Banned from the Olympics

The press helped garner advertiser interest early on from the likes of Kodak and Coca-Cola. Before long, advertisers would surpass wealthy patrons as the main source of support for the games, and the IOC, a nonprofit organisation, no longer had to worry about finding funds to stage the Games every four years.

TV has been the biggest boon for the games, though it took some time to catch on. In 1948, the Games' organisers reached a landmark agreement with the British Broadcasting Corp. The BBC agreed to pay the equivalent of US$3,000 to televise the 1948 Olympics, establishing the concept of rights fees. (To avoid inflicting financial hardship on the BBC, the British Olympic committee never cashed the cheque.) The 1956 Winter Games in Cortina D'Ampezzo, Italy, carried the first live TV feed. But IOC traditionalists, expressing the same type of resistance to change that has re-emerged today, were unimpressed. Former IOC President Avery Brundage commented at the time: "We in IOC have done well without TV for 60 years and will do so certainly for the next 60 years, too."

Brundage couldn't have been more wrong. Beginning with the 1960 Games in Rome, TV has fundamentally changed the way the Olympics are viewed. And TV-rights fees are now the single biggest source of revenue for the IOC. But it wasn't until the '80s that the organisers figured out how to turn a profit on the Games. The 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles kicked off the era of hyper-commercialisation - and big profits. In subsequent years, a worldwide sponsorship program was developed, and the IOC's coffers began to overflow with corporate dollars. Suddenly, the "Olympic Movement," a term coined in 1894 to describe the need for promoting the unifying nature of a global sports, became synonymous with the big business of staging the most commercialised event in the world. The Sydney Games are predicted to generate $8.58 billion for the host city and the surrounding economy of the New South Wales region of Australia alone.

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Bernhard Warner

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