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Twelve years after becoming IOC President, Jacques Rogge stepped to the podium yesterday to deliver his final activity report to the organization. It outlined all that had changed since he took over the organization in '01. Back then, the IOC was digging its way out of the Salt Lake City scandal, facing criticism from sponsors and struggling to accumulate cash reserves in case an int'l crisis forced it to postpone a Games. But under the 71-year-old Belgian¹s direction, all that has changed. The organization has avoided another ethics scandal, increased sponsorship revenue by more than 50% and boosted its cash reserves from $105M to $901M. "He's done well," said Spanish IOC member Juan Antonio Samaranch Jr. "Besides the crucial fact he managed to stage extraordinary Games, there's also the things he did like create the reserve fund. He served us well." The IOC's financial position improved considerably under Rogge. When he started in '01, the IOC's TOP sponsorship program generated $663M during a four-year period. It will collect $1B over the next four-year cycle. TV revenue made similar gains, rising from $2.2B when he started to $4B as he leaves. "Globally speaking, the television-rights market is clearly a very solid one and we are obviously not suffering from the drop in TV revenues predicted by many," Rogge said. In addition to achieving financial stability, Rogge negotiated a new revenue-sharing agreement with the USOC. The previous agreement gave the USOC 12.5% of U.S. TV rights fees and 16% of TOP revenue. Though NBC pays more than any other rightsholder worldwide, other national Olympic committees and international federations criticized the structure. Rogge's administration tried for years to structure a new deal and finally got one done last year. Under terms of the new agreement, the USOC's total haul is capped at $410M per quadrennium plus a share of revenue from new growth areas. "The new agreement ... is a win-win situation for both parties," Rogge said.
IMPROVED ADMINISTRATIVE SERVICES: In addition to financial growth, the IOC improved the administrative services it offered. It developed a system for overseeing the Olympics after they are awarded to a city and created a "knowledge transfer" program to assist host cities with organizing the Games. Rogge also tackled the declining youth interest in the Games, an issue that both broadcasters and sponsors have raised with the IOC. He developed a mini-Olympics called the Youth Olympic Games in an effort to raise awareness of the Olympic movement and encourage young participation in sports. More than 4,500 athletes competed in the first two Youth Olympic Games in '10 and '12, and the Olympics saw some uptick globally in young viewership during the London Games last year. "The appeal of (the London Games), especially in the younger age groups, greatly increased over previous editions," Rogge said. "This is a sign that we have worked in the right direction."
TENURE HAS BROUGHT CRITICISM: For all the IOC's accomplishments the last 12 years, Rogge's tenure has not been without criticism. Several IOC members question the value and cost of the Youth Olympic Games. The IOC spends millions to send its members to the event and cities spend millions to host it, but it has struggled to get int'l media coverage and generate attention outside the host country. There also has been criticism of the way the IOC's sports program has evolved. Rogge introduced a hard cap of 25 core sports for the Olympic program that some IOC members took issue with, and Canada IOC member Dick Pound yesterday questioned the organization's decision to vote wrestling out of the Olympics only to vote it back in several months later. "Jacques was saying we have to keep the program a little dynamic and this was clearly a dead end," Pound said after the vote. "Here we are with the same old program. No change. The exercise was moot." Rogge acknowledged the IOC still faces challenges. Even though its financial situation has improved, the escalating cost of hosting an Olympics remains a concern. Beijing spent $40B in '08, London spent $14B in '12 and Sochi is spending $50B for '14. The choice of Tokyo to host the '20 Games has momentarily halted that trend as the city plans to spend less than $5B. "We must remain realistic," Rogge said. "The IOC must ensure that it continues and intensifies its policy on controlling the cost, size and complexity of the Games."THE IOC UNDER JACQUES ROGGETOP REVENUE
TOP V ('01-04) $663M TOP VI ('05-08) $886M TOP VII ('09-12) $957M TOP VIII ('13-16) $1BTV REVENUE '01-04 $2.2B '05-08 $2.6B '09-12 $3.9B '13-16 $4BSUPPORT OF OLYMPIC ORGANIZING COMMITTEES '98 Nagano/'00 Sydney $211M '02 Salt Lake City/'04 Athens $346M '06 Turin/'08 Beijing $421M '10 Vancouver/'12 London $728M
