Thursday, January 14, 2010

Five Ring Circus: Let the Games Begin

Posted By on Thu, Jan 14, 2010 at 10:36 PM

While the big news at NBC Television is the squabble over the Tonight Show time slot between Conan O'Brien and Jay Leno, there's another story at the network that's equally interesting to some. It's the story of how NBC is taking a bath (to the tune of $200 million) on advertising for the upcoming Winter Olympics is Vancouver.
It appears, according to network execs, that big advertisers like Johnson and Johnson and Home Depot don't think the Winter Games resonant with the viewing public as much as the summer games do. Winter sports, so we're told, don't have the zip and the compelling (Michael Phelps for example) personal stories.
If true, it's a shame because the U.S. is sending one of its strongest delegations to the Winter Games in long time, maybe ever.
Look at alpine skiing where American Lindsey Vonn is again ruling the women's World Cup circuit and is a threat to win as handful of gold medals. Her teammate Julia Mancuso is streaky but very capable of at least one podium finish.
The men's alpine team headed by 2006 combined gold medalist Ted Ligety and the ever-enigmatic Bodie Miller is strong indeed.

Over at the snowboard venue, the U.S. Team (Coached by Bend native Peter Foley) has returning medal winners in Shaun White, Gretchen Bleiler, Kelly Clark and Lindsey Jacobellis.
But perhaps the biggest surprises medal-wise might come from America's cross-country and combined (ski and jump) skiers. In the combined, Bill Demong (he raced in the Cascade Cycling Classic this past summer) and Johnny Spillane have been ripping up the World Cup circuit this season.
Alaskan Kikkan Randall is considered almost a sure thing to medal in women's cross-country. The men (including local resident Toren Koos) look like they're about to break through.

As Mount Bachelor Ski Education Foundation coach and three-time Winter Olympian, Dan Simoneau, put it, "it's the best cross-country team I think the U.S. has ever sent to the Winter Games."
Note that the U.S. is sending a competitive ski jumping team to Vancouver after years of so-so results in the sport and there are several excellent American male and female biathlon competitors.
Add in speed skater Apollo Ono, figure skater Sasha Cohen, a good hockey team and it could be a bumper crop of medals for the U.S.
At the three Winter Games I worked, I always rooted for great competitions no matter the winner. This time around I'd really like to see Americans have an outstanding performance if for no other reason to prove NBC's hesitant big advertisers wrong in not sponsoring the Games on the telly.

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