2018 Winter Olympic Games: Over Two Weeks of Public Relations Gold

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve been obsessed with the Olympics. It didn’t matter if it was the summer or winter games, I was there, in front of the TV watching every moment I could. I remember watching Mary Lou Retton win the gold medal in the individual all-around competition in 1984, will never forget watching the drama unfold between Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan, or watching in awe as Michael Johnson broke record after record in Atlanta. My childhood, early adulthood and even in recent years watching the games with my kids, are filled with Olympic memories.

But the Olympic games are also something else – they are a PR dream, or a nightmare, depending on who you are and what situation you are in. For the athletes and the countries they represent, there are plenty of opportunities to overcome seemingly impossible challenges or to come to terms with not standing on the medal podium after years of hard work.

In short, the Olympics is an abundance of PR stories, some sad, some happy and others simply inspiring – and I love them all.

There have been plenty of those PR stories, in the weeks, months and even days leading up to the 2018 Olympic games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. In fact, as I write this blog – watching the first competition of the figure skating team event – NBC just announced breaking news regarding the Team USA flag-bearer for Friday’s opening ceremony. Apparently, after it was announced this week that veteran luger Erin Hamlin was selected for the flag-bearer honor, U.S. speed skater Shani Davis responded (via Twitter) that he actually lost a tiebreaker coin toss that kept him from carrying the Stars and Stripes:

I am an American and when I won the 1000m in 2010 I became the first American to 2-peat in that event. @TeamUSA dishonorably tossed a coin to decide its 2018 flag bearer. No problem. I can wait until 2022. #BlackHistoryMonth2018 #PyeongChang2018


As a life-long Olympic spectator, my reaction is just that. Whoa. Yikes. But, as a PR professional, my reaction is to immediately feel for the U.S. Olympic communications team, the IOC’s communications team and of course the reps for both Shani Davis and Erin Hamlin. The games haven’t even started and the Twitter wars have started. Obviously so much has changed since my earliest memories watching the Olympics – the hair, the fashion, the actual competing countries, and of course, the communications aspect.  Of course, the “inspiring stories” with NBC commentators such as Bob Costas and Mary Carillo have always been there to give us a closer look at our favorite Olympic athletes. But it’s the social media component that has really changed the PR game – for better or for worse. I could write an entire blog just on this angle, but for now, I’ll just keep an eye on @Jambobsled (the Jamaican bobsled team) and @TaraandJohnny, and hope that the Twitter wars stay at a minimum.

Over the next 2 ½ weeks, I’ll be watching the Olympics from both the fan and PR perspective – and plan on writing another blog after the closing ceremonies. I’m sure there will be plenty for me to “dish” about – I mean – to give you all my completely unbiased and neutral PR insights.

Go Team USA.