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Will the IOC rehabilitate BP’s image?

olympicflagFL080610_optBY EVAN WEINER
NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM
THE POLITICS OF SPORTS BUSINESS

It's a good thing that Dr. Jacques Rogge is fine with the efforts of British Petroleum in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill cleanup. If Dr. Rogge was upset with BP, it would be absolutely disastrous for the International Olympic Committee, The United States Olympic Committee and the 2012 London Summer Olympics because the Belgium medical doctor happens to be the President of the International Olympic Committee and the oil company is a major Olympics sponsor/partner and pours millions upon millions of dollars or pounds into the Olympics movement. Dr. Rogge seems fine with the oil company that is responsible for the largest oil spill ever in the Gulf of Mexico.

The April 20 explosion of the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon rig killed 11 workers and unleashed a spill of hundreds of millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf. But the oil well is being permanently capped and BP is cleaning up the mess and so whatever problems there are with fishermen not being able to earn a living or the eco system has been damaged or the beaches that cannot be used is probably a minor nuisance. It's being cleaned up and as Dr. Rogge pointed out to the Associated Press, "If a company would have been negligent, that's another issue. Everyone can be exposed to an accident."

An accident. That's about it according to Dr. Rogge.

Rogge is fine with the pace of the clean up and why not? In the world of the International Olympic Committee (which is an exclusive men's club made up of Dukes, Lords, Generals, Dictators, Fascists and others---look at the lineage of the Olympics movement leaders), BP is paying the London Organizing Committee about 50 million pounds (about $80 million) and London needs every quid available to pay the ridiculous amount of money it costs to stage an Olympics.

Dr. Rogge, Lord Sebastian Coe (the head of the 2012 London's Olympic Committee), General Electric's NBC Universal media platforms including NBC, CNBC, MSNBC and USA Network and the Olympics movement may be more important than the possible rebranding of BP than changing the BP name in the United States to Amaco in the hard sell of rehabilitating BP. Because of the money involved and the sponsorship, there will be a see no evil, hear no evil and say no evil mentality will take hold when it comes to BP and the Olympics.

BP has one of those multi-million multi-year Olympics deals.

There are 10 Global sponsors for the 2012 Games, Coca-Cola, Acer, Atos Origin, GE, McDonald's, Omega, Panasonic, Samsung and Visa. The IOC wants two more. GE is General Electric and GE is paying billions for the rights to show the London Olympics so there probably will be a shift soon at NBC in terms of BP.

As the Olympics near, the London event is still two years away, BP could be rehabilitated, at least as far as the Olympics interlocking five rings and the Peacock (NBC) network are concerned.

That's what Olympic sponsorship is all about. The interlocking five rings logo is globally recognized by marketing partners and all of the negative publicity surrounding the Games has whitewashed all the warts about the Olympics. What is forgotten is the debt left behind by the 1976 Montreal Games, the 2000 Sydney Games and the 2004 Athens Games along with the carnage of the 1972 Munich Games, the boycotts of the 1976, 1980 and 1984 Games along with the 1996 Atlanta bombing and the 2010 death of the Georgia luger in Vancouver. There has not been a number attached to the debt that was accrued in the Vancouver Games yet politicians in Canada are already thinking of a possible 2022 bid for the Winter Olympics in Quebec City. If something has the interlocking five rings on it, then all is right with the world.

Peter Ueberroth either enhanced or destroyed the Olympics in 1984 because the Los Angeles Olympics Committee made money and that caught the IOC's eye and that was quickly rectified by the Lords of the Rings.

Ueberroth ran the 1984 Games.

In 1978, the LAOOC (Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee) traveled to Mexico City to meet with the IOC President, Lord Killanian (Ireland) and other IOC officials. LAOOC wanted the Games in 1984 in Los Angeles. John Argue, a Los Angeles attorney, headed the committee. Argue was given instructions by the Mayor Tom Bradley that the city would not be financially responsible for the Games.

"LA was the only bidder for the Games at that time," said an LA insider. "Lord Killanian said no and they could always take the Games back to Munich. LAOOC members said 'do it' and the meetings were over. Mayor Bradley's assistant called him to say we were not going to get the Games as the IOC said the rule has to stand.

