Somehow another year has passed in what feels like the blink of an eye. Predictably, the countdown to the New Year is reliably cueing the highlights from the past year’s top athletes, stories and plays.
As we collectively settle in to nostalgically relive our favourite moments of 2016, I can’t help but reflect on sport news topics from 2016 that never really amounted to the height of what was expected.
Alas, here are my “were these even stories?” stories of 2016:
1. Rule 40 of the Olympic Charter
Didn’t notice that the IOC allowed athletes and their personal sponsors to mention their association during the Olympic Games? Welcome to the club. After years of resisting, the IOC finally gave athletes more wiggle room on mentioning non-Olympic rights-holders during the Games. Pretty certain nobody confused BioSteel as being equal to Olympic rights holder Coca-Cola when they made social posts congratulating Rosie McLennan on winning her second Olympic Games. Talk about much ado about nothing.
2016 marked the moment Canadians tuned out of hockey and into North America’s other pro sports leagues. The success of the Toronto Blue Jays revived baseball’s relevance from coast to coast, the Toronto Raptors captured our attention as they challenged LeBron’s Cleveland Cavaliers and the MLS finally broke through into the mainstream as Montreal and Toronto battled it out for a spot in the championship game. Sure, Canadians still love hockey, but with only American teams in the Stanley Cup playoffs, 2016 proved to be the year hockey ratings in Canada showed some vulnerability.
3. Zika in Brazil
If any proof is needed that the Olympics have the power to shine a bright light on any given issue, take a look back at this past year’s news coverage of the Zika virus. Zika dominated the pre-Games mainstream media, causing athletes to question their Olympic participation and keeping spectators away. Post-Games media was a different story — the news cycle seemed to forget about it, happily moving on from reporting on mosquitoes and Zika and instead focusing on medals and inspirational performances.
And the ‘will these be stories in 2017?’ stories
As satisfying as hindsight may be, nothing is more humbling than foresight. As I contemplate the upcoming year, I can’t help but think these sport business topics will soon be headlines in your respective news feeds:
1. Worries over a low Canadian dollar
With financial experts forecasting the loonie to drop once again in 2017, look for both professional and Olympic sports to be negatively affected.
Take hockey for example. Simply put, a sustained low loonie drives down the amount of money made by Canadian NHL franchises. This could lead to less league revenue, a decreased salary cap and increased player escrow payments. But a low loonie doesn’t just hurt the NHL, it also puts additional stress on other professional leagues operating teams in Canada. Remember, teams pay athletes in U.S. funds. The less value in the loonie means higher payrolls for teams like the Toronto Blue Jays and Toronto Raptors.
Our Olympic athletes are also affected, as they are funded by Own The Podium and their national sport federations are often training and competing outside of Canada. A sustained low loonie will only continue to cost the system more. Fingers crossed everyone’s budgets included some currency hedging and planning.
As much as I wish 2016 was the peak of the cheating scandal plaguing the Olympics, expect 2017 to bring much of the same. As the fallout from the McLaren report continues, expect headlines to expose more names and more positive results from additional retests.
3. Negative news stories on the Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang 2018
Inevitably, every lead-up to an Olympics seems to be incomplete without some kind of negative storyline. Human rights, environmental conditions and a public health outbreak are only a small sampling of storylines plaguing the past few Olympic Games. With the Winter Olympics just over a year away and South Korea in the midst of a political scandal, expect the news media to jump on the “negative nelly” news train throughout 2017 before the athletes are able to take centre stage in 2018 and remind the public the power of sport.