The well-wired Asian nation’s culture and technology was heavily on patriotic display tonight in NBC’s coverage of the Closing Ceremony of the XXIII Winter Games. However, it was the music of South Korea that really owned the beat and heart of the tape-delayed event and almost turned the Olympics into the best Grammys show you’ve probably never seen…even as politics crept in.
“This is for all my bad girls around the world,” declared singer CL as the Closing Ceremony got a whole new kind of bounce with her single “The Baddest Female” and some K-Pop gold medal moves. “Let’s light it up and burn like we don’t care,” the 2NE1 alum and gold medalist Chloe Kim favorite proclaimed as the packed Olympic Stadium of 35,000 got on its feet fast.
Offering a “reason to smile” and “hope in humanity” out of the Olympics, primetime host Mike Tirico eventually summed up the XXIII Winter Games tonight in pedantic geopolitical terms but that all took a backseat to pop overtly on Sunday.
Still, amidst commentary from NBC’s latest team of Tara Lipinski, Johnny Weir, and Terry Gannon, digital Pandas and 2022 hosts Beijing gave their greetings, giving an indication that the Asian Century is fully upon us as the Olympics were handed over to China yet again. As that occurred, the Comcast-owned network managed to avoid any major pratfalls in the booth but also much excitement in the end.
The same could not be said on the floor of the Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium — and I’m not talking about the parade of some of the more than 2,900 participating athletes from around the world taking selfies. “She is ferocious,” said Weir of CL in one of his only true exuberant moments this evening.
The non-Weir volume only got pumped up more by the arrival of the stateside chart-topping EXO. Performing their worldwide hit “Power,” the eight-member boy band grabbed the night from everyone — even strongman Chinese leader Xi Jinping who showed up via video to welcome everyone to his nation in four years after the Tokyo summer games of 2020. As social media exploded to EXO fans, Weir garnered his music critic credentials with the assertion that “K-Pop is a global sensation…maybe it’s just pop!”
Certainly looser than now primetime frontman Tirico, Mary Carillo, and Ryan Seacrest back in 2016 at Rio and distinctly more determined than Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, and Vladimir Pozner’s job closing out Sochi 2014, tonight’s trio mainly dumped the sass of their skating coverage of this year’s Olympic and doubled down on the stats – to mixed results.
Having first been grouped together as the figure skating team for NBC back in 2014 and proved sparkly television gold for the often staid net, Lipinski, Golf Channel regular Gannon and 2010 Olympics vet Weir took on even more of the spotlight this year.
For the most part, they were almost as rockin’ for most of these Games as 13-year-old guitarist god Yang Tae-hwan’s metal rendition of portions of Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” was in tonight’s Closing Ceremony. Though Weir hit a bum note with many for his slagging of Hungarian skater Ivett Toth’s routine to AC/DC in the ladies’ short program on February 20. Tonight, Weir certainly tried to make up for it in his K-Pop devotions and by praising Tae-hwan and South Korean experimental band Jambinai laying it down in the opening minutes of the Closing Ceremony to sky dancers and cheers in the Olympic stadium
In self-described “yin and yang” black and white outfits that will likely get more long-term attention than any non-musical element of the already past Closing Ceremony, Lipinski and Weir said that they came “ready to party.”
Of course, the spectacle is nothing new to any of the NBC’s hosts this year, especially Lipinski, who served as a judge for the then Donald Trump-owned Miss Universe contest in 2013 in Moscow. Yet, for all that party talk, the fact is the truest statement of the NBC trio literally and figuratively was uttered by Gannon about halfway through tonight. As he and the others were delivering trivia and scripted factoids, Gannon deadpanned, “as they look ahead to the next generation we look ahead to the next commercial.” In one swoop revealing the bill-paying truth that has annoyed many an American viewer during these Games and keeping the shindig on network schedule on Sunday.
An annoyance that even with record streaming stats and claims of profitability, has hit NBC hard.
The final numbers aren’t in yet but this Olympics that looks certain to be the lowest-rated ever. Not served well by the time zone difference in what is the first of three Asia-based Olympics in a row, that low is in no small part due to seismic shifts in consumer habits. It also suffered from an overall lack of excitement around the much-hyped games punctuated by the fact that the NHL snubbed South Korea this time around with none of the pros participating in the usually well-watched hockey.
From NBC’s POV the PyeongChang games were full of weather issues and delays, the heights of Chloe Kim and Shaun White, new heroes, and cross-country skiing surprises. On a peninsula in the middle of battleline tensions with North Korea, there were also odd VIP seating plans, the shattering of Canada’s 20-year hold on Women’s Hockey SNL’s Leslie Jones, missed opportunities and ultimately a fourth-place perch for Team USA with 23 medals total and 9 golds.
Starting with vivid colors, skiers celebrating the 106 events of the XXIII Winter Olympics, the first dose of fireworks and as “an optimistic view of the world” as Gannon quipped, NBC’s ad-filled and edited coverage clearly aimed for a lightness of touch. Sure, Oh Yeon-joon belted out the Olympic anthem that no one but the pint-sized winner of South Korea’s version of The Voice knows the words to. Yet as Lipinski said on Sunday of the thousands of athletes getting to attend the Closing Ceremony: “It’s the best dessert you’ve ever had.”
That’s a sweetness that First Daughter and Closing Ceremony attendee Ivanka Trump echoed in a sit-down with NBC News before the big event.
“We are inspired by the commitment to excellence that is evidenced by each of the athletes that can make it here,” the advisor to her father and head of the U.S. delegation said. “It’s truly just amazing to watch the raw emotion when they win, when they lose, there really are no losers, anyone who arrived here had a major accomplishment. It’s very raw, very real, very honest and really very beautiful,” Trump told NBC, while even admitting she thought curling was “pretty cool.”
But not as cool as K-Pop, follow that Beijing …NBC really hopes you can top it.