Readers Roundtable: Would You Tune In for a Fall Olympics?

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced last week that they are planning to move the marathon and race walking events in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics to Sapporo – 500 miles north of Tokyo – due to concerns about heat and safety. (It’s a bit unclear if they will actually move, as the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee is interpreting this as just a “proposal”).

The aforementioned heat is no joke. A 2017 heatwave saw record high temps in Tokyo of around 106 degrees. This got me thinking, why award a Summer Games to Tokyo in the first place? After all, the last time they were the host city in 1964, the Games were in October.

In 2000, the IOC established July and August as the months to hold the Summer Olympics. They’re the ideal time window for TV networks to cover the event.

But does that really matter any more, with all the ways we have to watch?

A couple weeks ago, Cilantro asked ifย having the IAAF World Championships in Doha wasn’t so bad, in part because – despite the extreme heat – ย people have to do some special training to prepare for an championship location all the time. I disagree – why put athletes in a dangerous situation? It’s not like moving the Games to later in the year is an unprecedented move. Besides the ’64 Tokyo Games, the 1968 Olympics were held in October in Mexico City and the 1988 Olympics in Seoul were held in late September and early October. Most recently, in 2000, the Sydney Olympics were held in the last two weeks of September to account for Southern Hemisphere weather.

Beijing 2008 Olympic Logo on Hong Kong Art Museum 1However, after the 2000 Games had extremely low TV ratings, the IOC put the provision in place about July and August. Why? Well, I found a few reasons. 1) input from international sporting federations 2) the lull in the sports calendar 3) the American TV audience. Neal Pilson, former president of CBS Sports, home of the ’92, ’94 and ’98 Winter Olympics in the United States, said, โ€œThe Summer Olympics are simply of less value if held in October because of pre-existing program commitments for sports.”

But does that really matter? We can now watch the Olympics on our phones, tablets and laptops, and programming a DVR to record them is much easier than figuring out ye old VCR settings. Further, now you can record multiple channels and competitions at once. Technology – including streaming services – has transformed the way we consume media, so why are we sticking to old broadcasting norms?

Don’t get me wrong – I’m an Olympics junkie. I even took a whole class on the History of the Olympics in college. I am just not particularly married to the idea of watching them in a certain month. I’m happy to have my DVR full of running, gymnastics and swimming, no matter what the calendar says.

Would you hit record or play no matter when the Olympics took place or are you a Summer/Winter Games originalist?

Southern transplant who loves 90s boy bands, outdoor adventures and college basketball, although not necessarily in that order. Recovering running perfectionist.

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  1. I don’t think I care when the Olympics are on. I’ll watch as much as I can regardless. That said, what I would really like is some kind of fee, say $25-50, where I could just pay that one time, and watch whatever I want to. Maybe I want to see every single round of competition in ice dancing or something – it’s incredibly interesting to see an entire competition, not just the Americans and the winners. I’d love the option of signing up (for a fee is fine), watch whatever events you like, in any order you like – time of year is irrelevant.

    1. Yes, I second this! This coming Olympics will be the first since we’ve cut the cord. It will be interesting to see how broadcasters adapt as that becomes true of a larger segment of the population.