Olympic play may harm NHL teams

February 26, 2014

USA_vs_Norway_-_Faceoff_(5)In research that has become very timely with the conclusion of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, an article published in the International Journal of Sport Finance suggests that NHL teams who have players who played in the Winter Olympics are likely to experience a drop-off in success.

The study, conducted by Neil Longley of the University of Massachusetts, is titled The Impact of International Competitions on Competitive Balance in Domestic Leagues: The Case of the National Hockey League’s Participation in the Winter Olympics.

Longley’s research was featured in an article in The New York Times (linked below), which examined just how teams who had star players in the Winter Olympics, may be affected during the remainder of the season. Interestingly, the study suggests that players representing the host country, in this case Russia, may experience the greatest decline in performance once they rejoin their NHL teams.



NBC Coverage and the Olympics

August 6, 2012

For most of the world, the Olympics has been a wonderful live sporting event.  For the United States, it has mostly been enjoyed via the wonders of tape delay.  I personally use a mix of Japanese television streaming and NBC live streaming to try and watch most of the events on the internet, but that came to a stop today as the NBC online stream pretty much died right as the men’s 100 meter final was about to take place.  Some were thinking that NBC didn’t want to show the live event, so everyone would have to tune in to the tape-delayed coverage in the evening.

So here I sit in front of the TV waiting to watch the men’s 100 meters (which I will not say what happens for those who don’t know the result).  In fact, some metrics are claiming that around 2 billion people worldwide viewed the men’s 100 meter final live.  This article discusses the viewership (Spoiler alert: it tells you who wins the 100 meters) and how NBC denied the ability to watch the moment live in the U.S.  This would normally seem to make the Olympics less desirable for viewers, as the Uncertainty of Outcome hypothesis notes that for a match where fans can easily predict the outcome, fans will be less likely to attend that match.  NBC researchers seem to be finding the exact opposite of this, saying that viewers who know what is going to happen have been more likely to tune into the Olympics.  I think that they may just be capturing those fans who would watch the Olympics no matter what, and are checking the outcome of matches before hand because they want to know what happens, as it happens. It is also likely, that because the NBC has been heavily editing programming to show Americans winning, that Americans are more likely to tune in because they really are nationalistic and want to see the U.S. win those golds!  NBC has been crafty though, they heavily edited the women’s gymnastic team finals in the U.S., removing an early fall and mistakes by the Russians to make it look like the competition was neck and neck.  This despite the fact that the U.S. jumped to an early lead and really had no trouble winning the gold for the women’s teams gymnastics.  NBC went as far as to not show point standings throughout the telecast in order to give the sense of drama.  In some sense, even though their research shows uncertainty of outcome might not matter, they are still trying to create it… even when it doesn’t exist.

Also, the Olympics do not really compete with any noteworthy programming at this time of year, so it is a good time to be NBC.  In the previous cycle it was said that NBC potentially lost around $200 million in revenue on the Olympics.  The chairman of NBC noted that there is a chance that the Olympics this cycle might make a profit, as the ratings and ad revenue from the Olympics has been very strong.  NBC is really trying all they can do to get viewers and make money, but some will still be very unhappy about the tape delay and jingoistic coverage of the Olympics.  If you want examples, just head to deadspin or go to twitter and type “NBCFail”.  The number of people using this hashtag is staggering.

Lost in Translation (Olympics match-fixing version)

August 3, 2012

Another day, another new controversy.  Let’s see, we’ve covered Badminton, Soccer, and Boxing.  There was also the fencing semi-final with a clock that was stuck on 1 second left in a match long enough for one fencer to score a point and head to the finals.  People ask how an electronic clock can get stuck, well it happens when it is operated by humans, as there will always be an error factor.

The big focus has been on whether it is okay to try to not win during the Olympics.  Everyone has their own opinion, but it would seem smarter for events to be organized so that there isn’t the ability for such gamesmanship.  The newest issue has now come out with the Great Britain cycling team which won gold.  The issue in question came in an early round when one cyclist fell to the ground, which forced the race to an automatic restart.  The cyclist in question is Philip Hindes, a German-born rider for the Great Britain team, who has come out and said:

“So I crashed, I did it on purpose just to get the restart, just to have the fastest ride. It was all planned really,” said Hindes.

In track cycling the rules dictate that in the event of an early crash, teams can restart their race and the UCI, when contacted by AFP, said the result would stand.