Seven months after being dropped from the Olympic program, wrestling persuaded the IOC to give it a second chance. The sport received 49 votes from IOC members, giving it a first-round majority over competitors baseball and softball (24 votes) and squash (22). Representatives from FILA, wrestling’s int'l federation, rose and pumped their fists when the votes were announced. The sport was the clear favorite coming into yesterday's vote, but its federation had to answer more than a half dozen questions from IOC members about everything from alleged corruption to gender equality. FILA President Nenad Lalovic said, “Wrestling has changed. Wrestling has become a modernized sport ready to compete with other sports. We persuaded the IOC members our improved sport will support the Olympic movement.” The decision provides wrestling’s federation with a minimum of $14M that the IOC distributes to Olympic sports and gives it the credibility and int'l broadcast exposure that can be used to attract new participants and business partners. IOC President Jacques Rogge said wrestling was bounced from the Olympic program last February because the IOC Exec Board found its governance “inadequate,” its rules difficult to understand and some of its disciplines unpopular. FILA spent the last seven months addressing those concerns. It named a new president, added two weight classes for women and changed its scoring system to award more points during competition. Its campaign to return to the Olympic program benefitted from support in Russia and the U.S., which often win medals in the sport. All of that combined with a general belief among IOC members that wrestling belongs in the Olympics helped it garner enough votes to stay in the Games. Prior to the vote, Kuwait IOC member Sheik Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah said, “There was a mistake. This mistake made wrestling out of the program. Wrestling is the founder of the Games.”
DEFEATED SPORTS CONTEMPLATE FUTURE: Baseball/softball entered the day optimistic about its chances to return to the Games. Tokyo’s selection as the host for the '20 Games meant that there would be no need to develop stadiums to host either sport, and the sports’ popularity there meant that ticket sales would be strong. In a video during their presentation, the World Baseball Softball Confederation even included footage of Babe Ruth’s visit to Tokyo in 1934. But while MLB Commissioner Bud Selig supported the bid in the video, the league made no promises that its players would participate, and the IOC wants the best athletes in sports competing at the Games. WBSC co-President Don Porter: “We’re disappointed, certainly. We understood it was an uphill battle. Wrestling is a great sport, and I’m sure it deserves to be back in. I don’t think there’s anything more we could have done. It just wasn’t our time.” Porter said that he was holding out hope that with a new IOC president, who will be named tomorrow, baseball and softball may get a second chance in time for Tokyo. He added, “We’re not going to give up.” Squash was bidding to join the Olympics for the third time. The sport touted the fact that it is played in 185 countries and would be able to share a venue with badminton, which would minimize the costs of adding it to the Olympic program. But it did not have enough support to get past wrestling. World Squash Federation President N Ramachandran in a statement described the decision as “heartbreaking.” He added, “As the only new Olympic sport on today’s shortlist, we believed Squash offered something for the future and I still hope that our inclusion may still be possible. ... We have much to offer the Olympic Movement and I am hopeful that today is not the end of our Olympic journey."
EFFORT TO POSTPONE VOTE DENIED: Prior to the vote, Canada IOC member Dick Pound tried to persuade his colleagues to postpone the decision. Pound argued that if wrestling were added back to the program, then baseball/softball, squash and six other new sports that wanted to join the Olympics competed for no reason. They were put “through unnecessary hardship” for the IOC to ultimately keep its program the same. He asked IOC members to postpone the vote and review its process for selecting new sports. Rogge urged members to go through with the vote, and Pound’s effort was defeated. Afterward Pound said, “It’s very disappointing. Observers will say, ‘After all that, we’re back to where we were in London and you put eight federations through all of this.’”
SCHERR EXCITED ABOUT RETURN: Former USOC CEO and Olympic wrestler Jim Scherr led off FILA's presentation to the IOC. He was among the group that erupted and pumped its fists the moment after Rogge announced that wrestling received enough votes to stay in the Olympics. Scherr this morning discuss wrestling's effort to retain its spot in the Olympics.
Q: What did this do for wrestling?
Scherr: It's made significant change of people in leadership positions, the structure of governance, the rules and general excitement of the sport. But probably the single thing it did more than anything else is there's more worldwide interest and coverage of Olympic wrestling in the last seven months than there's been in the last 25 years.
Q: How does wrestling build on that interest?
