Progress on revenue talks could encourage U.S. bid

Jun 8 2011 - 4:16pm

LAUSANNE, Switzerland -- A day after securing a $4.38 billion deal with NBC, the IOC inched closer toward a new revenue-sharing agreement with U.S. Olympic leaders Wednesday that could open the way for an American bid for the 2020 Games.

The International Olympic Committee and USOC reported progress in their latest round of talks aimed at resolving a long-running dispute over revenue sharing that contributed to stinging defeats for New York for the 2012 Games and Chicago for 2016.

"It went very well," IOC marketing commission chairman Gerhard Heiberg told The Associated Press. "It was a very positive atmosphere. We are getting closer and closer. We are down to small points. It's still our hope that before too long we should be there."

Both sides have expressed hope of signing a new deal before the IOC general assembly from July 6-9 in Durban, South Africa, although no deadline has been set.

"The tone was positive," U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun told the AP. "Everybody's approaching the discussions with a very open mind. Hopefully, we can continue to make progress going forward."

Agreeing on a revenue-sharing plan would remove a major impediment to any U.S. Olympic bid.

The timeline for 2020 is tight, however. National Olympic Committees have until Sept. 1 to submit the names of any applicant cities to the IOC.

"I think it would be very positive for the United Sates, for the IOC and for everybody if they had a good city in the race for 2020," Heiberg said. "We would like to have games in the USA again, no question about it. If we could solve this discussion or find solutions here it would also be positive for the possibilities of the United States to apply for the games."

While U.S. officials have indicated a 2020 bid remains unlikely, it has not been ruled out.

"We really are not giving it any thought at this point," Blackmun said. "We will turn our thoughts to future bids if and when we solve the revenue-sharing issues."

At the heart of the dispute is the USOC's long-standing 20 percent share of global sponsorship revenues and 12.75 percent cut of U.S. broadcast rights deals. Many IOC and international sports officials consider the U.S. share excessive and want the money spread to other Olympic bodies.

International resentment over the USOC's share was considered a key factor in Chicago's first-round loss in the IOC vote in 2009 for the 2016 Olympics, which were awarded to Rio de Janeiro. That followed New York's defeat in the race for the 2012 Games, which went to London. The U.S. hasn't hosted a Summer Olympics since the 1996 Atlanta Games.

"If there is a bid coming in 2020 from the United States of America, we would be very happy," IOC President Jacques Rogge said Tuesday.

Among U.S. cities mentioned as potential interested bidders include New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, Minneapolis and Tulsa, Okla.

"Obviously there are some issues that need to get solved, but I think it would be a good thing to have a U.S. candidature," IOC finance commission chairman Richard Carrion of Puerto Rico told the AP.

Acknowledging U.S. reluctance in the wake of the New York and Chicago defeats, he said, "I understand that, but if you don't compete you can't win."

Rome is the only city so far that has been officially endorsed by its national Olympic committee as a 2020 candidate.

South Africa, once considered a potential leading contender, announced last month that it would not mount a bid. Potential bids could come from Tokyo; Toronto; Madrid; Doha, Qatar; and Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Many countries are waiting until after the July 6 vote in Durban on the host city of the 2018 Winter Games. The three candidates are Annecy, France; Munich; and Pyeongchang, South Korea.

If Pyeongchang wins, Asian cities could be reluctant to come forward for 2020. Likewise, some European cities might hold off if the 2018 Games go to Munich or Annecy. The 2020 host city will be selected in 2013.

Blackmun, USOC chairman Larry Probst and business executive Fraser Bullock met for an hour Wednesday with Heiberg, Carrion and IOC director general Christophe De Kepper. No new date was set for further talks.

"We will exchange views in writing and also by telephone and, if necessary, we will have another meeting before Durban," Heiberg said.

The revenue-sharing issue has strained relations for years between the USOC and IOC, leading to a decline in American influence in the European-dominated body. However, Probst and Blackmun have made a concerted effort over the past year to mend fences and work toward a financial accord with the IOC.

"There's been enormous progress in the perception of the USOC by the IOC members," Carrion said. "There is still a lot of work to do and you don't erase things in one year but genuine progress is being made. Hopefully, we'll see some tangible affects of that."

The USOC and IOC agreed last year to negotiate a new revenue formula that will take effect after 2020. As a first step, the USOC agreed last year to contribute about $18 million toward the administrative costs of staging the 2010 and 2012 Olympics.

Both sides learned Tuesday how much TV money will be coming into the revenue stream when NBC won the broadcast rights to four Olympics through 2020 for $4.38 billion, defeating rival bids from ESPN and Fox. Based on the current formula, the USOC's 12.75 share would come to $558 million.

TV money represents 40 percent of the USOC's revenues.

"We're very pleased with that outcome," Blackmun said. "The fact that we know the number is useful to each side."

From Around the Web

  +