Today marks the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. A record number of countries are participating this year – 88 in total from all across the world.
The common perception is that the Winter Olympics are predominantly followed by citizens of the ‘global north,’ – the people in regions like the U.S. and Canada, Northern Europe, parts of Asia – because they experience the weather and participate in the sports featured during the games. However, this year, the games will include athletes from three African nations; a group of participants often ignored by the press, but who make this competition truly global.
From Zimbabwe comes alpine skier Luke Steyn, who trained in Switzerland but considers himself a proud Zimbabwean, and is the first winter Olympics athlete to come out of the African country. Out of Togo, cross-country skier Mathilde Petitjean Amivi will be taking part in the 10km competition, and Alessia Afi Dipol will be competing in slalom skiing. Morocco is one of the few African countries that has ski resorts- in the High Atlas Mountains outside Marrakech, and they will be sending two alpine skiers to Sochi: Adam Lamhamedi and Kenza Tazi.
Given this unexpectedly strong showing of African athletes, we decided to see what sort of trends we could glean about Winter Olympics viewing habits from a small experimental study, directly polling a group of Kenyans, and we were more than a little surprised by the findings!
After surveying 221 people, we learned that 42% of respondents had watched the Summer Olympics in London, but 46% reported that they were planning to watch the Winter Olympics in Sochi. Despite the fact that no Kenyans were participating, only 14% were definitely not planning to watch it, and the rest weren’t sure.
Of those who wouldn’t be watching, 50% said it was because of a lack of access to the broadcast, and 31% had other plans.
It’s a small subset of African viewers, but it might reveal that there isn’t a lack of interest in the Winter Olympics; it’s only logistical and infrastructure issues that prevent Africans from watching. The Olympics are the rare event that have the ability to be truly global; and these findings demonstrate how much worldwide sporting events can bring people together.
One of our core visions and beliefs at GeoPoll is that we could change the world by finding out the opinions and attitudes of the ‘unwebbed’ citizens of the world. This finding demonstrates just how much we don’t know about significant portions of our population. We’re excited to find out more.