Why Do Games Start Before Opening Ceremony?

By Amanda Borges
Assistant Digital Editor

The Winter Olympics began Thursday morning in Sochi which is 34 hours before the start of the Opening Ceremony. To some it doesn’t make sense but to others, it does.

So why do the games begin before the Opening Ceremony?

Scheduling

Twelve medal events have been added to the program since the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. The introduction of those events leads to a busier schedule and the necessity to spread things out so athletes can rest and courses can be clear for other disciplines.

Had organizers truly needed to squeeze every skating event into the 17 days the Olympic flame will be burning over Sochi, they could have.

TV

TV and media rule all. Adding another day of Olympic competition means adding another day of Olympic telecasts. Thursday is traditionally one of the biggest television nights (along with Sunday). With all the money being paid to cover the Games by networks across the world, turning 17 days of Olympic coverage into 18 days is a nice bonus.

Also, in order to compress the figure skating schedule, the women’s free skate, which takes place two weeks from now on Thurs., Feb. 20, likely would have had to move. That’s not good for television or sponsors.

By frontloading the schedule, the Olympics didn’t have to backload the final weekend.

Money

Scheduling and TV are big reasons for the early start, but money is the bigger thing that ties them all together.

That’s a good thing for us. In 1988, Winter Olympic viewers would have been stuck with long stretches of luge in primetime. There were only so many events to cover. It was like watching television back when there were only four channels. Now, there are a number of options for television producers and, as a result, a better experience for viewers. Short track, halfpipe, snowboarding, skeleton, ski cross — these are all made-for-television events that break up the drudgery of endless runs of bobsled heats.

It still feels strange to start the Olympics before the Olympics technically start. There shouldn’t be competition before athletes march into Fisht Olympic Stadium on Friday night but that’s the way it works.

For more on this story visit: Chris Chase, USA Today Sports

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