The 2020 Tokyo Olympics have been unlike any other Olympic games so far, with the COVID-19 pandemic and social media changing the way people experience these worldwide competitions.
BYU freestyle swimmer and junior Brigham Harrison said a lot of uncertainty from viewers came from not knowing whether the COVID-19 pandemic would complicate the games.
“My thought is people didn’t want to get their hopes up,” Harrison said. “I think that resulted in less advertising, less hype and less excitement leading up to it. “
Finance major Nathan Facer is a major Olympics fan but said he understands why the pandemic would make it harder for casual Olympic viewers to become interested. The pandemic also affected how often viewers could talk about the Olympics with their family, friends and coworkers.
“The Olympic games are the perfect ‘small talk’ topics, but if people are still distancing themselves or not going into work as often, the Olympics are even less on people’s minds,” Facer said.
Once the games began, Harrison found the events he has watched to be as patriotic and exciting as in previous years.
While it was saddening to not see Michael Phelps, a role model of his competing, Harrison was impressed to see younger, new athletes begin to emerge.
Strategic management major Levi Wilson believes one of the biggest reasons why the Olympics haven’t felt as interesting this year as they have in the past is because there are less highly recognized athletes. He said staple-name athletes aren’t so widely found in many of the Olympic games.
Facer agreed and said sports like swimming, track and field, gymnastics and beach volleyball lost a wave of big-name athletes who have all competed in the last three or four Olympics. After building up attachment to certain athletes over the years, he said it’s hard to watch the games without them.
“I watched the Olympics because of athletes like Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps and to see their greatness in their respective sports,” Wilson said. “These Olympics have been tough to watch because for me there isn’t anybody that I am particularly attached to.”
Junior Nathan Austin said he doesn’t watch his favorite sports, like basketball and baseball, in the Olympics because he already watches the National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball leagues play.
Austin enjoys watching Olympic track, beach volleyball and swimming events. He suggested there may be others like him who only watch specific Olympics sports which have much more Olympic notoriety than national notoriety.
Solely watching these popular Olympic sports may be difficult when there is a 13-hour time difference between the United States and Tokyo, Austin said.
Harrison was traveling while the Olympic games began, which made it near impossible to tune in live. “I was really bummed because I couldn’t find any site to rewatch the events I missed,” he said.
Marketing major Landon Anderson said advertising may have been the biggest reason why he and his friends aren’t too focused on the Olympics. “I honestly didn’t see that many ads on social media and just haven’t even heard too much about it.”
Highlight videos have also changed the way the Olympics are watched. “All while growing up and even four years ago, most families had cable TV. Now, we look to Instagram or social media to watch clips,” Anderson said.
The International Olympic Committee is the non-governmental organization which essentially oversees and runs everything and anything to do with the Olympics, including the media, Anderson said. “The committee has banned viewers and athletes from posting highlight clips without their permission, so essentially there aren’t even clips to watch or be found,” he said.
The committee encourages photos to be shared online, but Anderson believes the lengths which people have to go to watch the Olympics make it the most difficult to follow the games in his lifetime.