David Owen

The 2018 financial statements of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) were made public during last week’s Session in Lausanne.

Because of the body’s unique characteristics, it generally takes a while to get one’s head around the key trends they enshrine. But with the aid of answers supplied by the IOC, with commendable speed, to some detailed and rather arcane questions, I am finally ready to attempt an analysis.

The Olympic cycle lasts for four years, with the biggest money-spinner – the Summer Games – occurring in the final year of the quadrennium. This means that when attempting to monitor trends, it often makes sense to draw comparisons with the situation at the same stage in the prior cycle, rather than with the previous year or years.

In much of what follows, therefore, I am comparing the results obtained in 2017 and 2018, the year of the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, with 2013 and 2014, the year of Sochi.

The big picture is that the amount of revenue recognised by the IOC so far in the current Olympiad is $2.87 billion (£2.28 billion/€2.54 billion).

This represents growth of 44 per cent from the $1.99 billion (£1.58 billion/€1.76 billion) of revenue recognised by the same point in the 2013-16 cycle.

Within this are some important variations.

For example, in 2013-14, broadcasting rights accounted for 65 per cent of the total; this time around, this proportion has fallen to 50 per cent as revenue from sponsorship has grown much more rapidly.

By territory, the Americas provided an even higher proportion – 71 per cent – of this broadcasting income in the most recent period than in 2013-14, when the corresponding figure was around 66 per cent.

This partly reflected a sharp fall – from $293.3 million (£233.5 million/€260 million) to $180 million (£143.3 million/€159.5 million) – in broadcasting rights revenue emanating from Europe.

This was offset for the most part by a strong increase – from $138.7 million (£110.4 million/€122.9 million) to $210.5 million (£167.6 million/€186.5 million) – from Asia.

The IOC's President, Thomas Bach, attended Sunday's European Games Closing Ceremony in Minsk ©Getty Images
The IOC's President, Thomas Bach, attended Sunday's European Games Closing Ceremony in Minsk ©Getty Images

Asked about this, the IOC’s response was that “whilst broadcast revenues increased globally, there is always some variation in revenue by continent when comparing to previous Olympic Games or previous four-year cycles, depending on a number of factors including location/time zone of the Olympic Games and regional market conditions”.

I am going to be charitable and conclude that these striking geographic variations had more to do with the 2018 Winter Olympics being staged in Asia than dwindling interest in winter sports in Europe.

However, Asia has now overtaken Europe as the IOC’s second-most important market for Winter Games broadcasting rights – and with the 2022 Winter Games earmarked for Beijing, it is hard to imagine this status not being confirmed in four years’ time.

Will Europe revert to the number two slot in 2026, when the Winter Olympics return to Italy? That now has the look of a most interesting question.

Broadcasting’s declining share of IOC revenues is explained by the surging performance of the organisation’s The Olympic Partner (TOP) worldwide sponsorship programme.

This contributed $1.1 billion (£876 million/€975 million) of revenue in 2017-18, compared with $450.5 million (£358.6 million/€399 million) in 2013-14 – a jump of more than 140 per cent.

The IOC’s expert in this field, Timo Lumme, saw this coming, indicating to me as long ago as 2015 that TOP could conceivably generate $2 billion (£1.6 billion/€1.8 million) over the Tokyo 2020 cycle.)

Even so, it is an impressive achievement, to put alongside Tokyo 2020’s astonishing feat of generating more than $3 billion (£2.3 billion/€2.6 billion) in domestic sponsorship.

As is the way with these partnerships, much of what individual sponsors contribute takes the form of so-called “value-in-kind” (VIK) goods and services, rather than hard cash.

Artists perform during the 1,000-day countdown to the Opening Ceremony of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics ©Getty Images
Artists perform during the 1,000-day countdown to the Opening Ceremony of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics ©Getty Images

So I was interested to see in the small print of the latest accounts reference to a new concept, at least for me, namely “marketing-in-kind” (MIK).

The IOC tells me that it “recognised” MIK in 2017.

It added: “MIK refers to funds that are separate from rights fees and which are applied by a TOP Partner, as agreed with the IOC, towards specific Olympic-related marketing development activities that are mutually beneficial to the interests of both the IOC and the TOP Partner.”

One other knock-on from the TOP surge, as I touch on elsewhere, it has triggered a more than 70 per cent advance in the amount distributed to the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) by the IOC from $176.2 million (£140.3 million/€156 million) in 2013-14 to $304.6 million (£242.5 million/€270 million) in 2017-18.

The new accounts also reveal that the IOC’s bank borrowings rose from $38.5 million (£30.6 million/€34 million) to $92.9 million (£74 million/€82.3 million) over the course of 2018.

The organisation has contracted a loan of up to a maximum of CHF120 million (£97 million/$121 million/€108 million) to finance construction of its new headquarters in Lausanne.

They also indicate that total salaries and social charges jumped to $168 million (£133.7 million/€148.8 million) in 2018 from $118.3 million (£94.2 million/€104.8 million) in 2017.

The IOC said the increase was “mainly driven by the recognition of the broadcasting costs related to the Olympic Winter Games Pyeongchang 2018 in the 2018 consolidated statement of activities”.

Total staff costs in 2014 were put at $89.6 million (£71.3 million/€79.4 million), although there have been so many changes in the intervening four years I do not think these should be seen as directly comparable.