Scherr: There were tens of millions of people around the world following this process. Wrestling needs to create a platform that can reach them. A multilingual and layered media platform underpinned with a sponsorship program. Whatever content they have and developed content they need to get out on broadcast and digital. They need to get that to the masses and do it fast because they don't have a big window to do it.
Q: How much infrastructure is in place now?
Scherr: It's very limited. They weren't geared for this stuff before in the federation.
Q: What message does this process send to other sports federations?
Scherr: Every federation but a couple now feels like they could be in the same situation that wrestling (was in). The (international federations) will all be on their toes a little bit because of this process.
Q: What is next for you with wrestling?
Scherr: I'm on the (FILA) executive board for the next year and a half and will stay involved that way. Within the U.S., I hope to be involved in helping USA Wrestling do the same thing, which is work on the presentation of the sport, work on creating a media platform and work on selling that platform. I'd like to help with that in an advisory capacity.
Tripp Mickle is in Buenos Aires reporting and tweeting from the IOC meetings. Look for continued posts from him on our On The Ground blog.
FILA President Nenad Lalovic said that wrestling officials yesterday "jumped with joy, and at least one shed tears" when IOC President Jacques Rogge announced that wrestling had been selected to return to the '20 and '24 Summer Games, according to Liz Clarke of the WASHINGTON POST. Lalovic said in thanking IOC voters, "I assure each of you that our modernization will not stop now. We will continue to strive to be the best partner to the Olympic movement that we can be." Yesterday's vote "welcoming wrestling back into the Olympic fold represented an endorsement" of officials' initiatives to modernize and improve the sport, "much like a parent releasing a naughty child from a timeout." But the vote "came as a disappointment to supporters of squash and the baseball-softball effort." Former U.S. softball player Jennie Finch wrote on her Twitter account, "We will keep fighting, keep playing, keep supporting, keep growing & keep DREAMING & BELIEVING!" U.S. Squash CEO Kevin Klipstein said that the sport failing to make the Olympics was "sure to disappoint its 15 million to 20 million participants worldwide." Klipstein said that it was "'a head-scratcher' that the IOC’s process these last months had not resulted in any genuine 'addition' to the 2020 Olympics but rather a restoration of a sport." Canada IOC member Dick Pound "raised" that point yesterday as well (WASHINGTON POST, 9/9). FILA VP Stan Dziedzic said that the organization had "spent almost" $3M on its campaign to restore wrestling to the Olympics in the last seven months. He added that "about $8 million total was spent" by FILA, USA Wrestling and other federations. USA TODAY's Kelly Whiteside notes "in contrast, the other sports in the running had budgets that were substantially smaller." Officials said that squash "spent less than" $1M, and baseball/softball spent "at least" $1M (USA TODAY, 9/9).
IN THE NICK OF TIME: In N.Y., Jere Longman notes wrestling "changed its rules, created more weight classes for women and easily prevailed over squash and a combined bid by baseball and softball." The sport had been "chastened by calls to modernize its leadership and energize its matches." Two Olympic weight classes "were dropped for men and two were added for women." Beginning with the '16 Rio Games, there will be "six classes for men and women in freestyle wrestling and six for men in Greco-Roman wrestling." FILA officials said that they were "amenable to women participating in Greco-Roman wrestling in the future if there was sufficient interest." Former Russia wrestler Aleksandr Karelin said that wrestlers also will have "more control in determining the outcome of matches." Former USOC CEO Jim Scherr said that the "continuation of wrestling in the Olympics was 'critically important' to the health of the sport at the grass-roots level" in the U.S. (N.Y. TIMES, 9/9).
BELLS AND WHISTLES: In Iowa, Bryce Miller writes, "Wrestling needs to be applauded for quickly making rules more understandable and creating incentives that invite more offensive action." Creating a “6-6-6” system of weight classes, with six each for men’s and women’s freestyle, and Greco-Roman, "increased opportunities for women and showed an immediate commitment to the type of gender parity the IOC craves." Miller: "Undoubtedly, creative thinking about lighting, music and other elements that amplify excitement for other sports will grow audiences as well" (DES MOINES REGISTER, 9/9). USA TODAY's Whiteside writes wrestling is "thinking big and bold when it comes to showmanship," and "staged weigh-ins, walk-out music, lighting, visual effects and video screen displays are being discussed." FILA officials "have had meetings with entertainment and broadcasting experts as well as potential sponsors to increase the sport's appeal." Though wrestling has "consulted with MMA execs, don't expect wrestling to bring that sport into its fold." Dziedzic said that UFC stars "frequently come out of college wrestling and there is a good relationship between the groups, but the sports are too different" (USA TODAY, 9/9).
