At the recent general assembly of the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) held in Doha, Qatar, Thomas Bach, president, International Olympic Committee (IOC) has said that the Olympic Games is not about making money.
In a speech, the text of which is available on IOC’s website, Mr Bach while emphasizing solidarity and political neutrality as vital to the universality of the Games has spoken against those associating the Olympics with business model.
He outlined the IOC’s mission so, “ our mission is to bring the entire world together in a peaceful competition; this is it. And what is the most important thing there, and what makes us so unique, is the entire world, is this universality and to achieve this universality, to show with the Olympic Games, the unity of humankind in all our differences. This is what makes the Olympic Games so unique, so important and so valuable.’’
Having explained the importance of political neutrality as ingredient for the mission, he said, “ another means to achieve this universality, besides this unity and this political neutrality, is solidarity. Without solidarity, without caring for each other among all the NOCs, among all the sports, there is no universality. And there, and some people, they want to explain to us that the Olympic Games have to be considered as a business model. It must be about how can we maximise profit and how can we then distribute these profits according to the economic contribution of the different stakeholders to this Olympic Games and to the economic success of this Olympic Games? And there to be extremely clear, the Olympic Games are not about making money. The Olympic Games are not about maximising revenues. The Olympic Games are there to accomplish our mission to unite the world through sport and to promote and to defend our values− this is our mission.
“ So for the IOC, there I’m sure I can speak on behalf of all of you because you are the guardians of this solidarity. For us, as I said, in this G20 speech, money for us is just a means to achieve our mission because if we consider the Olympic Games to be a business model, we would not have 206 National Olympic Committees and the athletes from the entire world in the Olympic Games. We would not have athletes from 33 or 28 sports in the Olympic Games. It would only be a very select group, a very select group of athletes, not even of National Olympic Committees, but a select group of athletes in a select group of some of the Olympic sports; and the Olympic Games, as we know them, and the Olympic Games as we want them, and the Olympic Games as they were conceived by Pierre de Coubertin 125 years ago, would cease to exist. We would just have another entertainment product in this world, competing with other entertainment products, but not related to any kind of values anymore; it would just be show, entertainment, without any values, without any contribution to a better society. And therefore, we will not consider the Olympic Games to be a business model.’’
The speech was available for reference along with related news report (dated October 17, 2019) about the Doha meeting, on the IOC website. The G20 meeting referred to in there happened in June 2019 at Osaka in Japan. At that June meeting in Osaka, Mr Bach had said, “ in a year from now, more than half of the world’s population will follow the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. The Olympic Games are the only event that brings the entire world together in peaceful competition. At the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, the world will see athletes from all 206 National Olympic Committees and the IOC Refugee Olympic Team united.’’
Apprising the gathered G20 leaders of IOC’s need for solidarity, he had said, “ this is the reason why we reinvest 90 per cent of all our revenues in the athletes and in developing sport around the world. In hard figures, this means five billion US dollars in the four years of an Olympiad. But please do not worry: not a single cent of taxpayers’ money goes to the IOC budget. We generate our revenues exclusively through sponsorship and media rights. But to be clear, for the IOC, money is not an end in itself. Money is just a means to achieve our mission.”
(The author, Shyam G Menon, is a freelance journalist based in Mumbai.)