TIME olympics

Sochi Olympics Faces Prospect of Empty Seats

High prices and security fears conspire to leave 300,000 tickets unsold

With less than three weeks to go before the winter Olympics’ opening ceremonies, Games organizers in Sochi, Russia still have hundreds of thousands of tickets left to sell.

“Some people are scared it costs too much and other people are scared because of security,” Norwegian senior International Olympic Committee member Gerhard Heiberg told the Associated Press, explaining Sochi’s struggling sales figures. Russian President Vladimir Putin invested in extra security for the games following a series of deadly suicide bombings in nearby Volgograd last month.

The Sochi 2014 organizing committee said in October that more than 60 percent of tickets had been sold. Last week, the organizing committee told the AP that 70 percent have been sold but “we are expecting strong last-minute ticket sales and do not envisage having empty seats.” Given IOC documents seen by the AP, Sochi has 1.1 million total tickets and approximately 300,000 tickets left to sell.

Listings of Olympics tickets on fan-to-fan sites have soared in recent weeks, Businessweek reports. “Availability is far greater than demand,” said Marlies Hoedemaker, secretary of a Dutch trade group for ticket re-sellers.

[AP]

TIME Sports

WATCH: World’s Top Bull Rider J.B. Mauney Explains Smart Bulls And Great Riders

Wise beasts, broken bones, tattoos and NYC fans

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J.B. Mauney recently won the 2013 World Professional Bull Riding Championship, making him the first American to do so since 2009. The North Carolina native spoke with TIME’s Belinda Luscombe for this week’s magazine about the intelligence of bulls, disregard for broken bones and his many tattoos.

Plus, hear why Mauney thinks New York is his favorite city for bull riding.

TIME Sports

A-Rod: A-nother Narcissist

The narcissism pandemic has itself a brand new poster boy, this time disgraced and juiced New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez, who has been slapped with a 162-game suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs. Rodriguez, facing a towering mound of evidence showing he was a doper, did what any self-respecting, self-adoring narcissist would do, which is to say he cried foul—and donned the victim mantle: “The number of games sadly comes as no surprise,” he said in a statement, “since the deck has been stacked against me from day one.”

As I wrote yesterday regarding the titanic narcissism of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, such I’ve-been-wronged behavior is one of the central features of narcissistic personality disorder. Narcissists simply don’t say “oops,” they don’t say “sorry.” Even when investigators can draw an all but straight line connecting them to the banned drugs or the traffic cones or anything else they shouldn’t have been messing with, they never come out their hands up. Instead, they double down on their sense of grievance. And so Rodriguez has filed a lawsuit against baseball commissioner Bud Selig and even his own union seeking reinstatement, just as Christie fired or demanded the resignations of everyone in sight after the George Washington Bridge story broke, while spending his entire marathon press conference insisting he’s a good man who was simply betrayed by bad aides.

Christie may have time to save himself. For A-Rod the clock is ticking. He’ll be 39 this summer—pushing 40 when he’s next eligible to play in the 2015 season—damaged goods with a nasty ‘tude and a very high price tag. Would you pay that guy $20 million per? Regardless of when his career ends, it’ll be over soon enough. But narcissism—as the psychologists who try to treat it will tell you—is often forever.

TIME Television

Holds Barred: Why the WWE Isn’t Going to Cable

Correction appended, January 10

It’s no surprise that the popular World Wrestling Entertainment league wants to start its own television network. The sports-entertainment company nets 4.2 million weekly viewers for “Monday Night Raw” on USA and 2.7 million for “Friday Night Smackdown” on SyFy, according to Nielsen. Its monthly pay-per-view special events like Wrestlemania garnered more than 3 million customers in the first nine months of 2013, who paid between $50 and $70 for a single night of wrestling. These programs are aimed squarely at young teenage and adult males, a lucrative demographic for advertisers.

What is surprising is that the WWE’s new channel isn’t coming to cable. The company has announced that it’s developing a new round-the-clock streaming network that will be available on smartphones, tablets and Internet-ready devices like Roku boxes and video game consoles. The new channel will offer all of the league’s pay-per-view specials live, along with original programming, archival footage of classic matches and pre- and postgame shows for Raw and Smackdown. In total there will be 1,500 hours of video on demand at launch. The channel will cost $9.99 per month and debuts on Feb. 24.
“Digital over-the-top offerings represent the future, and given that our passionate fans consume five times more online video content than non-WWE viewers and over-index for purchasing online subscriptions such as Netflix and Hulu Plus, we believe the time is now for a WWE Network,” Michelle D. Wilson, chief revenue and marketing officer for WWE, said in an email.

The network, which has been in development for more than four years, was originally shopped around to traditional pay-TV operators, but Wilson said the shifting television landscape and the emergence of popular streaming platforms made the company think twice. WWE Chairman Vince McMahon told the Los Angeles Times that he turned down an offer to have the network carried on cable with a fee of 20 cents per subscriber per month.

The decision by such a powerful entertainment brand to forego an increased television presence shows that a spot in the cable lineup may no longer be the end-all be-all of media legitimacy. Both the NFL and NBA have league networks that broadcast all their games on cable, but the NBA also offers cheaper package available on smartphones and tablets. The MLB’s superfan product, MLB.TV, is available exclusively online. UFC also has an online network as a paid subscription channel on YouTube.

The WWE isn’t abandoning TV entirely, though. Raw and Smackdown will continue to be broadcast on cable, and the pay-per-view events will still be viewable via pay-TV operators if those companies choose to carry the events. However, the threat of making Raw and Smackdown online-exclusive might compel NBCUniversal, which owns both USA and SyFy, to offer a sweeter deal during upcoming contract negotiations.

As for wrestling fans, they get a television-like offering on an a la carte basis that’s actually cheaper than buying pay-per-view events each month.

“This offering is pretty generous, and it strikes right at the wallets of the typical demographic of young men,” says Erik Brannon, a senior analyst at IHS Screen Digest. “They’ve done a good job here of not cannibalizing existing pay-per-view. They’re finding money where there was none before.”

Correction: The original version of this story incorrectly stated that “Monday Night Raw” averages 2.7 million weekly viewers on SyFy and “Friday Night Smackdown” averages 4.2 million weekly viewers on USA.

TIME olympics

Spicy Runnings: How India’s Luge Athlete Trains for the Olympics

Watch Olympic luge athlete Shiva Keshavan race down a busy highway and even slide under a truck

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Indian luge athlete Shiva Keshavan was first introduced to the sport as a teen—when he was shown some luge videos, followed by a screening of Cool Runnings—and quickly picked it up. Now he’s the country’s main medal hope at the Winter Olympics which start in Sochi next month.

There are no luge tracks in India on which to practice, so Keshavan has had to be creative about his training. Replacing the blades on his sled with wheels, he takes advantage of the steep, winding highways in the Himalayan foothills. Traffic? No problem. Man herding sheep? No problem. Just don’t try this on a road near you.

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