Published November 20, 2014
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Adding a new global sponsor could be the key to settling one of the financial disputes that has strained relations for years between U.S. and international Olympic leaders.
U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun and International Olympic Committee executive board member Denis Oswald told The Associated Press on Tuesday that a financial agreement could hinge on the signing of a new sponsor for the 2012 London Games.
The two sides are trying to reach a deal on how much the USOC should pay toward the administrative costs of putting on the Olympics, the first step toward a revision of the revenue-sharing agreement that international officials complain gives the Americans an unfair share.
The IOC has nine companies in its top-tier TOP sponsorship program for London, two short of the number from the previous four-year period.
Oswald said the IOC is in discussions with at least two possible new sponsors, with indications that it is "likely" at least one will sign up.
"That would help to resolve the situation (with the USOC) if you have a little bit more money to distribute," Oswald said. "For them it means not cutting too much in their budget."
Blackmun, who began talks with the IOC on the issue during the Vancouver Games in February, concurred.
"If the IOC were to secure another TOP sponsor, that would make it easier for us to reach an accommodation on the games-cost issue," he said. "I think it would provide us with another option."
The two sides also agreed last year to begin negotiations in 2013 on a new revenue-sharing formula to go into effect in 2020.
The USOC gets a 20 percent share of global sponsorship revenue and a 12.75 percent share of U.S. broadcast rights deals. Many international officials think it's too big a portion.
Oswald and Blackmun declined to say which companies or which categories were being considered as new sponsors.
Talks with potential new sponsors stalled last year because of the global economic downturn. The IOC has already secured close to $900 million in sponsorship revenue for the current four-year cycle, and marketing director Gerhard Heiberg's goal is to break the $1 billion mark.
The current sponsors for London are Acer, Atos Origin, Coca-Cola, GE, McDonald's, Omega, Panasonic, Samsung and Visa.
The so-called "games costs" cover the operations of the World Anti-Doping Agency, the Court of Arbitration for Sport, IOC commissions and other expenses.
The two sides made progress in Vancouver but failed to strike a deal.
"They should be prepared to pay what all other stakeholders pay to make the games happen," Oswald said. "It was not easy, but now they agree on the principle, which is already a big step forward. There is a very positive spirit in the discussion. I have a feeling we will come to a positive conclusion."
Blackmun said reaching an agreement is critical to the USOC's efforts of rebuilding relations with the international Olympic world. The revenue disputes were a major factor in the failed bids by New York and Chicago for the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, respectively.
"It doesn't mean we necessarily have to agree on everything, but there's a sense out there that there's some unresolved business," Blackmun said. "Before we can be fully re-engaged in the movement, we have to resolve that unresolved business."
As part of that process, the USOC has sent a six-person delegation — including chairman Larry Probst and new IOC member Angela Ruggiero — to Dubai for the SportAccord convention, a major gathering of the world's sports and Olympic officials.
"The primary mission is just to reconnect with other people in the Olympic movement," Blackmun said.
In the meantime, the USOC is not planning on pursuing any Olympic bids.
"It's really going to be difficult to mount a bid while we have these issues outstanding," Blackmun said. "We have no present intention of submitting a winter or summer bid. Our first order of business is really to address the issues."