Olympics-Revenue-sharing battle could damage Chicago 2016 bid

NEW YORK, March 20 Fri Mar 20, 2009 6:04am EDT

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NEW YORK, March 20 (Reuters) - United States Olympic chiefs and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) appear headed towards a nasty showdown over revenue-sharing that could damage Chicago's bid to host the 2016 Summer Games.

Two years of sometimes acrimonious negotiations are expected to come to a head in Denver next week as the two sides try to hammer out an agreement around IOC executive board meetings scheduled for March 25 to 27 in the Mile High City.

"As has been the case for more than two years, we remain ready and willing to sit down and discuss how to resolve this in a manner that is productive for all members of the Olympic Family," United States Olympic Committee (USOC) spokesman Darryl Seibel said in an email.

"While this is an exceptionally busy time for the USOC ... this item is a priority and we are happy to make time to continue our discussions next week in Denver."

Senior IOC officials argue the USOC receives more than its fair share from global marketing contracts and U.S. broadcasting revenues and are seeking a fairer distribution of the Olympic pie.

"This is a fair point -- to renegotiate -- because the amount of money going to USOC is more than the combined total of all other national Olympic committees," said IOC Vice President Lambis Nikolaou.

"Everyone has been complaining including international federations who are seeing sponsorship money drop," Nikolaou told Reuters.

The USOC maintains it is entitled to a larger share since it is American television rights and sponsors that keeps Olympic coffers flush with cash, providing the IOC with over 50 percent of its revenues.

Under a long-standing agreement, the USOC receives about 13 percent of U.S. broadcasting rights revenues and about one fifth of the IOC's top sponsors' programme that is expected to bring in about a billion dollars for 2010-2012 quadrennial alone.

Broadcasting deals are the biggest sources of revenues for the IOC with the North American deal alone netting some $2.2 billion for the 2010-2012 two-Games package.

If Chicago -- one of four cities along with Tokyo, Madrid and Rio de Janeiro bidding for the 2016 Games -- should win, the IOC could expect an even better offer from U.S. broadcasters.

IMMORAL SHARE

With sports federations and national Olympic committees growing increasingly bitter and the bidding process for the 2016 Games about to enter the crucial final stages, however, there are worries that the negotiations could damage Chicago's chances.

The IOC has called the size of the USOC share immoral, given it exceeds the combined total of all other Olympic committees and several non-American companies are now major sponsors.

"This is a hot potato," another senior IOC member told Reuters on condition of anonymity. "This can be a very difficult and prickly negotiation and who know how it might end.

"Will it affect Chicago's hopes? Every member votes for themselves so I could not say what they will do. Could it influence members in their decision? I would assume so," the IOC member said.

The USOC, meanwhile, has indicated it will not simply give into demands, cautioning the IOC that it must recognise the reality of how the organisation is funded.

(Reporting by Steve Keating, additional reporting by Karolos Grohmann in Athens, editing by Nick Mulvenney)

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