Rio Olympics: 7 Biggest Storylines of the Games

Michael Phelps, Katie Ledecky, Simone Biles 'Sports Illustrated' Cover - H 2016
Sports Illustrated

From #lochtemess to the dominance of the U.S. women to NBC's weak ratings, these are the seven stories that shaped coverage of the Olympics.

The Rio Olympics come to end tonight with the closing ceremonies. Here are the seven storylines that shaped the coverage of the Games (plus, one last roundup of stories worth reading about the Games).

The last week of the Games has been dominated by the story of Ryan Lochte and the other U.S. swimmers who claimed they were robbed at gunpoint. An investigation by Brazilian police cast doubt on that story, with two American swimmers later detained who recanted their statement. Lochte apologized and then did a primetime mea culpa with Matt Lauer.

NBC’s Handling of #Lochtemess
Billy Bush got what appeared to be the biggest scoop of the Olympics, but faced criticism for not asking more questions. Lauer swooped in to get the next interview with Lochte, leading to rumors of tension between the two. Al Roker ranted on the air about how Lochte lied to NBC and implicitly attacked Bush for defending the story (to social media cheers).

Weak Ratings
NBC’s ratings for the Rio Olympics have consistently fallen below those of London (here, here and here). They picked up for women gymnastics. Streaming has performed well for NBC. Through 10 days of the Games, viewers had streamed more than 33 million hours of competition.

Games Go Hollywood
Many stars attended the Games (screenwriter Dustin Lance Black is even engaged to an Olympian), but the presence of Leslie Jones and Zac Efron gave the Rio Olympics a real Hollywood feel. Jones, of course, captured everyone’s attention with her tweeting and Efron showed good-natured class in hanging out with the U.S. gymnasts after Simone Biles said she had a crush on the actor (though her Brazilian Olympian boyfriend didn't like it).

U.S. Women Rule (again) …
For the second straight Olympics, the U.S. sent more female than male athletes (292 to 263) to the Games, and women won more medals than their male counterparts (of the first 100 U.S. medals, women had won 69). America has Title IX to thank

… And women were the breakout stars
Simone Biles. The whole Final Five. Katie Ledecky. Ibtihaj Muhammad. From ebullient gymnasts to record-setting swimmers to the first American woman to compete in a hijab, the biggest breakout stars of these Olympics were all women. Add in Michelle Carter, who became the first American woman to win the shotput; Simone Manuel, who became the first African-American woman swimmer to win an individual gold medal; and Abbey D’Agostino, the runner who collided with New Zealand’s Nikki Hamblin and finished the 5,000-meter race with a torn ACL.

Rule 40
Rule 40 is a formerly obscure rule that bans non-corporate sponsors from tweeting/advertising/talking about the Games using certain words that include everything from the expected (Olympics, Games, gold) to the generic (summer, Rio) during a blackout period from right before the Games until right after. The rules were tightened after 1996 when Michael Johnson’s golden Nike spikes seemed to step on official sponsor New Balance’s turf. This year, more companies and athletes than ever were complaining about how restrictive the rule was. Some companies came up with creative ways to avoid the ban (like Under Armour endorsee Tom Brady's Facebook post about Under Armour endorsee Michael Phelps).



And a roundup of last-day Olympic stories worth catching up on
Biles will be carrying the flag for the U.S. at the closing ceremonies, but she's worried if it will be too heavy. Phelps taught Biles and Ledecky how to stack multiple medals on your chest so they photograph well.



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Olympians are already turning to the rest of their lives, some with endorsement possibilities and some to work for the circus. And The New York Times explains what all the codes on an Olympic credential mean (and the awesome perks of being a member of the International Olympic Committee).