McDonaldization of Olympics


In major deviation from Olympic convention, the finals of all swimming events were staged in morning at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Reason: American television network NBC wanted to broadcast the events in prime time in the States. Even the Olympic movement isn’t exempt from the US influence.

The biological clock of top swimmers was not set for morning finals in major competitions but the International Olympic Committee (IOC) was more concerned about keeping NBC happy than putting its stars through hardship or depriving Beijing of some evening fireworks in the pool.

The IOC’s decision was dictated by money, as half of its budget came from the sale of broadcasting rights to NBC.

When NBC wanted the swimming schedule advanced from the traditional evening time to morning to suit its audience, the IOC had no option other than acceding to the demands of the US broadcasting giant.

Without the money it garnered from NBC, the IOC would have struggled to stay in sound financial health.

NBC alone has paid $2 billion for the broadcasting rights of the 2010 Winter Olympics and 2012 Summer Olympics.

The amount is more than 50% of IOC’s total TV revenue for the two events. NBC has bought the US media rights for four Olympics from 2014 to 2020 for $4.38 billion.

Some people may rile against the commercialization or Americanization of the Olympics but figures show that the dollars from the US is critical for the sustenance of the Olympic movement. Besides TV, the IOC’s another major stream of income is private partnership.

For the 2012 London Olympics, the IOC has collected $957 million from 11 private companies — most of them are from the US. Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and Visa are some of the prominent partners of the IOC.

Peter Ueberroth, the mastermind behind the path-breaking success of the 1984 Los Angeles Games, pulled no punches when he spoke about the importance of the US to Olympics.

“Who pays the bill for the world Olympic movement? Make no mistake about it. Starting 1988, US corporations have paid 60% of all the money. Period,” he said during his tenure as the chairman of the US Olympic Committee.

Nowhere is the Olympics as big as it is in the States, the most successful nation in the history of the Games. Patriotic fervour rules the US during the Olympics and the TV ratings soar.

At the height of the Cold War, the Olympics served as a tool to assert USA’s supremacy over the USSR.

Olympic gold medallists — especially in swimming and gymnastics — stand to gain a fortune from corporate sponsorships.

If not for Jimmy Carter’s ill-fated decision to boycott the 1980 Moscow Games, the US would have had the distinction of attending all the editions of the Olympics like Greece, France, Great Britain and Australia.

How usa kept on losing olympic bids

A financial tug-of-war between the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) and the IOC was at the centre of USA’s failed bids to stage the Games in recent times. Under an agreement signed in 1996, the USOC has been getting 12.75% of the TV rights fee paid for the Northern American region and 20% of IOC’s global marketing revenue. The money from the IOC is crucial for the USOC because it doesn’t get state funding.

Some of the IOC members were clearly not happy with the lion’s share that is doled out to the US. As a result, they ganged up to defeat a succession of US bids.

New York failed to get the IOC nod for the 2012 Olympics and Chicago was humiliated with a first-round ouster in the race for the 2016 Olympics.

Chicago’s defeat was particularly galling as Barack Obama led the campaign personally to bring the Olympics to his home city.

The IOC and USOC realised that their protracted feud was a lose-lose battle. In May this year, the two sorted out their differences and found a new revenue sharing model that will be in force from 2020 to 2040. USA has hosted a record four Summer Olympics (St. Louis 1904, Los Angeles 1932 & 1984 and Atlanta 1996) and four Winter Olympics (Lake Placid 1932 & 1980, Squaw Valley 1960, Salt Lake City 2002) so far. As a result of the patch-up between the IOC and the USOC, it will not be a surprise if the US wins the bid to stage the 2024 Summer Games.

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