The USOC vs. IOC dispute: a pile of money goes a long way…

It has been well known in international sports circles for a long time now that the US Olympic Committee and the IOC have been caught up in a serious dispute over money, partly the lack of USOC contributions to an administrative fund and, more fundamentally, the sharing of the income from Olympic sponsors and from the U.S. television rights. It was generally assumed that this state of affairs was either the real reason or an excuse for depriving New York and Chicago of any chances to win the rights to host the Summer Olympics.

It has now been announced, however, that the short-term, or one-time, issue of the U.S contributions to the IOC administrative budget for the running of various IOC Commissions, the anti-doping efforts and the Court of Arbitration for Sport, has been resolved. An agreement to pay about US$ 18 million over the next two years seems to have satisfied the IOC demands for what would constitute an adequate settlement of accumulated obligations.

Of course, this is probably the easier part of the agenda. The real sticking point has been the impact of a 1996 agreement under which the USOC receives 20 % of the revenue from the IOC’s global sponsorship programs and 12.75% of the television rights fees for the U.S. These proportions have been seen as excessive, or even unconscionable, by a majority of the IOC member federations. Exactly what constitutes ‘a fair share’ can always be debated, but there is a sense that the USOC arguments are seen as irrelevant by many; the fact that the USOC is virtually the only national Olympic committee that has to make do without government funding is seen in the rest of the world as an internal U.S. problem, and not as a legitimate excuse for grabbing a bit extra of the overall IOC revenues.

It seems now that the impasse that has existed over this issue, is thus being removed through the good faith effort and gesture to make a one-time payment to the IOC administrative budget. A constructive dialog should now be feasible on the broader topic of the revenue sharing, with the goal of working out a mutually acceptable formula. And once this process gets underway, perhaps, just perhaps, the standing of the U.S. and any future Olympic hosting bid may be seen in a different light.

Recent reports on the matter in the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times: