All eyes on Sochi

The three-hour opening ceremony of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics Games reached U.S. television viewers Friday evening, with spectators all the way from Fisht Stadium in Sochi to Washington County turning their attention to the pageantry and the games that follow.

Brennan McKean, a Marietta College student, said watching the games is always fun whenever he can catch it on TV in between classes and a busy sports schedule.

“I always like to watch the snowboarding, and I ski a little bit myself,” he said. “And I always try to watch the opening ceremony whenever I can.”

“And curling and hockey are always good,” said McKean’s friend Kyle Meehan.

Both friends agreed that the Olympics are always fun to watch, but having a better command of Summer Olympics sports mean they focus more energy on watching then.

The nine-hour time difference will mean that most viewers will be watching pre-recorded events after they occurred. For a snowboarding fan like McKean, the Men’s Slopestyle Finals aired at 3:45 a.m. ET live on NBC. Men’s Alpine Downhill Skiing finals also takes place during odd hours, as viewers would have to tune it at 2 a.m. Sunday to see that event live.

Marietta resident Dave Rogers said he always tries to catch a few hours of the Olympics when it comes around, but said he thought the coverage of it is not the same as it used to be.

“When we were younger, we knew the athletes by name because they put them on TV so much, but now I have no idea who the speed skaters are, or anybody,” he said. “It makes you follow them when you know them because you want to see how they did.”

Amy Brockett, a Marietta resident, said it’s the stories behind the athletes and the emotions involved in the Olympics that are exciting for her.

“I always like to catch a little bit of the stories with the athletes’ parents,” she said. “Some of them will move the whole family to allow them to train. It’s amazing.”

Residents also mentioned that watching athletes, whether they’re from the U.S. or playing for a different country’s team, is an anxious experience.

“Watching figure skating, you get so nervous because they’re sitting there waiting on their scores, and it makes me mad just seeing them get bad ones,” said Marietta resident Sandy Woodrich. “I like anything where it’s just a race to the finish line,” without all the anticipation.

Many U.S. spectators will have eyes on women’s figure-skating stars Ashley Wagner and Gracie Gold, hailed as two “stars to watch” by sports analysts.

“The figure skating, it can break your heart,” said Brockett. “They’ve worked so hard, and they have, what three minutes to get it perfect.”

Forbes’ analyst Patrick Rishe estimated that 65 percent of U.S. adults, about 158 million, are expected to tune in and watch at least some of the Sochi Games.

Bleacher Report breaks down the must-watch events for these games, including the U.S. Men’s Hockey Team v. Russia on Feb. 15; the Figure Skating finals on Feb. 17; the Women’s Hockey finals Feb. 20 and the Men’s Hockey finals Feb. 23.