By admin | February 4th, 2014
The world media today is counting down the hours until the start of the 2014 Winter Olympics. Now that there are no new security story issues to pursue, reporters have turned their focus to a different set of problems. Spectators planning to arrive in Sochi are now reading, seeing, and hearing stories about how the $50 billion spent on the Games does not guarantee quality hotel rooms or entirely completed Olympic infrastructure.
Athletes from 90 countries are competing in seven sports in 15 distinct disciplines at 98 separate events stretched over 18 days. In a real sense, letting the events happen is the easy part. Since being awarded the Games, Russia has had to upgrade nearly everything connected to Sochi, including building five new power plants, improving an airport, expanding train service, and adding 27,000 new hotel rooms. Reports describe lots of unfinished construction and mud. A construction crane rather than a runner carrying a torch might be a more appropriate symbol of this Olympics. A USA Today story from Feb. 1, focused on how “only six of the nine media hotels in the mountain area are fully operational.”
Here’s a public relations truism – when things work and preparations go well it isn’t news; if an event falls apart (think of the blackout at last year’s Super Bowl) the stories start piling up . . . and none of them are good.
What follows below is a breakdown of trending news mentions about the Olympics connected to hotels, transportation, construction, and (believe it or not) dogs.
The mention of dead dogs in Sochi is a new and disturbing development. A CBSsports.com story from Feb. 3 states that there are now “multiple reports out of Sochi that officials are killing off stray dogs.” News outlets from around the globe – Time, The Guardian, Canada’s CTV – are covering the story.
What can an Olympic public relations official hope for? These pre-Olympic news stories need to be overwhelmed by actual Olympic event coverage. Having compelling, gold medal-winning finishes and telling the personal biographies of athletes best serve the Olympic image.
Right now, reporters are filing stories with the material they have at hand – obviously incomplete Olympic buildings, tourist worries and concerns, and dead dogs. While all of these topics are better than terrorism fears, they still don’t inspire confidence. For Russia, at this point, the best advice is let the Games begin.