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IOC-USOC deal: some ado about nothing

April 1, 2009 |  8:27 pm


Let’s make a few things clear about the net result, so far, of the volatile revenue-sharing negotiations between the U.S. Olympic Committee and the International Olympic Committee during last week’s meetings between the parties in Denver:

1.  This issue should be of no concern to the International Olympic Committee evaluation commission, whose members begin arriving in Chicago on Thursday for their inspection of the city’s 2016 Olympic bid.

2.  As far as Chicago’s Olympic hopes are concerned, the ``Denver Accords’’ – an agreement on eventual revenue-sharing talks announced Friday in a joint statement from the IOC and the USOC -- was not the most significant statement made in Denver.

3.  The most significant statement for Chicago was IOC President Jacques Rogge’s answer to a press conference question about guarantees, when he said the $1.25 billion backstop Chicago is offering is fine, even though it falls short of the unlimited guarantees of its three rivals.  ``The bottom line,’’ Rogge said, ``is there has to be a strong guarantee, and I’m quite sure Chicago is able to deliver.’’

4.  As far as the revenue-sharing battle goes, nothing really changed.  The points outlined in the joint statement are little different from what the USOC had agreed to in the past, which was to negotiate the revenue percentages in good faith (negotiations now beginning in 2013!) and to pay a share of ``Games costs’’ at an ``appropriate level.’’
Those who have felt the USOC is being greedy probably won’t change their opinion, which could affect support for the Chicago bid.
``That audience has shrunk dramatically because people wanted movement from the U.S.,’’ Chicago 2016 bid chairman Patrick Ryan said Tuesday.

5.  The Friday agreement should cool the intemperate speechifying from IOC member Denis Oswald of Switzerland and his compadre, former IOC member Hein Verbruggen of the Netherlands, who have accused the USOC of everything but the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby.
Many IOC members finally got tired of their shouting about greed and scandalous unfairness and immorality and breaking contracts.  That was evident in the IOC accepting a future negotiations agreement that would keep the current revenue-sharing deal in place until after 2020.  Until then, the USOC still gets 12.75% of the U.S. broadcast rights payment and 20% of IOC global sponsorship revenue.

6.  When Ryan talked about these issues to the Tribune editorial board Tuesday, it was obvious he felt former USOC chairman Peter Ueberroth had been largely responsible for the impasse that existed until last week.
Fed up with Oswald’s and Verbruggen’s USOC-bashing, Ueberroth took a strong public stand late last year against the USOC giving away revenue he showed was generated primarily by U.S. television and U.S. companies.
Ueberroth also was infuriated that handshake deals he had made with IOC negotiator Gerhard Heiberg were voided when they reached IOC headquarters in Switzerland.
As the rhetoric intensified, Ueberroth eventually would allude to the USOC’s nuclear weapon: pulling out of the global sponsorship program because federal law gives the USOC control of Olympic symbols and rights in the United States.
``That one wouldn’t get used,’’ Ryan said, ``because the President [Obama] would get so much heat from the guys he is meeting with in London [the G20].  ``We all have to get along.
``None of us had that kind of leverage.  Peter never had it; they [the IOC] never had it when they threatened to break the agreement.’’
Ryan and Ueberroth, two enormously successful businessmen, butted heads, especially on this issue, in the 18 months between the USOC’s selection of Chicago as its 2016 candidate and the end of Ueberroth’s term as chairman last October.
``Larry Probst [new USOC chairman] did a brilliant job,’’ Ryan said of the Denver Accords.  ``He came in and said, `I want to get this resolved.  Peter is not with me.  I’m the new leader.’
``. . .There was recognition the (Games) cost sharing had to be addressed. Recognition these are not just American companies but global companies, and Larry gave it to them, and I think he handled it brilliantly.’’’

7.  No one would be talking about any of these issues had Ueberroth not helped create the financial model – private financing for the OIympics – that rescued the IOC from bankruptcy and made hosting the Games attractive again to cities.
The IOC had two plugged nickels in its coffers in 1978, when LA and Tehran were the only two cities to bid for the 1984 Summer Games.  The enormous success of Ueberroth’s Games – despite a Soviet Bloc boycott, which followed the U.S.-led boycott of 1980, the African nations’ boycott of 1976, the Munich Massacre in 1972 and the government’s murder of hundreds of student protestors at Mexico City in 1968 – undoubtedly saved the Olympics. 

-- Philip Hersh

(Mayor Richard M. Daley and Chicago 2016 chairman Patrick Ryan at a Wednesday press conference.  Associated Press)