The televised opening of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, delayed a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, fell flat in the United States with the lowest ratings in more than three decades, though first lady Jill Biden received accolades for attending.
“Empty seats, zero atmosphere, diminished team numbers, local protests and a world distracted by coronavirus all combined to deliver just 16.7 million viewers for NBC’s four-hour long broadcast of the Tokyo Olympic Games opening ceremony on Friday,” Breitbart News reported, adding that was the smallest number of U.S. viewers for an Olympics opening in 33 years.
In addition, Friday’s viewership was lower than those for the opening of the 1992 games in Barcelona, Spain, when 21.6 million people watched, according to Nielsen data reported by Reuters.
According to NBCUniversal, just 17 million people watched across all of the network’s platforms, including NBCOlympics.com.
The audience for the opening in Tokyo was 37 percent below that in 2016, as 26.5 million people tuned in to watch the opening of the Games in Rio de Janeiro, and 59 percent under the 40.7 million people who watched the Games open in London in 2012.
“Major absences included former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who had wooed the games to Tokyo, and top sponsors, as the event faced strong opposition in COVID-fatigued Japan,” Reuters added.
The newswire added that not all athletes for the teams were present during the opening ceremony. Under COVID-19 rules imposed by Japan, some athletes must fly in shortly before their events and then leave immediately after competing in order to limit contact in the country.
Reuters went on to note that the drop-off in viewership for the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony follows a trend regarding other live TV events including awards shows like the Oscars and even last year’s Super Bowl, which only attracted about 92 million viewers, the lowest number since 2006.
Some view these declines through the lens of a rise in “woke” political protests that have permeated all American cultural offerings — entertainment, professional sports, academia, and the corporate world.
For instance, Olympic hammer-thrower Gwen Berry turned her back on the flag during the playing of the National Anthem at a qualifying event in Eugene, Ore., about three weeks before the Tokyo Olympics began, which outraged former U.S. Olympians and other Americans. Also, the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team, as well as all other soccer teams, took a knee ahead of their opening matches to “protest racism” under new rules by the Olympic Committee that now permit such political displays.
“People think I’m very harsh when I say this,” NFL great Hershel Walker told Fox News during an interview Friday. “This is the United States of America, and if people don’t like the rules here — and there’s no doubt we can make some things better — but if people don’t like the rules here, why are you here?”
Meanwhile, first lady Jill Biden, who attended the opening ceremony and the initial events on behalf of her husband’s administration, is seen in a video clip reposted to her Twitter account interacting with, and being praised by, some U.S. Women’s Basketball 3-on-3 players.
— USA Basketball 3×3 (@usab3x3) July 24, 2021
“Thank you for coming! It means a lot,” one of the female players tells the first lady.
Members of the U.S. swimming team clapped while chanting “Dr. Biden, Dr. Biden” from the stands, as they waited to compete:
— Jill Biden (@FLOTUS) July 24, 2021
In addition, the Games have not been very popular with the Japanese public, with 55 percent in a recent survey having said they opposed holding the Olympics, while 68 percent said they did not think the Games could be safely held.
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