General Electric has announced a restructure which could impact its status in the Olympic world ©Getty Images

International Olympic Committee (IOC) TOP programme partner General Electric (GE) has announced a major restructuring this week, which may raise new questions about its sponsorship intentions post-Tokyo 2020.

The US company plans to divest its healthcare division, with 80 per cent distributed to shareholders, and focus on three areas - aviation, power and renewable energy.

The announcement was described as "an important milestone in GE's history" by John Flannery, who has been chief executive since last August.

Healthcare items are among the long list of exclusive TOP programme product categories held by the company.

In full, the list reads: energy generation systems, energy distribution systems, healthcare: diagnostic imaging, monitoring and electronic medical records technology, lighting fixtures and systems, aircraft engines, rail transportation, water treatment facilities and services, equipment and transportation management.

The company's new priorities suggest that even if it were to extend its sponsorship arrangements with the IOC, this list would be modified, potentially opening some of the categories up for new worldwide partners.

Asked about future intentions by insidethegames, GE emphasised healthcare would be "part of GE for the next 12 to 18 months and will continue to use the GE brand".

It added: "GE is a sponsor through the 2020 Games."

The addition of companies such as Alibaba has boosted The Olympic Partner (TOP) programme in recent times ©Getty Images
The addition of companies such as Alibaba has boosted The Olympic Partner (TOP) programme in recent times ©Getty Images

GE is one of seven TOP sponsors committed until 2020, the others being Atos, Coca-Cola, Dow, P&G, Samsung and Visa.

Other renewal dates are as follows: 2024 - Bridgestone, Intel, Panasonic and Toyota; 2028 - Alibaba; and 2032 - Omega.

After a period of relatively subdued growth, the TOP programme has appeared to be revitalised in recent times, with new partners such as Toyota, Intel and Alibaba joining.

While the programme enjoyed its first $1 billion (£758 million/€856 million) quadrennium in 2013-2016, this was up only from $866 million (£656 million/€741 million) in 2005-2008 and $950 million (£720 million/€813 million) in 2009-2012.

A far bigger jump is anticipated for the current cycle, which covers both the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Games and the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics.

If GE is to extend its Olympic partnership beyond 2020, then its professed ongoing focus on renewable energy offers perhaps the most promising field of mutual interest.

According to The Financial Times, the changes prefigured in this week’s announcement are likely to take GE's annual turnover below $90 billion (£68 billion/€77 billion) - still very substantial, but less than half the company’s sales in 2008.