British Cycling claims that this is not true, and that what Hindes said was as The Guardian put it: “lost in translation”.

What I see is another sport that allows people to fail in order to get a better shot at gold.  And really, isn’t that what it is all about for many athletes?  Trying to win the competition, no matter what the cost.

More Olympic Corruption?

August 2, 2012

Seems like it was just yesterday that I was talking about match-fixing in Badminton and Soccer at the Olympics.  For Badminton, the World Badminton Federation has cracked down hard on those who lost matches on purpose, and the Chinese coach is taking the majority of the blame for the two athletes from his country which threw a game, saying that they did so under his orders.  One of those athletes, went ahead and announced her retirement from Badminton on Weibo (the Chinese version of twitter).

Japan soccer, as noted yesterday, will not face any sanctions for purposely not trying to score.

While I was writing about corruption yesterday, there was some more suspicious action going on in London.  This time in Olympic boxing where Japan’s Satoshi Shimizu went into the third and final round of his boxing match against Azerbaijan’s Magomed Abdulhamidov down several points.  Shimizu came out like a raging bull and proceeded to knockdown his opponent six times in the round.  This is where things became fishy, as the referee Ishanguly Meretnyyazov refused to award an eight-count for any of the knockdowns.  The match ended with Shimizu looking happy, thinking he would win on decision, and yet when the winner was announced, Abdulhamidov was named the winner, and the crowd began to boo and jeer.

Japan immediately filed a protest, and after careful consideration it was ruled that Shimizu was indeed the winner of the match, and was given his place back in the Olympics, additionally the referee in charge of the match was sent home.  The focus on this fight grew even more as the BBC noted back in 2011 that Azerbaijan had made a payment of $9 million dollars to World Series Boxing (WSB), which some said were to buy two gold medals for the country in the 2012 Olympics.  From the BBC:

The insiders said Mr Khodabakhsh told them that a secret deal had been done to secure funding from Azerbaijan in return for manipulation of the Olympic boxing tournament to guarantee gold medals for Azerbaijani fighters.

One insider told Newsnight: “Ivan boasted to a few of us that there was no need to worry about World Series Boxing having the coin to pay its bills. As long as the Azeris got their medals, WSB would have the cash.”

So now boxing may be the next big focus in the match-fixing issues that seem to be growing at the Olympics.

Olympic hypocracy? Who should be punished for not trying to win?

August 1, 2012

The big news of the day in the Olympics is the removal of 8 badminton athletes from the games, including 4 South Koreans, 2 Chinese, and 2 Indonesians.  This year, Badminton was reformatted from a knockout tournament to group play, with teams then qualifying for knockout rounds based on their group play.  Those in the Badminton World Federation (BWF) said that this would be to improve the quality of play, and are already noting that it led to some incredible match-ups that one would not normally see this early into the tournament.  That may be true, but it also led to several teams realizing that the best strategy for them to advance in the knockout stages was to actually lose on purpose in the group stages.  Thus, the 4 pairs mentioned above were kicked out of the Olympics after not giving their all in matches.  The BWF, London Olympic Games Organizing Committee (LOGOC), and even fans pronounced this a great move as they said it went against the laws and spirit of the game.  Specifically, the BWF says that all players must give full effort in matches they play in.  One begs to ask: what exactly is “full effort”?  They also said that this may be a match-fixing mess waiting to happen, as teams found that the best way to avoid tough opponents in the knock-out rounds was indeed to lose.  One game in particular stands out with a Chinese team and South Korean team both trying to lose.  There is clearly a lack of effort, and the Chinese team celebrates with a high-five after losing the match.  The crowd realizing wait they have just seen, responds with very loud booing, and badminton became the headline of the Olympics today, but for all the wrong reasons.

At the same time, the Japanese women’s soccer national team employed very similar strategies in their final group stage match against South Africa.  Japan’s coach Norio Sasaki had already hinted in the Japanese media that 2nd place would be the goal to move through qualification for two reasons: the team would not have to travel for the knock-out round, and they would also be to avoid Brazil most likely.  Japan fielded a squad with 7 new members on the field, and despite enjoying a great deal of opportunities, couldn’t put one in the back of the net.  It was even said that Sasaki gave instructions to just run the match out to a 0-0 draw in the 2nd half when they knew that they were in the clear for 2nd place in their group.  So Japan’s master plan seemed to be working… until the Great Britain women managed a famous 1-0 victory against Brazil.  All of the sudden Japan’s plan has backfired and while they don’t have to travel, they are facing Brazil in the quarterfinals.

