IOC official says financial deal with USOC heralds 'new era' in relations

The resolution of a key financial dispute heralds the "start of a new era" in relations between the U.S. and international Olympic committees and should help rebuild the American body's global standing, a senior IOC member said Friday.

The U.S. Olympic Committee and International Olympic Committee announced on Thursday that they had agreed on a "significant financial contribution" from the Americans toward administrative costs of staging the games, the first breakthrough in a long-standing financial rift between the two sides.

The USOC contribution will be $18 million, a person with direct knowledge of the agreement told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity because the terms are confidential.

Gerhard Heiberg, an IOC executive board member from Norway who helped negotiate the deal, said it is a "very significant" agreement that opens the door for immediate talks on a new long-term revenue-sharing formula.

"We hope this is the start of a new era, that people will see it is possible to work together," Heiberg told the AP in a telephone interview. "I think the confidence will come back from both sides and that could pave the way for a very constructive cooperation in the future."

Heiberg led negotiations with the USOC that began last year in Denver, continued at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver and concluded during last month's inaugural Youth Games in Singapore.

"We listened and they have listened and, little by little, we got together," Heiberg said.

Until now, the USOC had not participated in the administrative costs, which go toward the funding of Olympic commissions, anti-doping operations and the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

The agreement covers costs from the Vancouver Games and the 2012 London Olympics.

The USOC, led by chairman Larry Probst and chief executive Scott Blackmun, has made a concerted effort in the past year to reconnect with the international movement and negotiate a deal with the IOC.

The USOC was stung by Chicago's first-round loss in last year's IOC vote for the 2016 Olympics, which followed New York's defeat in the race for the 2012 Games. The losses were attributed in part to IOC resentment over the USOC's refusal to make financial concessions.

With the administrative costs now settled, the two sides can tackle the more complex revenue-sharing issue.

"That work will start very quickly," Heiberg said. "Hopefully we can also agree on this in a while."

Currently, the USOC gets a 20 percent share of global sponsorship revenue and a 12.75 percent share of U.S. broadcast rights deals — figures that many international officials feel is excessive.

"It is a difficult one," Heiberg said. "We are not in a hurry. It's important for the USOC, important for the IOC, important for the Olympic movement. We will take the necessary time and hopefully we can find some common understanding."

The first chance to open discussions will come next month in Acapulco, Mexico, during meetings of the IOC executive board and world's national Olympic committees. Heiberg said the sides need to work out a framework for the talks and decide who will sit at the negotiating table.

Meanwhile, Heiberg said the IOC is still hoping to sign up a 12th global sponsor for the London Olympics.

The IOC recently signed deals with Dow Chemical and Procter & Gamble, bringing the committee close to its goal of breaking the $1 billion mark in sponsorship revenue for the four-year cycle.

"We are talking to some companies," Heiberg said. "We will see what develops."