The Associated Press is reporting that the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) are about to resume negotiations over how to divvy up the the billions of dollars NBC has been paying to televise the Olympics to American audiences. According to those same reports, the IOC is unlikely to ever award an Olympics to another American city until the organization is able to claim a bigger slice of the American television pie.
This is a dispute that can drag on until Judgment Day for all I care, even if it means that American cities won’t get to host any more Olympic Games.
You’d think that we would have learned from our most immediate experience hosting the games, namely the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City. We tend to forget that the folks in Salt Lake City attempted to lure the event to Utah four separate times before they were finally successful.
What was the difference that allowed Salt Lake City to get the 2002 Winter Games?
Well, it was cold hard cash of course, as it turned out that plenty of members of the IOC were more than happy to sell their votes if you only asked. Besides cash, the goodies doled out to IOC members included ski excursions, trips to the Super Bowl, plastic surgery and make-work jobs for relatives. Before it was all over, the Salt Lake organizers had to call in Mitt Romney to clean up the mess.
If there’s an American city that treated the IOC with the disrespect it deserves, it was Denver. Back in 1970, the IOC awarded the 1976 Winter Olympics to the city. But residents later had second thoughts and voted to reject issuing $5 million in bonds that would have been used to fund the games.
While the impetus behind the rejection came from a cadre of anti-development activists, voters couldn’t help but notice that initial cost estimates for hosting the event normally come in far below the final tab. So, with Denver voters not willing to foot the bill — thank God for the ballot box — the IOC tucked its tail between its legs and took the Games to Innsbruck, Austria.
Unfortunately, the city fathers in Denver seem to have lost their collective minds, and are actually considering a bid for another Winter Olympics. The price tag this time: at least $1.5 billion.
Here’s hoping the folks in Denver take a cue from the city’s past and let another city put its financial future on the line for a chance to host the Games. After all, if the past is any indication, watching the Olympics at home on television is a cheaper and cleaner option.
Eric McErlain blogs at Off Wing Opinion, a Forbes “Best of the Web” winner. In 2006 he wrote a “bloggers bill of rights” to help integrate bloggers into the Washington Capitals’ press box. Eric has also written for Deadspin, NBC Sports and the Sporting News, and covers sports television for The TV News. Follow Eric on Twitter.