Thierry Sprunger (WorldArchery)
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has been heavily criticised in the past few days in the wake of the exceptional period in which the world is living with the Coronavirus.
Whilst current sporting leagues of all kind have been suspended and planned competitions in the foreseeable future have been cancelled or postponed including EURO2020 that was due to start in June, people from all walks of life do not understand why the IOC has not yet cancelled the Olympic Games in Tokyo.
In effect, a postponement of the Games by a month or two would be difficult although perhaps possible but the idea of postponing to 2021 or 2022 in my opinion is just not possible for many reasons.
The IOC’s position is that there is still time before a decision is made for the world’s prime sport event which is due to start on July 24, 2020. I would tend to agree and will try and explain my reasons below. This being said, I have full confidence that President Thomas Bach and his colleagues will do what is required when the time is right.
As the former Chief Financial Officer of the IOC between 1994 to 2011, I believe I have an in-depth knowledge of the challenges that the IOC faces today. There are three reasons why I believe everything should be done to make sure these Olympic Games take place.
Many believe this is the primary reason why the IOC does not want to cancel the Games and to a certain extent they are right though do not understand the underlying challenges that the lack of revenues would cause for the Olympic Movement at large.
In 2002, former IOC President Jacques Rogge, who is also a medical doctor, tasked me with finding a way to auto-ensure the IOC and the Olympic Movement in the case of a cancellation of the Olympic Games, a situation which had only occurred during the two World Wars. This we did in the two following ways:
a) Cancellation insurance: We took out an all-encompassing cancellation insurance. However, the cost of the premium and the capacity of the reinsurance market for this kind of event meant that only a fraction of the revenues was ensured.
b) Dotation of a self- funded insurance fund: The IOC distributes approximately 85% to 90% of revenues generated by the Olympic Games to the Games Organising Committees, the International Federations (IFs) and the National Olympic Committees (NOCs). From the remaining IOC portion and after covering general overheads and the development programmes, all excess funds were transferred to the IOC “Insurance Fund”.
The first conclusion is that the IOC could carry on business as normal until the 2022 Beijing Olympic
Winter Games and the 2024 Paris Olympic Games without revenues from the Tokyo Olympic Games. The critical financial issue is the Olympic Movement at large.
I estimate that no more than ten of the twenty-eight IFs can be considered as financially independent of Olympic Games Revenues. There is an imminent risk that on the remaining eighteen IFs who will probably also suffer losses on their own competitions in 2020 could be close to bankruptcy if they do not receive Tokyo revenues or have chosen not to take out their quota of the cancellation insurance.
The revenues that go towards the NOCs are essentially targeted towards over one hundred and twenty developing countries and in most cases constitute the essential part of their funding over the next four-year period. The more developed countries who are principally funded through the International or Local Sponsorship programmes will also suffer heavily.
The IOC is not just the leader of the Olympic Movement but one could also say that it is also the “World Bank” of the movement. One way or the other, it will need to step up to save the Olympic Movement for without it, it is nothing.
2) The Olympic Games
Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the renovator of the Olympic Games said:
“Wars break out because nations misunderstand each other,” the Baron proclaimed. “We shall not have peace until the prejudices that now separate the different races are outlived. To attain this end, what better means is there than to bring the youth of all countries periodically together for amicable trials of muscular strength and agility?”
To wars, one might add pandemics.
Over the years, the Olympic Games have become the dreams and objective for many millions of young people around the world. Even if they are not those elite athletes that we see day in and day out on TV, they train as much as circumstances allow them to and in difficult conditions with only one aim in mind. Be present at the Olympic Games and to compete to the best of their ability even if over 80% of them know they will not win a medal. It is for these young people that the IOC will do all it can in its power to make their dreams come true.
I understand those medal hopefuls that today cannot train as they might wish and are worried that if the Games are held, they will not be at their best. The importance is to participate with their fellow athletes. It will certainly be memorable Games if they take place and Paris 2024 is a long way away.
3) Public at large
More than just a run of the mill sports event, the Olympic Games are a demonstration of life stories, friendship, hope, joy, sadness and the celebration of mankind in all its forms. That is why it has the highest TV audiences of all worldwide events. It would certainly be a positive driving force for the public and especially the youth coming out of this immensely difficult period.
As a final conclusion and as mentioned earlier on, I have absolutely no doubt that human health is by far the IOC’s top priority.
Thierry Sprunger was the Chief Financial Officer of the International Olympic Committee from 1994-2011.
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