Hope you’re ready, Vancouver. You’ve got a task about as big as Michael Phelps’ trophy case.
The Winter Olympics kick off Friday in Vancouver, where unseasonably warm temperatures have forced organizers to spend the past few weeks hauling in snow by truck and helicopter. These games might have the toughest follow-up act in Olympics history, considering Beijing’s long list of stunning achievements just two years ago: the spectacular opening ceremony, Usain Bolt’s unthinkable times on the track and, of course, Phelps and his record eight gold medals.
Winter games have traditionally failed to enjoy the popularity of their summer counterparts. The Summer Olympics feature about 40 more sports than Winter Olympics, and the summer sports (especially basketball, soccer, swimming and volleyball) tend to appeal to a larger number of people. Also, the summer games typically feature much more famous and recognizable athletes. See Phelps and Bolt.
Besides following the Beijing games, which attracted the largest global TV audience ever, the Vancouver games have the task of reviving ratings for the winter games. The 2006 games in Torino, Italy, posted a painfully low 5.8 rating, by far the worst mark for a Winter Olympics since The Nielsen Company started tracking television ratings in 1968.
Americans have at least one star to follow, speedskater Apolo Anton Ohno. Ohno will be looking to break his current tie with Eric Heiden for most career medals at the winter games by an American man. Ohno and alpine skier Bode Miller are easily the United States’ most well-known figures in the games, though neither compare in popularity to someone like Phelps.
Are you looking forward to watching the Winter Olympics? Will you watch them as closely as you did the Beijing Summer Olympics?