Olympics-Sponsorship rules help, don't hinder, athletes -IOC

LAUSANNE, Switzerland, Jan 9 (Reuters) - A controversial rule in the Olympic Charter limiting athletes’ sponsorship opportunities during the Games is benefiting thousands more athletes who do not have major financial backers, the International Olympic Committee said on Thursday.

Rule 40 of the Olympic charter states that Games athletes cannot allow their “person, name, picture or sports performances to be used for advertising purposes during the Olympic Games”.

It is aimed at protecting the rights of the International Olympic Committee’s own Olympic sponsors who contribute billions of dollars to the organisation of the Games.

However, the German Cartel Office ruled in February 2019 that the IOC and the German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB) were subject to competition laws and had to grant more rights for promotional activities ahead of and during the Games.

The decision triggered changes in several countries in favour of athletes and their personal sponsors, including in the United States, ahead of this year’s Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

“With Rule 40, the conversation was about the solidarity model and how as a commission we very much feel there needs to be an understanding, how we look at it from a global aspect and not from an individual aspect,” IOC athletes’ commission chief Kirsty Coventry said.

“We want people to understand that there are athletes that come from different backgrounds. There are so many more athletes that benefit from the solidarity model,” Coventry, an Olympic champion and Zimbabwe government minister, told reporters after a meeting with the IOC leadership.

Athletes had complained for years that the rule was severely restricting them from benefiting financially at the peak of their sporting careers which are the Olympic Games and instead gave all the power to the IOC.

The IOC said the redistribution of more than 90 percent of its own revenues - the majority of which comes from broadcasters and sponsors - was vital for many athletes, federations and national Olympic Committees with limited resources.

“You go (to the Games) as a team and not as an individual,” she said, admitting that there were different opinions among athletes.

“We are always open and willing to work with any athletes’ group. We have an open door policy. It makes all of us better understand the landscape and what they are going through.” (Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Nick Macfie)