2022 Winter Olympics conclude amid controversy, poor viewership


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On Feb. 4, the U.S. delegation poses for a photo during the opening ceremony of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

Fletcher Haltom is a senior and the opinion and copy editor for Fishers Tiger Times. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the newspaper.

     On Feb. 20, the 2022 Winter Olympics came to a close, leaving many fans (myself included) wondering how such a massive, worldwide event could come and go with relatively minimal fanfare. This year’s iteration of the Winter Games seemed to leave something to be desired, to say the least. 

     One of the most prominent issues associated with the 2022 Games was the simple lack of viewership – as reported by the Nielsen Company, the prime-time viewing numbers for NBC, cable, and the Peacock streaming service only reached an average of 12.2 million viewers. This is a steep decline from the 2018 Winter Olympics, which averaged around 21 million viewers. It was also the least-viewed Olympics since NBC began broadcasting the event decades ago, per the Wall Street Journal.

     On a grander scale, the Winter Olympics also did a relatively poor job of advertising the games. Many viewers were caught off guard by the beginning of the Olympics, which can largely be attributed to lackluster promotion on the part of the sponsors and networks. It has, historically, been difficult for the Winter Olympics to compete with the product and viewership of the Summer Olympics, but additional promotion would certainly have narrowed the gap. 

     In addition to its popularity problems, this year’s Olympics quickly became shrouded in controversy. Pandemic-altered procedures, the use of performance-enhancing drugs among some of the most promient athletes and countries and the host country’s ongoing genocide were all widely discussed topics. These controversies make complaints about time zone differences and lowered TV viewership seem rather trivial; they nearly resulted in the cancellation of the games as a whole. 

     What has traditionally been a worldwide, unifying sporting event quickly became the exact opposite. Ratings declined, athletes were pushed to the brink and viewers seemed generally disinterested.

     It was not all bad, though. Erin Jackson won gold for the U.S. in women’s 500m speed skating, their first in the event since 1994. Chloe Kim won back-to-back gold medals for the U.S. in snowboard halfpipe and Finland won gold in men’s hockey for the first time ever. There was still plenty of the Olympic spark, even if it was clouded in a bit of controversy. Hopefully, the 2024 Paris Olympics and the 2026 Italy Olympics will learn from some of the shortcomings of the 2022 Games and deliver more engaging, controversy-free events.