The International Olympic Committee: Recession Proof

imagesFrom now on, we’ll be rationing tissues… Jacques Rogge, the head of the IOC recently warned member nations that the Olympic movement will have to tighten its belt, given the steadily worsening global economy. John Furlong, the CEO of Vancouver 2010, has sounded similarly gloomy warnings, suggesting that Vanoc may have to look for budget reductions. But somewhere in the Olympic world, the sun still shines.

Today, the European Broadcasting Union, a consortium of 75 public broadcasters in 56 countries, announced that its bid to carry Sochi 2014 and the 2016 Summer Games has been turned down by the IOC. The EBU stations, which claim to reach a combined 650 million people a week, have broadcast every Olympics since 1956. The nub of the dispute is—as always—money. Coming off the ratings bonanza of Beijing, the IOC is seeking top dollar for competitions that are barely on the horizon ( a host city for 2016 won’t even be selected until next year.) “EBU Members were surprised by the high financial expectations of the IOC,” said the organization’s current president Fritz Pleitgen of the German broadcaster ARD.

Jean-Paul Philippot of Belgium’s RTBF was even blunter. “The worldwide financial crisis will not stop at the doorstep of free-to-air television; it will also have an impact on the value of broadcast rights for sports events. The EBU’s offer reflected the maximum price public service broadcasters could pay for the rights, our philosophy of investing in Olympic sports throughout the Olympiad (the four years between the summer Games), and the value of offering Olympic sports free of charge to all citizens”.

“We are sorry that we did not manage to convince the IOC of the importance of our global support of Olympic sport,” he said

The EBU, which includes heavy hitters like the BBC and Italy’s RAI network, hasn’t said just how much it bid for 2014 and 2016, but the consortium paid US $443.4 million for Beijing, and in 2004, paid $746 million for the rights to Vancouver 2010 and the London Summer Games two years later.

The IOC apparently feels that it can squeeze more money out of broadcasters by putting the rights up for auction all over Europe. We’ll see.

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