Do Americans Still Care About the Olympics?

The Rio Games are over, and we have learned a lot. We’ve learned that being a horse is the best job at the Olympics, that a butt-baring Irish bureaucrat is the biggest jerk at the Olympics, and that removing your clothes and dumping them on the scorers’ table is no way to lodge a complaint about a wrestling match. We’ve learned that Michael Phelps is the greatest Olympian and that Ryan Lochte is the drunkest. But mostly we’ve confirmed something we already knew: The United States of America is really, really, really good at the Olympics.

Good doesn’t quite describe how good the U.S. is at the Olympics. Goooooooood sort of gets there, but not quite. For the second straight Summer Games, the U.S. led all countries in the overall medal count, winning 121 in total: 46 gold, 37 silver, and 38 bronze. (China ran a distant second with 70 total medals; Great Britain, with 67, came in third.) The U.S. has now led all nations in the medal count in every individual Summer Games since 1996. There has been a lot of talk this year about America’s decline in greatness. But it’s good to know there remains at least one endeavor at which the United States is inarguably the best in the world. U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!

But wait—is it possible we’re too good at the Olympics? Despite America’s sustained dominance in the pool, on the track, and on the various weird gymnastics apparatuses, the Rio Games were not a ratings bonanza for NBC. Over the past two weeks, according to Bloomberg, NBC pulled primetime ratings that were 17 percent worse than the ratings they got for the 2012 London Games. What’s more, viewership in the 18-to-49-year-old demographic dropped by 25 percent from London to Rio de Janeiro. The U.S. crushed it at the Olympics this year. America yawned and played Pokémon Go.

Read Slate


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