Time matters. It is not easy to be up at two in the morning to follow what is happening at the Olympics in South Korea. Not only is it windy and cold over there, but the different time zone makes it most uncomfortable over here for Europeans to be in real time. Far more congenial, a major U.S. broadcasting company, NBC, on most nights of the 2018 Olympic Winter Games, will begin showing live events at 8 p.m. Eastern Standard Time,7 p.m. Central Standard Time, 6 p.m. Mountain Standard Time, and 5 p.m. Pacific Standard Time. In other words, a major U.S. broadcasting company will be live during peak viewing hours while Europeans will have to get up in the middle of the early morning to get live action.
You will say that this is only because of the time zone differences. But events have been moved to be able to broadcast them to the U.S. in primetime. Why, you might even ask, were the Games awarded to South Korea so the broadcasts would reach the maximum U.S. audience at the best time? Are there more viewers in the United States than in Europe? No. Are there more athletes competing for the United States than for Europe? No. Is there more money being paid by sponsors and media in the United States than in Europe? Clearly yes.
Despite what was supposed to be an exercise in international competition with a large dose of idealism - “The important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle, the essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well,” according to Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the International Olympic Committee – the modern Games have become a huge commercial display. Except for the wonderful idea of some people working at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to have a refugee group participate in the summer games in Rio, the idealism of Baron de Coubertin has become a nationalistic/sponsorship extravaganza.
The counterargument, especially you will say at PyeongChang, has been the possibility of peace between North and South Korea. While there is more hope for a serious dialogue between leaders of the two countries following the Games, poor U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence had to seriously concentrate in order not to turn his head in the direction of the sister of the North Korean ruler. Dialogue? He couldn’t even smile at her, we assume on orders from someone in Washington.
So while the Beltway has lost its role as neutral mediator in the Middle East after the announcement of the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a wonderful opportunity to break the ice between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un was lost.
The two Koreas marching under one flag was certainly a noteworthy moment. Perhaps less noteworthy than the poor Russian athletes – those allowed to attend – who marched in the opening ceremony under an Olympic flag since the Russian Federation (although not all the athletes) has been banned from the Games.
Politics once again loomed its ugly head amid sports at the 2018 Winter Games. While I will get up at whatever hour to watch Roger Federer play tennis, watching the Olympics at some ungodly hour is not for me. Are you up for the Olympics? Probably yes. Will I get up at two in the morning to watch? Absolutely not.