Asia's Olympic star rises on record medal haul and viewership

Nikkei -- Aug 10
TOKYO -- Japanese athletes' success at their home Olympics marks a wider tilt of the Games toward Asia as the region plays host more often and notches record medal hauls.

The Tokyo jamboree formed the second part of a symbolic trilogy of East Asian events, as Asia's market power vies with U.S. broadcaster demands for time zones compatible with American viewing habits.

Japan's stint as host nation in the summer Olympiad that concluded on Sunday came after Pyeongchang in South Korea held the winter Games in 2018. Beijing is due to hold the Winter Olympics next year.

Asia has come a long way since 1964, when Japan became the first host in the region. Asian athletes picked up the region's highest ever medal haul at Tokyo 2020, and the size of the sporting market has grown along with rise in economic heft. While the next three summer Games will be held in the more traditional Western locations of France, the U.S. and Australia, developing Southeast Asia is hoping to play host through Indonesia's bids for the 2036 event.

The 2008 Beijing Games was a pivotal juncture for both China's status in the world, and also how the International Olympic Committee views the Asian market. "The Beijing 2008 Games were amazing for Olympism and television and for creating new interest in the Olympic movement," said Rob Prazmark, who helped create the IOC's corporate sponsorship program.

This year, the Asia Pacific region gave the Tokyo Games its highest ratings, while viewership declined in the West. "We can say Asia is showing strong audience figures in early indicators overall," an IOC representative told Nikkei Asia.

Nine in 10 Japanese watched some part of the Olympics, according to the IOC, and viewership of the opening ceremony in India was six times that for Rio 2016. The men's 100-meter track final and both table tennis singles finals were the most watched sports broadcasts in China since the soccer World Cup in 2018.

General audiences tune in to sports events when their athletes are doing well, and Asian athletes brought home 204 medals. Japan, Taiwan, India, Hong Kong and the Philippines all broke their previous medal records.

- Nikkei