David Owen: Gold medal-winning performance demonstrates financial muscle of the Olympic Rings
Sunday, 13 May 2012
With the fiscal and economic crisis still wreaking havoc in Europe, you might expect these to be testing financial times for the Switzerland-based International Olympic Committee (IOC).
In fact, the Olympic Movement is nearing the end of a quadrennium of stunning financial growth.
It is four years since insidethegames first revealed that the Movement was on course to generate a remarkable $7 billion (£4 billion/€5 billion) over the four years culminating with the London Summer Games.
By this I mean the total amount generated by the Olympics' four main commercial revenue streams – broadcasting, sponsorship, ticketing and licensing.
I now believe that the actual figure might come in closer to $8 billion (£5 billion/€6 billion) than $7 billion (£4 billion/€5 billion).
Given that the equivalent figure for the 2005-2008 quadrennium was just $5.45 billion (£3.38 billion/€4.21 billion), this would amount to growth of 40 per cent or so – a truly astounding feat considering what many people have been living through for much of the relevant period.
How have they done it?
Partly by exploiting the seemingly insatiable desire of broadcasters for Olympic content.
Sums raised by selling Olympic broadcasting rights for 2009-2012 have surged to $3.91 billion (£2.43 billion/€3.02 billion) from $2.57 billion (£1.59 billion/€1.99 billion) in the four years to the Beijing 2008 Games.
Growth of the TOP worldwide sponsorship programme has been less impressive, with $957 million (£594 million/€739 million) raked in over the current quadrennium, up from $866 million (£537 million/€669 million) in 2005-2008.
And domestic sponsorship has done well to generate any growth at all after the impressive numbers racked up as a result of taking the Games to China.
With domestic sponsorship revenues from Vancouver 2010 reaching $688 million (£427 million/€532 million) and London 2012 hitting its £700 million ($1.13 billion/€871 million) target, I now estimate these should come in at around $1.8 billion (£1.1 billion/€1.4 billion).
This will clearly depend to a degree on the £/$ exchange rate used to convert London's figures; I have used the current rate of $1.617 = £1.
We should bear in mind too that sponsorship income is only partly in cash, with value-in-kind goods and services of assistance in putting on the Games comprising a big chunk of the overall figure.
Ticketing income, though not one of the bigger contributors, is another area where I expect strong growth.
Tickets for Vancouver 2010 yielded $250 million (£155 million/€193 million) of income and London should produce at least double that.
For the purposes of my calculations, I have used the $496 million (£308 million/€383 million) estimate referred to in the IOC Evaluation Commission's report on London's successful bid for the Games.
I would be surprised, though, if the final figure were not quite a lot more than that.
In its annual report for the year ended March 31 2011, London 2012 said it had "secured £266 million ($428 million/€331 million) of contractual hospitality ticketing income and client group ticket sales".
This was said to exclude income from public ticket sales "which has been received post year end".
Licensing, the smallest revenue centre, should at least match the $185 million (£115 million/€143 million) generated in the 2005-2008 cycle, in spite of the hard economic times that have eaten into family trinket-buying budgets in Britain and other parts of western Europe.
Vancouver, home of the red mitten, has already produced $51 million (£32 million/€40 million), more than double the $22 million (£14 million/€17 million) managed by Turin, the 2006 Winter Games host.
London 2012 expects income to be "in the region of £86 million ($138 million/€107 million)".
While you might wonder about that, given the depressed domestic economy, the 2010-2011 report said it had signed deals for licensed merchandise sales "which will generate a minimum guaranteed amount of £44 million ($71 million/€55 million)".
Totting all these up at that $1.617 exchange rate for sterling, I reach an overall figure for 2009-2012 somewhere to the north of $7.6 billion (£4.7 billion/€5.9 billion) – more than $2 billion (£1.2 billion/€1.5 billion) up on the prior four-year period.
I have to say, under present economic circumstances, if that is not a gold medal-winning financial performance, I don't know what is.
David Owen worked for 20 years for the Financial Times in the United States, Canada, France and the UK. He ended his FT career as sports editor after the 2006 World Cup and is now freelancing, including covering the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2010 World Cup. Owen's Twitter feed can be accessed at here.