Ringing in the Olympics

Ringing+in+the+Olympics

Matthew Fortin

International tensions were not the only thing to dissolve this past Friday at the Opening Ceremony for the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Games.

TV ratings for the games saw a decrease in the U.S. from previous years, delivering 23.7 million viewers nationwide, according to Nielsen ratings. This is compared to 27.3 million in Rio 2016, and 31.7 million in Sochi 2014.

While the Olympics still dominated television Friday evening, it certainly makes one ask: do people even care about the ancient tradition?

For some Quinnipiac students, the answer to that question is a resounding no.

“I just wasn’t curious enough to watch it,” sophomore health science major Ayeisha Jackson said. “I don’t think I’ve ever sat down and watched the opening ceremony. And I honestly didn’t know it was going on until someone mentioned it last night.”

Melissa Solomon, also a sophomore health science student and a member of the Quinnipiac track team, agreed with Jackson- even as an athlete, the winter games did not peak her interest.

“I feel like the Summer Olympics are more exciting,” Solomon said. “I know more about the swimmers and gymnasts because you see them all year round at different tournaments… Winter Olympic Games you only see at certain points of the year.”

Awkward timing may have also led to the decrease in viewership. The live stream took place at 6 a.m. on Friday (3 p.m. in Pyeongchang) and the NBC broadcast was at 8 p.m. that evening.

“I had an event that night, I was busy,” Solomon said. “I’m not gonna sit down and tune in to the opening ceremony [on a Friday night].”

Tyla Blount, an international business student, agreed that not only the time slot was inconvenient, but the length of the event itself was off-putting.

“The opening ceremony is really long,” Blount said. “I don’t know how many countries participate but I think it’s most, and that’s a lot to sit through and just watch them wave their flags at the crowd.”

Despite all that, this year’s world stage did provide for some memorable moments for those who did decide to tune in.

For starters, two attendees took it upon themselves to impersonate Donald Trump and Kim Jung Un. The duo sat themselves in the same row, and after causing quite the stir, they were promptly escorted out of the stadium. Needless to say, Twitter had a field day with the moment.

And even if Trump and Kim did not appear together at the event, other dignitaries from the U.S. and North Korea did cross paths. Mike Pence and Kim’s sister, Kim Yo-jong, were notably seen in close proximity to each other amongst the crowd, symbolic of a greater message the ceremony continuously tried to evoke: unity.

Also noteworthy was the absence of the Russian flag from the Parade of Nations. The country’s 160-member team sported the Olympic flag instead of their homelands. This comes as a punishment for the state backed doping scandal back in 2014, according to USA Today.

Politics aside, there were many other moments that got the 24 million people who did watch the games talking. Pita Taufatofua, the single representative from Tonga, went viral back in 2016 for bearing the flag shirtless and dripping in oil. Come 2018, the crowd went wild when they saw the cross country skier reprising the moment, but this time in a cool 28 degrees.

That crowd, which was made up of 35,000 fans, was housed in the unorthodox Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium. The structure is less than half the size of Maracanã (which hosted the 2016 summer games) and is shaped like a pentagon to emphasize the five Olympic rings. Interestingly, the structure is only temporary, and is due to be demolished come the end of the games.

Returning to the political sphere, that motif of unity was omnipresent throughout the entire evening–the most obvious example being the glaring display of the Korean unity flag–a stark contrast to the rhetoric of today’s world.

And that theme of unity, which has been a trademark of the Olympics for decades, was what got the Quinnipiac students who did watch, engaged.

“The unity flags needed to be seen especially with so many threats to different people,” freshman health science major Alexcia Jackson said. “I think it’s important because the Olympic games were made to unify all the states and countries.”