THE BUSINESS AND POLITICS OF SPORTS
The groveling has started.
American media giants are genuflecting in front of International Olympic Committee chief Jacques Rogge and his associates in Lausanne, Switzerland begging them to take their billions of dollars so they can win the television and multiple platform video rights to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia and the 2016 Rio Summer Games.
The media brigade trying to win Rogge and his colleagues hearts are going to raise cable rates if they land the Olympic rights. Someone will have to pay billions for the two week corporate bazaar that happens to feature some sports events.
The IOC wants four billion dollars for the rights which means cable and satellite subscribers will be paying more on their monthly bill because whoever wins the rights will pass the bill onto consumers — whether they watch the games or not on cable TV.
Powerful people including heads of state and those who head up media companies became putty when it comes to business dealings with the International Olympic Committee. In 2009, President Barack Obama was criticized for being unable to move IOC delegates in Copenhagen and landing the 2016 Summer Games for Chicago. The noise crowd (media pundits and Republican operatives) was thoroughly unprepared in the criticism in that they did not know how the IOC works, they just saw Tony Blair lobbying the IOC while he was England's Prime Minister and secure the 2012 Summer Games for London or that Vladimir Putin's bended knee routine helped Sochi, Russia's chances for the 2014 Winter Games.
Sochi got the Games.
Because of Blair, heads of states had to go before the IOC and beg for either the Winter or Summer Games.
The International Olympic Committee, a group that somehow has "earned" permanent observer status at the United Nations, one of two entities with permanent observer status. The Vatican also has permanent observer status. But the International Olympic Committee is not a sovereign state, it just acts like one and powerful people allow them to act like a sovereign state.
Local politicians have created slush funds or have raised taxes to pay down the debt incurred by building huge sports complexes for a two week sporting orgy that has left financial messes behind. American television network executives have filled IOC coffers with billions of dollars, and American corporations have thrown billions to put their logo next to the Olympic rings. Canada changed laws protecting Olympic sponsorship during the lead up to the 2010 Vancouver Games.
The Olympic aura is just too strong for political and business leaders who are attracted to the five interlocking rings like a magnet.
The International Olympic Committee spited women softball players globally by dropping the sport because the Americans women were too good and the IOC could not get Major League Baseball to shut down the season, like the National Hockey League does, and send baseball’s very best players to the Olympics.
The National Hockey League may not send players to compete in the 2014 Sochi Games which might infuriate Rogge and his associates. They want professionals, not amateurs in their little sports orgy. Professionals can be used for cross promotional opportunities and are worth more money to the IOC — money is the IOC's only concern — than unknowns.
At present, the International Softball Federation is trying to figure out how to get the sport reinstated in the 2016 or 2020 Games. One suggestion was to move some of the Summer events indoors to create a bigger winter event but the games must go on in the winter on snow and ice. The International Softball Federation is trying to negotiate in a political maze.
Women softball players only chance on the world stage has been ended because Rogge and his IOC delegates are mad at Major League baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, MLB owners and the former Executive Director of the Major League Baseball Players Association Don Fehr for not seeing it the IOC's way. Selig, the owners and the players just think their little endeavor, Major League Baseball, is more important than
Meanwhile, the IOC which loves to lecture the world about human rights has barred a women's only event from the 2012 Summer Games — softball — because Rogge and his cohorts are still angry with Major League Baseball for not including top players in an ersatz competition for an Olympic Gold Medal in baseball. The IOC awarded the 2008 Summer Games to China despite China's appalling human rights record.
The IOC leaned on the United States Congress to make Major League Baseball change drug policies that were collectively bargained to suit Olympics needs. The IOC didn’t care if baseball players were taking banned substances and some of those banned substances were legal in a number of players home countries like the Dominican Republic and Mexico; the IOC was bigger than Major League Baseball and flexed the group’s collective muscle.
Major League Baseball and the Major League Players Association have separated from the Olympics. Major League Baseball created the "World Baseball Classic", an event that will feature 28 countries in March 2013.
There seems to be just one organization that intimidates the IOC: FIFA, the governing body of football (soccer). Football’s World Cup is a much bigger event than any Olympics, and the IOC knows that. FIFA calls the shots in football, not the IOC.
The Walt Disney Company's ESPN, Comcast's NBCUniversal and Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. United States media rights fees from a network TV-cable TV-multiple media platform funds a significant part of the Olympics. In 2010, General Electric's NBC unit lost millions on the two-week event. Yet like sailors on leave, TV executives feel the need to cozy up with their billions to Rogge and his crowd.
There are few global entities with the arrogance of the IOC.
The IOC has a pattern of corruption unmatched by any sports organization in the world. Salt Lake City, Utah won the rights for the 2002 Winter Olympics by bribing various International Olympic Committee delegates.
New York and New Jersey residents should feel very fortunate that London, England won the 2012 Summer Olympics bid. London taxpayers will be on the hook for millions of pounds to cover cost overruns for venues built specifically for the Games. A decade following the Sydney, Australia Games, venues used for the event are being maintained by taxpayers. Greece spent 5 percent of its gross domestic product monies on the 2006 Athens Games. It took 30 years to pay down the debt on the 1976 Montreal Olympics with all sorts of taxes, including a 17 cent per pack cigarette tax, being assessed for decades long after the closing ceremonies at Montreal's Olympic Stadium. The main stadium for the Beijing Games in 2008 is gone.
Despite all the evidence that the Olympics traveling show is a financial fiasco for host cities and now American TV networks, cities are still going after the Games. There is a question whether Annecy, France has the appropriate funding to remain in the running in the last month leading up to an IOC decision on the 2018 Winter Olympics site. That is the lasting Olympic legacy. A taxpayer draining two-week corporate bazaar that features a few athletic events and cable/satellite TV subscribers facing rising rates because someone has to pay for the television rights for the Games.
Evan Weiner, the winner of the United States Sports Academy's 2010 Ronald Reagan Media Award, is an author, radio-TV commentator and speaker on "The Politics of Sports Business." His book, "The Business and Politics of Sports, Second Edition" is available at bickley.com, Barnes and Noble or amazonkindle.