2021 Olympic viewership: China vs USA

Olympic Medals as at August 4

At least 4 reasons explain the differences between China and the USA on viewership of the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games.

While the viewing of the Games both live and via media reporting in Greater China — mainland, Taiwan Island, Hong Kong SAR and Macau SAR — surpassed old records, the attention of the US public toward the Games is significantly weaker than before.

“… Viewership for NBC’s first full week of prime-time coverage of the Tokyo Olympics dropped 52.4% from the same period for the 2016 Rio Games …

“… The most-watched night of the first full week of the Rio Games averaged 33.44 million viewers for coverage of the U.S. victory in the women’s gymnastics team final. Coverage of the second-place finish by the U.S. in the women’s gymnastics team final in the Tokyo Games last Tuesday averaged 14.006 million viewers, third for the week …” (LA Times Aug 3).

The same LA Times article says the time zone gap is the first reason for the drop of viewership in the US.  The second is because of “… increased viewing of streaming Olympics coverage …”

The third factor is probably because of a lack of superstars like Michael Phelps who won a total of 28 medals in four Olympics 2004-16, Carl Lewis who won a total of 10 medals 1984-96, and dream teams in the ball games, running tracks, and so on.   Compounded by this impact, the overall performance of the US team seems a bit disappointing, whereas the Britons and Australians have made many eye-catching achievements, for example, in the swimming pool.

The forth reason, I reckon, is the high frequency of pleasant surprises achieved by the Chinese athletes.   Up to Aug 3 Tuesday, alongside the mainlanders, Taipei scored 2 Golds, 4 Silvers and 5 Bronzes, and Hong Kong gained 1 Gold and 2 Silvers.

In the shopping malls on Chinese soils, people gather around the big TV screens to watch the Games live.   In my three buffets at different hotels during the Games (all tables full, though strictly required to wear a mask when taking food from the trays etc), diners watched the Games live on TV closely and cheered with athletes for their successes.

On the mainland, breakthroughs in the counts of viewing live on TV and via streaming came one after one.   By July 27, the single-day viewing via Apps of the Games broke the 200 million record.    Discussions about the Games dominate the social media with 22 top talking points which exceeded 2.8 billion readings (China Reporters Net 2021 Aug 2).

Successes in sports will continue to consolidate the national pride and self-confidence for China.   It is another achievement after the efficient success in containing the COVID-19 spreading with minimal deaths.

Unfortunately, these accomplishments may worsen the China-US tension because Beijing “… owes little or nothing to Occidental ideologies and promotes the well-being of its subjects as that is perceived by them from the perspective of their indigenous cultural traditions.”  (John Gray 1995 book ‘Enlightenment’s Wake’, quoted in Cullen’s article, see below).

Richard Cullen, who is now a visiting scholar at the University of HK and previously a Monash University professor in Melbourne, warned that:

“…If the fall of the Berlin Wall set Western triumphal testosterone flowing, the CPC 100th anniversary appears to have triggered an exceptional surge of Western anxiety Testosterone …”

“… what America cannot admit today is that China is fundamentally a rightful and widely welcome member of the global family of nations, the equal of any other (including the US) …” (China Daily 2021 July 29).

The opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of China News.

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