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The Olympics: What Next After Rio?

7 Sep, 2016

By: Michael Popke

The Olympics ended in Rio not with a bang from terrorists or mosquitoes, but with this surprising piece of data: Millennials watched a ton of coverage.

NBC says viewers between the ages of 18 and 34 posted an average 5.3 Nielsen rating for the 17-day event, which according to MediaPost is “almost five times higher than the average 1.1 rating when looking at the four broadcast networks’ prime-time data for the 2015-2016 season.”

On top of that — and despite NBC reporting lower overall television ratings than four years ago in London — online viewers streamed almost 2 billion minutes of the network’s Rio coverage. That’s more than the combined total minutes for London’s 2012 Summer Games and Sochi’s 2014 Winter Games, according to The Los Angeles Times. “There is a cultural shift,” Smith College economics professor Andrew Zimbalist told the paper. “Young people today don’t watch as much television.”

Early indications also reveal that Rio’s Summer Olympics helped revitalize a port, open a new subway line and kick-start municipal projects. But that good news didn’t stop James P. Moore Jr., managing director of the Business, Society and Public Policy Initiative at Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business, from poo-pooing the post-Olympics praise heaped upon Rio.

“I predict that Rio will have been seen as a strategic mistake,” Moore told Bloomberg.com via e-mail. “This will not be a universal consensus, but I will guarantee that it will give developing countries food for thought in pondering the principle of ‘buyer beware’ for years to come.”

The Paralympic Games, slated for Sept. 7-18 in Rio, appear to have received a boost from the Olympic Games. One week after the closing ceremony, Paralympics organizers reported a record-setting day, with 145,000 tickets sold on Aug. 26.

“Brazil winning Olympic gold in football [soccer] and volleyball … has given home fans a flavor of what they can expect at the Paralympics with the host nation targeting a top-five finish in the medals table,” says Xavier Gonzalez, chief executive officer of the International Paralympic Committee. “Clearly they want more and want to be part of what will be [a] historic and transformative Paralympic Games here in Rio."

Meanwhile, Los Angeles 2024 —the organization overseeing that city’s bid for an historic third Olympic Games — claims that it has the support of “all major United States cities” following a declaration by the United States Conference of Mayors. Additionally, former Boston 2024 bid leader Steve Pagliuca is now a member of Los Angeles 2024, advising on “strategic planning and financing.” The host city for the 2024 Games will be announced at the 130th International Olympic Committee Session in Lima, Peru, on Sept. 13, 2017. If L.A. secures the bid, it will mark the first time in 28 years that the Games would be held on American soil.

Looking past 2017, the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, might be a little different — make that a lot different — than usual. Robots will be used to help safeguard the games, and drones could be employed too, says Lee Hee-Beom, president of the PyeongChang Organizing Committee for the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. The South Korean government has developed a $60 million (U.S.) public safety project involving robots, built to assist in complex disaster rescue missions that would include massive fires, explosions and chemical disasters, according to GovInsider, a website that covers government innovation in Asia Pacific.

That makes sense, especially from a practical standpoint. Why risk human life if technology can fight disasters just as effectively? After all, the Olympic Village for the 1980 Winter Games in Lake Placid, N.Y., is now Federal Correctional Institution, Ray Brook — a medium-security United States federal prison for about 1,000 male inmates.

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