Overseeing the Olympics are several governing bodies with responsibility for various aspects of the Games. At the top is the 115-member IOC, a nonprofit umbrella organization for the Olympic Movement that has primary responsibility for the organization of the Games. Funding for the International Olympic Committee, which operates out of Lausanne, Switzerland, is entirely private, derived mainly from the sale of TV rights and marketing programs.
For each Olympic Games, the International Olympic Committee entrusts organizational responsibility to the host country’s National Olympic Committee (NOC) and the host city. The NOC and local organizing committees establish an organizing body that reports directly to the IOC. They have financial and organizational responsibility for choosing and building sports venues; housing, feeding, and transporting athletes and officials; solving transportation problems; and handling the media’s infrastructure needs. In addition to getting financial support from the IOC, the NOCs and local committees fund their activities through national and local corporate marketing sponsorships, ticket sales, and licensing programs.
The host countries and cities also chip in, though the amount varies. Sydney spent $3.4 billion on the 2000 Games, and Athens more than $11.6 billion on the 2004 Games. That money goes to infrastructure improvements and government services such as police and sanitation. In the case of the 2012 Games in London, the original plans called for a $3.8 billion funding package, $2.4 billion of which will come from lotteries. Eighteen months after London’s election, the costs have begun to escalate considerably; the government already has to find an extra $2 billion. However, much of the additional funding is for capital construction in East London. The Olympics are being used as a catalyst to undertake long-overdue and much-needed improvements to transportation, the environment, and housing in a depressed part of the city.
Politics and Money Problems
It is easy to forget that for most of the 20th century, the Olympics were plagued by financial troubles. The problem dates back to the founding of the modern Olympic Movement. When Pierre de Frédy, Baron de Coubertin, proposed relaunching the Games in the early 1890s, more than 2,500 years after the original sporting festival in ancient Greece, his vision avoided addressing the question of how to finance them.
As a result, most modern Olympic Games necessitated imaginative scrimping by athletes, NOCs, host cities, and host governments. That situation left the Games vulnerable to being hijacked by those with other agendas. The 1936 Berlin Games, for example, were lavishly funded by the Nazi government, which used the event as a bid for international validation. The arenas stood as enormous symbols of the Nazis’ ambitions. The main stadium seated 110,000 spectators; the swimming and diving pool hosted 18,000; and the ski jump venue accommodated 75,000 spectators. At the opening ceremony, Adolf Hitler was accompanied by 6,000 SS bodyguards, and the government underwrote the costs of producing Leni Riefenstahl’s 1938 film Olympia — a paean to athletes, which, although admired for its artistry, is widely viewed as a work of Nazi propaganda.
Those were not the last Games marred by politics. In 1948, Germany and Japan were excluded as punishment for their roles in World War II. Taiwan withdrew from the 1952 Games to protest Communist China’s entry. Egypt, Iraq, and Lebanon dropped out of the 1956 Games after Israel took over the Suez Canal. To protest international recognition of Taiwan, Communist China withdrew entirely from the Games between 1959 and 1972. Arab terrorists murdered 11 Israeli athletes in Munich in 1972. In response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the U.S. led a boycott of the 1980 Games, and the Soviet bloc retaliated in kind in 1984. This list is by no means exhaustive.