Mike Moran: An American Olympic Winter Games in 2022? Maybe...

Monday, 13 February 2012
Mike Moran20Salt Lake City wants to do it again in 2022.

Denver has a team in place to explore its exciting options.

Reno-Tahoe is chomping at the bit.

You don't need an MRI to figure out that the Olympic Spirit is alive and well in the United States right now with the 2022 Olympic Winter Games just ten years away.

There was a time when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) was gasping for air after consecutive boycotts in Montreal, Moscow and Los Angeles. There were few cities willing to take the financial risk of hosting the Games, winter or summer. Sponsors or potential sponsors were leery of their involvement, television rights were chump change by comparison with the billions being garnered now, and there was doubt about what the future held.

That was then, and this is really now.

With Salt Lake City forming an Exploratory Committee led by Utah Governor Gary Herbert and Mayor Ralph Becker to determine whether to move ahead with a 2022 Olympic Winter Games bid on the ten-year anniversary of the tremendously successful 2002 Winter Games, the hats are in the ring.

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Denver announced its Exploratory Committee on December 16 with the leadership of Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper (pictured) and Mayor Michael Hancock. Metro Denver Sports Commission President Kie Ann Brownell was in Lausanne for an IOC workshop for potential bidders.

"We've asked this exploratory committee to explore all issues relevant to Denver potentially submitting a bid to the USOC," Hickenlooper said. "Those issues include making certain any bid would be financially sound and will help economic growth in the state.

"We would also want to find ways to showcase Colorado as the healthiest state in the nation for work and play no matter of a bid's outcome."

In Salt Lake this morning, the Governor's spokeswoman told reporters: "We need to look at what the real costs would be of upgrading facilities, putting a bid together and what other competitors are out there. This is meant to be a small group to advise the governor on whether we should pursue a bid."

Reno-Tahoe kicked off its aggressive push last June, and Reno Tahoe Winter Games Coalition Board vice-chairman Hawley MacLean and membership coordinator Keri Cassinelli, along with chief executive Jon Killoran, attended the Olympic Games Organisation seminar in Lausanne.

But all this marvellous enthusiasm and excitement depends totally on the careful, deliberate and critical negotiations going on between the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) and the IOC related to the USOC's share of American television rights fees and share of worldwide sponsorship fees.

Under an agreement forged by USOC leaders including President Robert J Helmick, executive director George Miller and marketing chief John Krimsky in the mid-1980s, the USOC receives a 20 per cent share of global sponsorship revenue and a 12.75 per cent share of US broadcast rights deals.

The USOC's share of these revenues was agreed upon for simple reasons.

The television deal was forged to protect the organisation's ability to raise funds in the United States, the lifeblood of the USOC, which has existed almost from its inception without any Government funding, unlike the majority of the nations that compete in the Games.

Before the deal, the USOC watched from the sidelines as the American television network that carried the Games sold the Olympic-ringed logo and terminology to broadcast partners. Some of those were in direct conflict with the USOC's smallish family of sponsors. And, the USOC got nothing.

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At the Los Angeles Games in 1984, the USOC and the Los Angeles Olympic Organising Committee had competing sponsors in some categories, even though the Olympic marks and terminology were supposedly protected by the Amateur Sports Act of 1978 to support the struggling, growing USOC.

At the time the sponsorship agreement was forged, almost all of the IOC's worldwide sponsors were American corporations, the backbone of the Olympic Movement and the foundation of the Games.

Without American corporations and American television network money, the IOC was going to face tough sledding.

It was never about greed or leverage by the USOC, which was fighting for its very existence after the Moscow boycott forced on it by the Carter Administration. The USOC of the early 1980s had almost been bankrupted, its sponsors and donors muscled into inaction, and we almost went out of business until the success of the Los Angeles Games opened the door to a glowing future.

So, here we are today, with three gorgeous American cities and areas excited about the chance to bring the Olympic Winter Games to the United States again.

But USOC chairman Larry Probst and chief executive Scott Blackmun are engaged in one of the most critical moments for the organisation's future since the USOC was cobbled together in 1894 by a group of bewhiskered, cigar smoking men in a New York City club. Nothing is going to happen about bringing the Games to the United States until Probst and Blackmun, who have carefully nurtured the relationship with the IOC for over two years, reach an agreement that pleases the IOC but protects the future for America's athletes.

They have worked long and hard on resolving the issue, and there are clear signs that progress is being made steadily. But this is one where you don't fold or roll over in frustration.

The IOC is rich now from television and sponsorship revenues. NBC will pay $4.4 billion (£2.8 billion/€3.3 billion) for the USA rights to Games through 2020 alone. Japan TV will pay $472 million (£300 million/€358 million) to the IOC for the 2014 Games in Sochi and the 2016 Games in Rio. The IOC has assets now that it never could have dreamed of without the United States.

The IOC and the USOC are well aware of what a positive relationship will bring.

The IOC needs American television revenues and the huge audience that goes with it. It needs Coca-Cola, McDonald's, GE, Proctor & Gamble and VISA. The IOC will reap some $1 billion from the global sponsors through London this summer.

And both need the Games in the United States, soon.

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Games in Lake Placid, Atlanta, Los Angeles and Salt Lake City brought success and growth, along with being the magnet that attracted millions of American kids into gymnastics, ice hockey, women's soccer and softball and other sports.

America's Games increased the values of the marketing properties and entities for the USOC and IOC dramatically, solidifying a golden future.

Whether the new USOC-IOC vows are spoken soon enough to present an American bid for the 2022 Olympic Winter Games remains unclear.

But a bid will come sooner than later, rest assured. And it will be successful.

Intelligent, careful and bright men and women are working on it around the clock in Colorado Springs and Lausanne.

Mike Moran was the chief spokesman for the United States Olympic Committee for a quarter century, through thirteen Games, from Lake Placid to Salt Lake City. He joined the USOC in 1978 as it left New York City for Colorado Springs. He was the Senior Communications Counselor for NYC2012, New York City's Olympic bid group from 2003-2005 and is now a media consultant
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