, and now stands as Canada’s favourite Olympian. When I was 16, I was having trouble deciding whether a beef patty was worth a $2 purchase. But that’s neither here nor there.
Note that this recent success along with the Pan Am games stems from a financial payout change from the COC (Canadian Olympic Committee). It is called the Athlete Excellence Fund and it’s fuelling our athletes to win medals. How? Very simply, instead of basing the pay for Canadian Olympians on attending competitions, it pays out $10,000, $15,000, and $20,000 for bronze, silver, and gold medals respectively. This systematic change, considered minor by the public, has instead motivated Canadian athletes to win, and win big. Mark Tewksbury spoke of this on CBC when explaining the recent successes by young Canadian athletes who now see a new incentive to pursue their athletic dreams.
Speaking of the CBC, remember when I was saying ratings are everything? Well, while NBC’s ratings dropped 13% since London 2012 despite their phenomenal athletes, CBC’s went through the roof with a gain of 11% over the course of the two weeks. According to Yahoo Sports, an average of 1.27 million Canadians watched the Games on any and all platforms available which included free online streaming.
So in hindsight, did Canada come out on top? With a 10th place finish in the medal tables (they were aiming for a top 12 finish and overwhelming support from Canadian viewers, it’s an easy YES! We can all expect great things to come in 2020 in Tokyo when Penny will have fully developed as a 20-year-old and Andre DeGrasse will no longer need to worry about the mighty Usain Bolt (given that he will keep his word)
Encompassing everything, we cannot forget that Canada and other countries successes came at a price. And while we may not hear much about the aftermath just like Sochi, we should all remind ourselves that Brazilian people will receive the consequences of a troubling 2 years due to lack of organization and fundamental bad economic timing.