Sochi, Russia — No controversy, no Olympics.
And that is the way it is at the 2014 Sochi Games, too.
International Olympic Committee officials addressed issues regarding attendance Sunday. NBC is addressing is editing of the broadcast of the Opening Ceremony.
And officials are largely dismissing what may be a non-issue: a French report, apparently based on a single, unnamed source, that the Americans and Russians are colluding to rig the ice dancing competition, in which Meryl Davis, of West Bloomfield, and Charlie White, of Bloomfield Hills, are favorites to win the gold medal.
Concerns about attendance daunted the Games from before the start. Would securing the Winter Olympics from terror and the threat of terror itself hold down attendance?
It was striking Saturday that in a country where Russians hold figure skating in high esteem, the second day of the first team competition in the history of the Olympics occurred with the Iceberg Skating Palace perhaps two-thirds full.
Russian officials said there was a higher proportion of attendees at all events Saturday, with 92 percent of tickets sold and an 81 percent of capacity achieved.
Total attendance at all 14 events was 40,000, officials said.
Some reason for the shortfall, they said, are some early delays in clearing fans through security, which they say will improve as the days pass; the traditional Russian habit of appearing at the last possible moment for entertainment events; and fans not quite having travel routes and other logistics mastered.
Similar things occur at all Olympics. In fact, the transportation problems in Vancouver in 2010 were massive for the first few days and at least a bit of a problem for several afterward.
“We have seen pretty full stadia,” said Aleksandra Kosterina, vice president of communications for the Russian Organizing Committee. “We are hoping it is going to get better as the days develop.
“In terms of logistics of the venues, I think during the first days people are really working out the timing, how long it actually takes them to get to the venues, how long it takes them to cross the security barrier, et cetera, et cetera.
“So, it’s not an issue of security per se but of logistics, and of people just figuring out what time they have to spend in order to get to the venue.”
Politics are back ...
Coming into the Games, Russian policies and laws about gays, lesbians and transgender people were in sharp focus. When IOC president Thomas Bach addressed it, without specifically mentioning it during his speech at the Opening Ceremony, some were pleased and others thought he should simply have been more direct.
What NBC deleted from its broadcast was the most direct portion of Bach’s indirect assertions on the issue.
“Yes, it is possible, even as competitors, to live under one roof in harmony, with tolerance and without any form of discrimination for whatever reasons,” Bach said.
As for NBC, a spokesman said, “The IOC President’s comments were edited for time, as were other speeches. But his message got across very clear to viewers.”
Many others around Olympic Park and the Coastal Cluster of housing in Sochi disagreed, and the issue continued to roil even Sunday, two days after the address, when the IOC was asked about the decision at a news conference.
Mark Adams, communications director for the IOC, said Bach is aware of the controversy and the broadcast.
“Of course, we have some strong messages we want to get across, the president has some particularly strong messages he wants to deliver,” Adams said.
“It is an editorial decision. Each rights holder makes that decision as to how they broadcast events for their audiences.”
... and so is skating
The report in the French newspaper, despite its tenuous nature, created a bit of an uproar in Canadian figure skating circles. It also implicates past scoring scandals in figure skating.
L’Equipe reported an unnamed “Russian coach” says the Americans and Russians are conspiring to have Davis and White win the gold in the ice dance, and the Russians in pairs and the team event.
Although the media scrum was adamant Saturday in asking skaters about the story, figure skating and Olympics officials were utterly dismissive, in part, based on the lack of identification, the single source and only one publication reporting it.
“The International Skating Union does not respond to allegations without evidence,” said officials from ISU, the governing body for the sport, in a release.
“Comments made in a L’Equipe story are categorically false,” U.S. Figure Skating officials said in a statement.
“There is no ‘help’ between countries. We have not further response to rumors, anonymous sources or conjecture.”
Even Olympic officials in Canada, where the story has resonance, were dismissive.
“We won’t be commenting on this speculative story,” said Jane Almeida, manager of media relations for the Canadian Olympic Committee.