Home > NewsRelease > Op-Ed: It’s Way Past Time For U.S. Companies To Use Their Economic Strength And Pressure The International Olympic Committee Not To Award Its Games To Totalitarian Countries
Op-Ed: It’s Way Past Time For U.S. Companies To Use Their Economic Strength And Pressure The International Olympic Committee Not To Award Its Games To Totalitarian Countries
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For Immediate Release:
Dateline: New York, NY
Saturday, December 11, 2021


Arthur Solomon

The International Olympic Committee doesn’t mind the evils of governments when awarding its game.  And U.S. businesses don’t seem to care. Here’s a fast recap:

First, Nazi Germany, which hosted both the Summer and Winter Olympics Games in 1936, despite the world and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) knowing about Hitler’s evil policies. Second 1968, when the IOC awarded its game to Mexico, despite the country’s single-party, authoritarian government. Third and fourth, the IOC awarded its games to Russia in 1980 and again in 2014.  Fifth, the IOC awarded the Olympics to Yugoslavia in 1984.  Sixth, China was awarded the 2008 games, and seventh, Beijing became the first capitol city to host both the Summer and Winter Olympics, the latter will be played between February 4-20, courtesy of the IOC.

What do all of these Olympic Games have in common? They were all awarded to totalitarian regimes by the IOC and American sponsors meekly “followed the athletes,” no matter where the games were played.

It’s obvious to anyone who closely follows Olympic politics – yes, the IOC is a political organization despite it saying that there is no place for politics in sports – the IOC’s affinity for totalitarian regimes is not limited to foreign governments. From its headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, the IOC acts like the totalitarian regimes it favors.

It decides which countries will be awarded its games; it decides which countries can participate in its games; it decides what athletes can say; it establishes the rules that athletes must follow or be punished, by its lackeys, the supposedly independent Olympic committees of individual countries. 

As Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist John Branch wrote in the New York Times last August 7, “In some ways — too many ways, critics argue — the Olympics are stuck in time, a 19th-century construct floating through a 21st-century world.”

Wrote Branch, “They’ve evolved, or not evolved, this system completely separate from the rest of society,” said Han Xiao, a former member of the United States national table tennis team who is now active in the Olympic movement. “And that’s where a lot of the problems come in, whether it’s with corruption or imbalances in power that lead to athlete abuse or human rights violations. If you’re not keeping up with the advances that other areas of society are making, or you’re not subject to the oversight of society as a whole, it’s kind of predictable that these things are going to happen,” said the Olympian.

“In short, continued Branch, “the Olympics are built on excess, tangled in geopolitics, rife with corruption and cheating. Each Olympic cycle raises uncomfortable questions about stainability, environmental damage and human rights.”

But, as the saying goes, “Money talks.” And the IOC needs the financial backing of U.S. companies that have an Olympic history of behaving like the Japanese moneys – “see no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil.”

ESPN senior writer Mike Fish, wrote on July 22, 2021,”The look-the-other-way relationship with the authoritarian global power is not confined to the IOC. The Games’ major corporate partners will plow more than $1 billion into sponsorship deals covering the 2022 Beijing Winter Games. Some, like Samsung and Panasonic, have been identified by independent watchdogs as directly or indirectly benefiting from the use of Uyghur workers.

The IOC’s longest-standing partner, Coca-Cola, reportedly has a sugar supplier in China linked to forced labor in Xinjiang. Coca-Cola has also been among U.S. companies lobbying Congress to weaken the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which would prohibit the importation of goods made with forced labor in China. In contrast to their China position, Coca-Cola officials condemned a new voting law in Georgia, which was at the core of Major League Baseball moving its recent All-Star Game out of Atlanta.

“A host of other well-known brands also stand accused of direct or indirect ties to forced labor in Xinjiang, including Victoria’s Secret, North Face, Hugo Boss, Fila and Asics.

“Sports leagues, teams and professional athletes also profit from lucrative deals,” he wrote.

The U.S. and other countries – thus far Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada and Lithuania (as of December 10) have declared a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Games because of China’s “ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang and other human rights abuses,” said President Joe Biden. Other countries are expected to join the boycott. But American businesses, because of the vast potential of selling its products in China have hit the mute button regarding China’s crackdown on human rights and are still supporting the Chinese games. 

In 2014, NBC Universal bought the broadcast rights from the IOC to televise the Olympic Games in the U.S. through 2032 for $7.75 billion. The deal gave the Peacock Network exclusive broadcast rights to the six Olympic Games from 2022 to 2032. The IOC obtains about 73% of its income from selling broadcast rights; about 18% comes from Olympic sponsors.  NBC provides about 40% of all IOC income, reported the Associated Press. 

The IOC needs that money. It’s way past time for American companies to use its economic muscle and pressure the IOC not to award any more games to totalitarian countries, the overwhelming majority of whom have been enemies of the U.S. and have attempted to undermine our democracy.

If the IOC refuses, there’s always an alternative threat:  Form another organization to control world-wide sporting events. Realistically, the chances of that happening are less likely than I have becoming president of the U.S. by the time you finish reading this sentence – or ever — because as Rebecca Davis wrote in Variety, “Tough moral dilemmas are easily lost amid such big business.” But stranger things have happened.

The Unspoken PR Tenet: Bad News Is Good News for Our Business By Arthur Solomon

About the Author: Arthur Solomon, a former journalist, was a senior VP/senior counselor at Burson-Marsteller, and was responsible for restructuring, managing and playing key roles in significant national and international sports and non-sports programs. He now is a frequent contributor to public relations publications, consults on public relations projects and was on the Seoul Peace Prize nominating committee.  He can be reached at arthursolomon4pr@juno.com.

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