SEOUL, Feb. 26 (Korea Bizwire) – Despite a general lack of enthusiasm for the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, South Korean TV ratings fared well, with over 65 percent of the public tuned in at one point to watch two-time gold medalist Lee Sang-hwa compete.
SBS came out on top of the ratings war in South Korea, leaving behind its rivals KBS and MBC with over 70 million on-demand views.
The women’s curling semi-final with Japan was one of the most watched events, as over 46 percent of viewers tuned in to watch the nail-biting, extra-ends game that booked South Korea to the final.
Nearly 5 billion people are projected to have watched this year’s Winter Olympics, according to the International Olympic Committee, up 14 percent from the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics.
Earlier, Timo Lumme, managing director of IOC’s television and marketing services, estimated during a press conference that over 300 million viewers had watched at least some of the opening ceremony.
Initial Skepticism and Challenges
The success of the PyeongChang Olympics faced skepticism at first, as indicated by slow ticket sales, criticism against transport to the host city, and growing threats to national security courtesy of North Korean belligerence, which many warned could potentially scare off international visitors.
In a survey conducted by pollster Embrain Trend Monitor last month, just over half of the respondents knew about the schedule and venues for the Winter Olympics, with fewer South Koreans showing interest in the sports events than four years ago.
Reports of a harsh weather forecast for the opening day added to the growing concerns over PyeongChang’s ability to host a successful Winter Olympics.
The 63.5 billion won main stadium also drew criticism over its roofless design, which prompted some athletes to opt out of attending the open-air opening ceremony out of concern for the impact prolonged exposure to the cold might have on their performance.
Many also feared a divided public opinion on a show of Inter-Korean unity such as a unified women’s ice hockey team and the unified Korean flag could dent the popularity of the PyeongChang Olympics at home.
Opposition lawmaker Yoo Seong-min slammed President Moon Jae-in for his push for a united Korean team, and said it was a totalitarian idea to make individuals sacrifice for the sake of a ‘sight’.
Secret Behind Successful Winter Olympics
Ticket sales jumped towards the end of the games, spurred by growing interest in curling and skeleton where South Korean athletes excelled, reaching the ticket sales goal of 1.06 million.
South Korean athletes won a record-breaking 17 medals in six sports, including short track speed skating and relay, skeleton, curling, and bobsleigh, surpassing the previous record of 14 medals at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
The South Korean team’s impressive performances in uncharted areas helped boost TV ratings, with a total of 35.3 percent of households tuning in to watch the women’s curling final.
Contrary to criticism, the PyeongChang Olympics are set to be remembered as among the most cost-effective sporting events, with predictions of a bottom line in the black thanks to sponsorships, donations, and impressive sales of Olympics merchandise, Lee Hee-beom, head of the PyeongChang Organizing Committee, said during an interview.
As promised during the bid for the Olympic Games, the PyeongChang Olympics were designed to prioritize athletes more than anything, with all of the venues within a 30-minute drive of each other, and with 75 percent of athletes staying less than 10 minutes away from the arenas.
The budget for the opening and closing ceremonies of the PyeongChang Olympics was 66.8 billion won, paling in comparison to both the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics and the London 2012 Summer Olympics, when around 171.5 billion won and 183.9 billion won were spent, respectively.
Ashley Song (firstname.lastname@example.org)