In the end, the LOCOG, IOC and FIFA said that Japan will not face any potential charges for not trying to score, as they did not violate any rules of conduct.  So for football (soccer) you don’t need to try, but for Badminton you do.  Someone explain this to me.

The lesson of the day seems to be to put full-effort into your matches as you never know what may happen.  However, it may also indicate a need for better scheduling systems, and further analysis of whether pool play or group stages really are better than knock-out tournaments.  If a federation designs a competition where there is incentive to lose on purpose, is it really the fault of the athletes who understand the system and do their best to try and get as far as they can in the tournament?  Purists would say that the athletes must give their all, but wouldn’t it also make sense to have competition designed to illicit such response from athletes?

Let the (economic impact) games begin!

July 24, 2012

We are just days from the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Summer Olympic Games, and as we lead up to the Games there has been a great deal of discussion about the economic impact of the games.  Over at NPR, they have blogged about the economic impact of the games, with Goldman Sachs noting that a large number of Olympic Games have made a profit.  They do have a footnote which says:

“In accounting for the cost of hosting an Olympics, most countries (including the UK) have treated the cost of constructing facilities and infrastructure, together with security and other ancillary costs, as being separate from the cost of running the Games themselves. The London Games are expected to make a profit (in the sense that revenues will exceed the cost of running the Games) but this will still leave the government with a significant (£8-9bn) bill from construction, security and other costs.”

Yeah, so if we don’t include costs, there is a profit.  I’m sure there are a lot of companies which wish they could get away with such a spin.  Others have been getting into the debate, I may be one of the few Americans who watches C-SPAN where they play the Prime Minister’s questions from the UK on television every week (which I encourage everyone to watch, if you love spirited debates), but many have known current Prime Minister David Cameron for his focus on trying to cut costs in the UK government.  Yet, he has come out and said the Olympic Games:

They should be great for our economy. We shouldn’t see them as some sort of expensive luxury in tough times.

The PM is noting that i may bring a $20 billion boost the UK economy.  Many disagree, with some analysts noting that the construction phase has been completed, and that sector of the economy doesn’t seem to be doing too well with the games about to begin.  Not to mention the cost will be approximately about $200 per person just to host the Olympic Games in London this year.

The back and forth about the economic impact of the London Games has begun, my guess would be from past research and what we are seeing in terms of costs, that this will be another games that will not be bringing positive economic impact to London or the UK.

Will the new NBA season proposal hurt London Olympics Basketball?

November 11, 2011

The final deadline that David Stern put into place for the union to accept the owners proposal about the CBA or else things would get progressively worse.  Yet, the two sides are still at the table, which seems to indicate either than David Stern’s threats convinced the union, or that this was a shallow threat and that both sides have ignored as they made progress in talks.  In either case, things seem to be moving in a positive manner in the NBA CBA negotiations, though both sides still have distance between them.

The players are still moving towards decertifying the union today, and agents don’t like the new proposal either because it takes away their power.  Of course this means that many agents are telling the players to not agree to the new deal, and keep fighting the owners.

David Stern has proposed that if the deal gets done soon, the NBA could play a 72 games season (only losing 10 games off the schedule), including full playoffs, and would end only about a week later than the previously proposed season.  So how do you get in that many games in that little of time?  You obviously give players a much tougher and grueling schedule.  As ProBasketballTalk notes, its pretty much a schedule packed like sardines in a can.

This causes some issues I think.  First, with a tight schedule and shorter rest periods, players are likely to be more prone to injuries and fatigue.  This could actually be costly for some players who are required to play certain number of games for bonuses in their contract.  Really by playing a 72 game season, the NBA owners really look like they are trying to recoup as much lost revenue as possible.  If you look at tennis this year, there has been an increase in the number of injuries because of them playing one of the toughest schedules in history.

Then comes the Olympics.  Now that NBA stars play in the Olympics, it becomes worrisome that some NBA players might have to play a very hard schedule and then head to the Olympics with less time to rest and prepare.  I wonder if this might effect basketball at the Olympics in a negative manner.  Many star players might choose to sit out (or be injured) to just try and recover in time for the next season.  While it is only one week in difference from the previous cycle, the scheduling and number of games in such a short amount of time is the real issue.  The body can only handle so much.