"On the way back to the hotel, Argue said he was going to take one more shot at it. Somehow, he convinced Killanian and the IOC officials to put rule aside one time. With that LA got the Games. Argue had one man in mind to run the 1984 Games, and that was Peter Ueberroth.

"Ueberroth opened a bank account with $100 of his own money.

Peter wanted to have as many American corporate sponsorships as possible. And basically, he got them. One interesting item: Companies like Fuji was waiting in line, but Peter wanted Kodak. He was asking $ 4 million from each company. He went to Rochester, New York and met with one of their executives. He told Ueberroth Kodak would give them $1 million. Pete said it was $4 million for everyone. The man said, "Mr. Ueberroth, see that door? When you want to accept $1 million you can come back." Peter said thank you, went to the nearest phone and told Fuji they had the film rights for $4 million. Kodak fired the man."

Los Angeles was the only city that wanted the Games after the Montreal financial fiasco.

"Of course, LA had all the venues and the sports federations were delighted with them," said the LA insider. "However, there was no Olympic swimming pool (the one from the past LA Games was covered over) and a velodrome. He asked McDonalds to pay for an Olympic pool that was built on the USC campus. He asked 7-11 to pay for the velodrome in Carson. (Peter asked his friend, the President of 7-11 to pay for it. The guy said OK, and then said by the way, Peter, what is a velodrome?) UCLA was going to build a new four-story building on the edges of its campus in Westwood. Peter said house us there for a while and he would give UCLA the $four million to construct the building.

"There were 21 Commissioners of the sports. Peter paid them $5,000 a year. Someone asked him how he could pay millionaires 5 grand a year. Ueberroth said because I can fire them. It is difficult to get rid of volunteers and if these men and women were volunteers their head would not be in it. Of course, he didn't have to fire anyone. Everything on the Games went according to clockwork. Peter, Harry Usher (his #2) and Mike Mitchell (Financial and logistics) were superior."

With that Peter Ueberroth changed the Olympics. The IOC made sure that the organization would make sure local and national governments picked up the tab for losses. (When George W. Bush was the governor of Texas, he put aside $100 million for losses in the event that either Houston or Dallas landed the 2012 Games.)

"Of course, the Russians didn't come in retaliation for USA not going to the '80 Moscow Games," said the LA insider "Ticket sales were slow in January, but when the Torch Run across the country took place, tickets went like hot cakes. I believe the Games sold 93% of all tickets.

"The Games made money ($250 million). The deal with ABC (television) was that if the ratings went up and the sponsors paid addition revenue it would be shared. Peter told (The President and Chairman of ABC News) Roone Arledge he wanted his share ($100 million). Roone said the contract called for the Russians to participate. Roone told Peter he would see him in court. Peter became the Baseball Commissioner and Roone paid him the $100 million.

"Ueberroth shared the money. The IOC got a big payday. But he kept $100 million and started a foundation for LA's inner city kids and put money into facilities, equipment, etc. The interest on the money was the foundations budget every year.

"The IOC hated Ueberroth for making all that money and not giving it all to them. (IOC President Juan Antonio) Samaranch had a good relationship with Peter, but he was smart enough to change the rules so that the city/country got stuck and the IOC got the money. Samaranch wanted to open it up to women. He put in women's softball and men's baseball in the Games."

Men's baseball and women's softball are gone, golf and rugby are in. The IOC has never forgiven Major League Baseball for not sending the best professional players in the game to the Olympics party (the IOC's nasty battle with MLB over steroid usage in the sport was the result of MLB's refusal and ultimately one of the reasons Congress called hearings on steroid/performance enhancing drugs was because of IOC pressure on the federal government---the IOC acts like a sovereign nation even though it is nothing more than a global sports operation). The IOC delegates also dropped softball in spite because American women were so dominant.

BP may have been the cause of the worst oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico but that's not a problem for the International Olympic Committee, the United States Olympic Committee and the London Games. Eleven dead, the local economy wrecked, ecosystems ruined, yet as long as BP cleans up the Gulf, all is well with Dr. Rogge and his group.

It's all about money, money thrown into the IOC, USOC and London Organizing Committee's coffers.

Evan Weiner is an author, radio and TV commentator and speaker on "The Politics of Sports Business and can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 

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