STILL HOPE: In Chicago, Philip Hersh writes baseball/softball and squash "may not be dead yet." One or both "could be included" in the '20 Tokyo Games. There already are "proposals to cut events from some sports on the Summer Games program, reducing the number of athletes -- capped at 10,500 -- and making room for a new sport" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 9/9).
TAKEDOWN DEFENSE: In Oklahoma City, John Helsley writes wrestling's leaders and "their passionate efforts saved wrestling's place in the Games, if not its future." Oklahoma State Univ. wrestling coach John Smith said, "The message that was sent down today from the IOC was since wrestling has been in the ancient Games, as well as the modern Games, we shouldn't be trailing, we're expected to be leading" (OKLAHOMAN, 9/9). In DC, Tracee Hamilton writes the IOC "made the right decision." Hamilton: "We should savor it -- it happens with even less frequency than the Olympics themselves" (WASHINGTON POST, 9/9).
The competition to host the '20 Games was not a beauty contest, it was a contest to see which candidate city could best conceal its blemishes. Tokyo won that battle with ease. After all, what is a minor nuclear leak today compared to an economy that is in tatters or a violent crackdowns against protesters? Switzerland IOC member Denis Oswald said of Istanbul and Madrid after the vote, “The other two were just too risky.” Risk was what the IOC wanted to avoid this time, as it is dealing with enough of that already. Its gamble on Sochi to host the upcoming '14 Games has been repaid by overspending -- to the tune of $50B -- and int'l condemnation of Russia’s anti-gay legislation. Its bet on Rio for '16 and the promise of South America is being overshadowed by concerns about construction delays. That is why Tokyo fell just six votes short of winning the election outright in the first round, and why the city won with a clear 60-36 majority in the second round. Compared to its peers, Tokyo offered the best option for the Olympic brand right now. It is a dependable city that hosted the Games in '64, has a strong infrastructure in place, sits with $4.5B in the bank to build 10 new venues and boasts the world’s third-largest GDP.
BID STRESSED DEPENDABILITY: Tokyo’s bid’s presenters emphasized the city’s dependability repeatedly before IOC members. They underscored the business opportunity Tokyo offered, noting that it would deliver the biggest live TV audience, biggest ticket market and $1B in local sponsorship. They also highlighted the $4.5B they have already set aside to cover the costs of 10 venues and other developments necessary to host the Games. They tackled the issue of recent nuclear leaks from Japan’s Fukushima power plant, which suffered several meltdowns after the '11 earthquake. Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe assured the IOC that radiation levels in water and food were a hundredth the level that the World Health Organization specified as safe. Abe told the IOC, “I shall take responsibility to implement programs to render this situation completely problem free.” That seemed to be enough for IOC members. In the end, they opted to roll the dice on the issue of radiation rather than take the Olympics to Istanbul, which had violently put down protests over the summer and recently had 31 athletes test positive for performance-enhancing drugs, and Madrid, which remains mired in a recession and had a recent doping scandal of its own. From a business perspective, Tokyo offered the biggest opportunity to drive local revenue. Bid organizers expect to deliver $931M in local sponsorship, $776M in ticket sales and $140M in licensing sales. The organizing committee will retain those revenues.
Tripp Mickle is on the ground in Buenos Aires reporting and tweeting from the IOC meetings. Look for continued posts from him on our On The Ground blog.
