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Organizers and IOC made many mistakes in planning and staging of Pyeongchang Games

by Jack Gallagher

Parting thoughts and parting shots from Pyeongchang:

• It was terrible to see Gangneung Ice Arena with so many empty seats at the start of the figure skating events each morning. Very bad optics for the skaters and TV viewers around the world.

All of the figure skating competitions began at 10 each morning to satisfy the wishes of American rights holder NBC, which wanted to televise the proceedings in prime time back in the United States.

It was ridiculous. Asking spectators to get the arena, go through security, and get to their seats at such an early hour was too much.

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any more preposterous, the Exhibition Gala on the final day of the games started at 9:30 a.m.

• On the other end of the spectrum, holding all of the ski jumping late at night was another poor move.

This was predicated in part by the high winds that can whip up during the day in Pyeongchang, but the results were empty seats and what did not appear to be a large number of spectators standing in the finish area.

• I encountered several foreign volunteers during the games. Though the overwhelming majority were Korean, both the U.S. and Canada had more than 150 volunteers attend.

These people signed up though a website related to Pyeongchang 2018 and were then interviewed via Skype if they were qualified to work. The deal was that they had to pay their own way to get to Pyeongchang, but their room and board was covered for the duration of their stay.

I even met a few who had volunteered at the 2014 Sochi Games.

• It’s time for the so-called “victory ceremony” after many of the medal events to be thrown overboard.

Yuzuru Hanyu wins his second straight gold medal in skating, achieving a feat that had not been done for 66 years. When he should have been getting the gold medal placed around his neck, he was instead given a stuffed toy.

Fans were told to come to a “medal ceremony” at night to see many athletes receive their medals.

Once again, that is asking too much of the spectators. You want them to get up early to see the event, then come back that night or another to see the medals awarded.

One moment kind of encompassed the ridiculousness of not giving the athletes their medals immediately after the competition.

After Hanyu won the gold, Shoma Uno took the silver and Javier Fernandez the bronze, they stood together on the top podium for a photo.

Only one problem — Uno was holding his stuffed toy with its back to the camera, while Hanyu and Fernandez had theirs facing forward.

• I would liked to have seen more interaction between the athletes and fans.

Seeing somebody from afar at a “medal ceremony” is one thing, but how about some autograph sessions with the athletes?

There was certainly the time and opportunity to do this, especially after the events had been completed and the winner determined.

The Smile Japan team members remained here for days after their final game.

How about giving their fans a chance to meet and thank the players for their historic performance?

There were many other less well-known events where I’m sure the competitors would have welcomed the recognition and opportunity to talk with their fans.

• I have never seen and ridden on so many buses in my life. Think of Shinjuku Station’s bus terminal, multiply it by 10, and that’s what we had here.

Part of the problem with the setup of the coastal cluster of venues was that there were so many different buses to take. In Sochi, you could get on a bus that stopped at just about every venue or get back on it and go to another venue.

You could also walk from the Main Press Center in Sochi to several of the venues because they were close together in the Olympic Park.

In Gangneung, the media had to take a bus back to the Media Village, then get on another bus to get to a different venue.

• Despite having seven years to prepare for the games, some things were not well planned out.

Certain foods ran out at many of the venues early in the afternoon when there were competitions going on there until late at night.

It just came across as very strange.

Fans were walking into one of the ice hockey venues at 4 p.m. and asking for a hot dog, and then were told that those and several other items were sold out.

The first day of the figure skating, when the team event was being held, there was no food for sale in the Media Venue Center and no explanation as to why.

Remember the old saying: “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”

There is nothing worse for organizers anywhere than having a bunch of hungry journalists on their hands.

• The planning for dealing with the large number of spectators did not seem well thought out in many cases.

The Super Store inside the coastal cluster had a huge line of people waiting to get in. When I went inside, it appeared to be much smaller than the equivalent was in Sochi.

As I walked out of the store, I saw a McDonald’s that had been set up behind it. Again, a huge line of people out the door waiting to get in and order.

• One incident that struck me as a bit odd was after Germany’s Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot won the gold in pairs.

IOC president Thomas Bach, who is also German, was in the arena and in the back area where the competitors were. He wrapped Savchenko in a bear hug to congratulate her on the victory and held her for several seconds.

Even though there was no disputing that Savchenko and Marrot had won fair and square, it reminded me of the moment in Sochi when Adelina Sotnikova was congratulated by a Russian judge moments after winning the women’s singles in controversial fashion over Yuna Kim.

There should not be even a hint of favoritism at as big an event as the Olympics.

• I think the athletes who were gold medalists, especially those from the host nation of South Korea, should have been able to address the crowds with a microphone after their victories.

We are talking about the greatest moment of many of their lives.

Again, it is about engaging the audience and letting them know what the athletes are feeling.

How do you think all of the Japanese fans in the arena would have reacted after Hanyu’s victory, if he had been able to take a microphone at center ice and tell them his feelings?

They would have absolutely loved it.