By Ian Rosoff
The Olympic charter forbids any kind of ‘demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda,’ but the Olympic charter was written before television, and during this Olympics the images changed from the fight for gold in London to the fight for president in D.C. faster than Usain Bolt.
President Obama purchased $5.5 million of airtime during these Olympics, and according to the New York Times, NBC told both candidates that negative ads don’t work well during the Olympics. NBC wanted commercials during the games to be upbeat and complement the positive nature of the Olympics. We applaud their Aaron Sorkin idealism, but the supposedly optimistic Olympic audience found John McCain’s now infamous “celebrity” ad memorable and effective during the Beijing games. With everyone’s eyes on London these last few weeks plenty of people were also viewing negative ads against both Romney and Obama.
The Olympics has the largest demographic reach of any event prior to the election and the candidates could not pass up this opportunity to go negative, especially because it appears that a majority of the President’s ads will be derogatory throughout the campaign. Furthermore, Obama has attacked Romney over his Olympic credentials by going after him during the Olympics.
Perhaps the biggest reason that the Olympics saw so much political frenzy is the incredible amount of money spent on television ads. The number between Romney and Obama might reach $3 billion this presidential run. While Romney and Obama are on an unprecedented spending spree, they aren’t alone. Linda Lingle is running for Senate in Hawaii, and she is changing the game of political advertising. She isn’t just running ads on popular networks, she created her own cable campaign channel. Imagine 24/7 channels that show nothing but political advertising.
The closing ceremony was the kind of grand, positive spectacle that NBC loves, but political advertising is only going to get worse. Political ads are going to set a tone fit more for reality television than the Olympic games. Obviously the spirit of the Olympic charter doesn’t extend to political discourse during Olympic coverage, but Presidential races and the Olympics are once every four-year spectacles, and one engenders fair competition and shuns propaganda, the other well, let’s just say it wouldn’t impress Mckayla.