The choice of Tokyo to host the '20 Games "bucked the IOC's recent trend of taking chances on host cities," according to Stephen Wilson of the AP. Tokyo had "been on the defensive in the final days of the campaign because of mounting concerns over the leak of radioactive water from the tsunami-crippled Fukushima nuclear plant." But Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe "gave the IOC assurances that the Fukushima leak was not a threat to Tokyo and took personal responsibility for keeping the Games safe." IOC members said that Abe's answers "were critical and helped dispel any doubts." Canada IOC member Dick Pound said, "People wanted to hear it and needed to hear it. And he delivered on that" (AP, 9/7). In N.Y., Longman & Fackler wrote the decision was "met with elation in Japan, where it was seen as a vote of international support for the nation’s efforts to pull itself out of a long economic and political decline and to overcome the devastating earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident two years ago." Environmental concerns in Japan "appeared less urgent than the Syrian war on Turkey’s border, a harsh crackdown against antigovernment protesters recently in Istanbul and Spain’s economic recession and high unemployment." Both Madrid and Istanbul during Saturday's final presentations "faced pointed questions about their countries’ poor records in combating doping." Tokyo noted that "no Japanese athlete had ever tested positive for banned substances at the Olympics" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/8). NBC's Anne Thompson said of the decision, "The country has the experience, hosting two Winter Games and the 1964 Summer Games also in Tokyo. It is one of the most sophisticated cities in a sports-crazed nation. One more thing: Japan has deep pockets offering Olympic officials the kind of financial support they just couldn't pass up" ("Today," NBC, 9/8). REUTERS' Rex Gowar wrote the Madrid delegation was "left reeling on Saturday by the shock of their early elimination as host ... and defended their bid presentation as 'the best' of the candidate cities" (REUTERS, 9/7).
RESTORING HOPE: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Yuka Hayashi writes, "Many in Japan responded with unrestrained displays of joy and excitement." The victory is "about restoring hope and energy among the nation's weary populace, something Japan needs desperately to tackle its numerous challenges" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 9/9). The AP's Elaine Kurtenbach wrote many in Japan "consider the Olympics a symbol of recovery both from economic stagnation and from the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that left more than 19,000 people dead or missing on Japan's northeast coast." Japan is "counting on the games to boost both the economy and morale." Surveys showed that 70% of Tokyo residents "favored the bid" (AP, 9/8). In L.A., Yuriko Nagano cited analysts as saying that the Olympics "could prove both an economic and psychological boost for Japan" (L.A. TIMES, 9/8). But QUARTZ' Gwynn Guilford wrote Olympic preparations are "highly likely to exacerbate Japan’s already massive debt problems" (QUARTZ.com, 9/7).
INSIDE THE BID: USA TODAY's Kelly Whiteside wrote Japan's presentation "was technically stunning and by far the most emotional" (USATODAY.com, 9/7). In DC, Harlan & Svrluga wrote Tokyo’s organizers in their presentation "touted their city’s modern infrastructure and transportation system, as well as its low crime rate." Tokyo's selection "sets it up for years of construction" costing upward of $5B (WASHINGTON POST, 9/8). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Alexander Martin wrote symbolic of Tokyo's "plan to tie together the old and the new is how venues will be divided into two zones -- the 'Heritage Zone,' where venues used in the 1964 Games are, and the 'Tokyo Bay Zone,' which will feature 22 venues and Olympic installations." Tokyo's plan says that 85% of the venues, "including the Olympic Stadium, would be located within an eight kilometer radius" of the $956M, 44-hectare waterfront Olympic Village complex that will house 17,000 beds. Tokyo said that 22 of the 37 venues proposed "will be newly constructed for an estimated" $3.11B with 11 permanent and 11 temporary facilities planned (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 9/8). Former LOCOG Chair Sebastian Coe in a special to the London TELEGRAPH writes, "What I would say to the Tokyo 2020 organising committee is get out of the blocks quickly and be prepared for the hardest work of your life. It is unrelenting. You are never off duty and you and your organisation will be scrutinised and expected to uphold higher standards than in anything that you have ever done. Those five rings make a massive difference" (London TELEGRAPH, 9/9).
WHERE DOES THIS LEAVE THE U.S.? In Chicago, Philip Hersh reported Tokyo winning the '20 Games could hurt the chances for the U.S. to have a "successful 2024 bid because it leaves an opening for European bids." There now will not be "consecutive Summer Games on the same continent since 1948-52." Pound said, "What it does is increase the likelihood there will be another European bid. That said, if we are in kiss-and-make-up time with the U.S. … why not (a successful U.S. bid.)” Meanwhile, Abe made a "seemingly impossible guarantee there would be no more present or future health-related problems related to radioactive water." Paralympian Mami Sato's speech to the IOC was "full of passion and force of conviction Tokyo had lacked in its 2016 bid" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 9/8). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Futterman & Martin noted the "Far East will become the center of the Olympic movement toward the end of this decade," as the '18 Winter Games are scheduled for Pyeongchang, South Korea (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 9/8).