Sunday, February 25, 2018 at 8:21 AM

PyeongChang Olympics: Day 15 – Closing Ceremony, Ending a Ratings and Diplomatic Bust

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

I am pooped.

What’s more, I risk permanent damage to my already failing eyesight if I watch another event. Never mind the irony that my addictive interest in watching healthy people compete is making me unhealthy.

Frankly, I deserve a gold medal — not just for watching so many events but for writing so many commentaries too (i.e., instead of sitting passively and eating them all up … like a couch potato).

Even so, I watched three exciting events on Friday, Day 15: two in Snowboarding, one in Curling.

Women’s Parallel Giant Slalom

All I care to share about the Snowboarding events is that Ester Ledecka sealed her crossover appeal.

  • Ester Ledecka of Czech Republic won gold; Selina Joerg of Germany, silver; and Ramona Theresia Hofmeister of Germany, bronze.

Ledecka is the reigning world champion in this event. Therefore, everyone expected her to win. But this snowboarder is the same athlete who won gold in Alpine Skiing Women’s Super-G. I commented on that truly shocking feat at Day 7 below.

Ledecka is now the first woman to win gold in different sports at the same Winter Olympics.

Men’s Curling

Despite my fatigue, this too warrants a little comment.

  • The United States won gold; Sweden, silver; Switzerland, bronze.

This is the first-ever gold for the United States in this event. As it happens, though, I’m on record dismissing Curling as being to sports what Karaoke is to entertainment – as I did in “2010 Winter Olympics,” February 17, 2010. But I’m also on record admitting that it’s my favorite Olympic spectacle to watch – as I did in “2014 Sochi Olympics: Day 1,” February 8, 2014.

I mean, the loony costumes and screaming banshees aside, can you imagine a greater spectacle than a Russian curler getting busted for performance-enhancing drugs? This makes about as much sense as a couch potato taking uppers for binge watching. Yet this is what competition in this “sport” came to in PyeongChang.

I could not resist ridiculing this man-bites-dog news in “Day 10 — Norway vs. the Netherlands (with Russia, the Wildcard),” February 20, 2018.

Closing Ceremony

Events related to the Closing Ceremony are already underway, not least the grand arrival of delegations from the United States, headed by Ivanka Trump, and North Korea, headed by General Kim Yong Chol. But, thanks to revealing previews, I already know enough to know that it will hardly be must-see TV.

Except that, if you’re into robotic Pandas and Tron-style dancers, this Closing Ceremony might be for you. Indeed, it’s notable that the wizard who gave us that memorable Opening Ceremony for the 2008 Beijing Olympics will have a big hand in tonight’s closing. But, as I said in “Diplomatic Brinkmanship Upstages Opening Ceremony,” February 9, 2018, the technical wizardry and precision marching he choreographed for Beijing ruined these ceremonies for all other host countries.

I should stop, lest I give away too much.

Ratings Bust

That even an Olympics addict like me couldn’t bear to watch another event (after Friday) probably explains this foreboding ratings trend:

For the last Friday of the often-struggling PyeongChang Games, NBC and NBCSN’s combined primetime coverage grabbed a 9.2/16 in metered market results. That is an all-time low for an Olympics that is on track to be the lowest ever.

(Deadline, February 24, 2018)

Evidently, I was not the only one who was pooped. There seems to have been a pandemic of viewer burnout. This is why I urge the IOC to stop its quadrennial practice of adding new sports, as well as new events in existing sports, to both Summer and Winter Olympics. In fact, it would do well to cut enough sports and events to allow each Olympics to span only one week, instead of the two weeks over which organizers now schedule events.

Diplomatic Bust

The politics of nuclear brinkmanship hovered over these Games – from opening to closing – like the Sword of Damocles.

Recall that Vice President Mike Pence headed the US delegation at the Opening Ceremony. In doing so, he made much ado about not dignifying the head of the North Korean delegation with even a handshake, let alone a bilateral meeting.

Yet we now know that, despite his public posturing, he was working assiduously behind the scenes to arrange a meeting.

Of course, Kim Jong-un’s sister made her sensational debut on the international stage as the head of that North Korean delegation. And I thought it entirely predictable and sensible that she snubbed Pence. She reportedly canceled their meeting at the last minute, effectively leaving him sitting at the conference table.

But only an arrogant fool could think it was okay to treat the North Koreans like skunks in public, and then expect them to want to hook up, diplomatically, in private. I duly ridiculed this caveman art of diplomacy in the February 9 commentary cited above.

This brings me to President Donald Trump – who announced more beating-a-dead-horse sanctions against North Korea just yesterday. Granted, it’s debatable whether he intended this more as red meat for the pack of baying conservatives in his audience than as another stroke in that caveman art of diplomacy.

But, as was the case with Pence’s churlish behavior, the timing of Trump’s announcement seems bound to blowup any chance of these delegations meeting in the backdrop of this weekend’s Closing Ceremony.

Not to mention that every country in the region, including China, thinks Trump’s America poses a far greater threat than Jong-un’s North Korea. Accordingly, those countries will continue making a mockery of Trump’s sanctions by doing all they can to help North Korea flout them.

Then there’s the mismatch redux of Trump dispatching his daughter, and Jong-un, his most grizzled general. After all, if Trump had a diplomatic bone in his body, he would have dispatched his daughter to the Opening Ceremony to meet with Jong-un’s sister. Then, as a follow-up, he would have dispatched Pence – with far less fanfare – to this Closing Ceremony to meet with General Kim.

Alas, this is the way these Games end. Not with camaraderie among athletes but brinkmanship among politicians.

FINAL MEDAL COUNT: Norway 39; Germany 31; Canada 29

With its haul of 39 medals, Norway broke the Winter Olympics record of 37, which the United States set at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

Russia won 33 in Sochi. But we can ascribe that haul to its well-documented state-sponsored doping. That leaves the United States as the Sochi winner with 28. But it managed only 4th in PyeongChang with 23, indicating not just how well others performed but also how much it under performed.

Finally, I raved about Cross Country Skiing on Day 1. Therefore, I trust it will come as no surprise that I nominate Marit Bjoergen of Norway as the most outstanding Olympian of these Games.

She didn’t have to, but she sealed this honor, and her legacy, by winning gold in the final event today, the Women’s 30km Mass Start. For this gold merely added to the gold, silver, and two bronze medals she had already won — for a total of five:

It has been an amazing career for me, this is my last Olympics and to finish like this is incredible.

(London Independent, February 25, 2018)

Indeed, it is. In fact, over five Olympics, this Norwegian (37) won a Phelpsian 15 medals. This includes 8 gold, which matches hauls by the great Ole Einar Bjoerndalen and Bjoern Daehlie for the most gold medals by a Winter Olympian.

Hail, Marit!

With that, I’ll see you in Japan for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics!

Related commentaries:
Day 1-14
2010 Winter Olympics
2014 Sochi Olympics Day 1
PyeongChang Day 10
PyeongChang Opening Ceremony

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