After months of controversy and speculation, the Rio 2016 Olympic Games have finally arrived. Despite much apprehension, thus far the bulk of media attention has remained where it should — namely, on the games themselves and the athletes competing.
To better understand this shift in focus, MediaMiser analyzed some of the top stories making waves during the Games’ first week.
At 39 per cent (see chart), the ongoing story of the Russian doping scandal accounted for the majority of coverage. Tempers are running high as athletes and spectators alike express their distrust of implicated Russian athletes. In fact, six per cent of media mentions of steroid use also mentioned Russian swimmer Yulia Efimova, who astonished many by qualifying for the Games despite serving a 16-month ban for anabolic steroids.
Perhaps unsurprisingly—and maybe just a tad distastefully—many Russian athletes have been booed and heckled by spectators as they appear for events and medal ceremonies.
Perennial medal contender Michael Phelps dominated the 400m freestyle relay, earning gold for the US men’s swim team and silver for share of voice with 33 per cent. Commentary on Phelps began even before the opening ceremony, amid controversy surrounding his selection as flag bearer for the US Olympic team, being mentioned in 65 per cent of his overall mentions.
Adding to his media-tour-de-force, Phelps was notably seen sporting several large red circles across his back and shoulder. After tongue-in-cheek quips about Rio’s polluted waters played out, it was revealed that they were simply mild bruises caused by a form of physical therapy known as cupping. Regardless of the mundane conclusion, speculation over the marks drove a further 11 per cent of Phelps’ mentions.
Despite concerns over athlete safety leading up to the Games, so far, no major injuries have resulted from Brazil’s questionable infrastructure. But that’s not to say none have occurred: So far, two athletes have resigned due to injury. Dutch cyclist Annemiek van Vleuten was hospitalized with three fractured vertebrae and a severe concussion following a crash on a downhill portion of the 140km women’s race.
Similarly, French gymnast Samir Ait Said broke his leg in horrendously dramatic fashion, as he attempted to land a double back-flip in his vault routine. Van Vleuten’s team mate Anna van der Breggen ultimately went on to bring home gold for the Netherlands, while Said went on to be uncomfortably mishandled by paramedics. The pair’s shared upsets culminated in evenly splitting six per cent of the week’s share of voice of some of the top stories.
As for the games themselves, the reintroduction of golf after a 112-year hiatus generated only six per cent of the week’s overall coverage. This stands in stark contrast to rugby sevens’ first showing as an Olympic event, which accounted for an impressive 16 per cent share of voice (although, to be fair, the rugby tournament began at the Games’ outset).
With tee-offs beginning on the 11th, we’ll soon find out if golf can generate a similar media buzz after more than a century off the radar.