April 17, 2020Print | PDF
I have worked with my co-author Bob Barney since I was his master's student in the 1980s at Western University. He sat on my PhD examining committee at Penn State in the early 1990s as well. Since then, we’ve co-authored three books and a few journal articles together. To this day, he is one of my best friends. The crossing of our paths was the greatest stroke of good fortune in my academic and professional life.
Bob Barney and I envisioned The Gold in the Rings: The People and Events that Transformed the Olympic Games, our third book together, as means of sharing 30 years of our research on the two economic engines that forever changed the look and feel of the Olympic Games – television and corporate sponsorship.
The Gold in the Rings: The People and Events that Transformed the Olympic Games emerged out of our access to new International Olympic Committee (IOC) archival material stemming from a trip to the IOC Archives in Switzerland in 2016. We also had a wealth of information we gathered in publishing two other books (with Scott Martyn), Selling the Five Rings: The International Olympic Committee and the Rise of Olympic Commercialism (2002) and Tarnished Rings: The International Olympic Committee and the Salt Lake City Bid Scandal (2011). We also completed a number of interviews with key historical actors who played roles in the re-shaping the Olympic Movement’s financial foundation.
The International Olympic Committee is in a challenging phase of its existence right now, as the world awaits the postponed Tokyo Olympics next year.
In setting out a plan for this book, we isolated what we feel to be the ten most important milestone events during the IOC presidencies of Avery Brundage, Lord Killanin, Juan Antonio Samaranch, and Jacques Rogge, and devoted a chapter to each of them. We also leaned on historical storytelling and biography as the means of driving the narrative, inviting both specialist and general readers into the story of the evolution of the Olympics.
The sea change under Juan Antonio Samaranch in embracing the participation of professional athletes, pushing for maximum television revenue, and launching a worldwide corporate sponsorship program (The Olympic Program) which some label a revolution, is well known. Although we shed new light in some areas, we feel we’ve made an important contribution in bringing to light the route taken by Jacques Rogge’s administration (2001-2013) to further advance the IOC revenue-generating capacity by pushing the value of The Olympic Program (TOP) sponsorship deals and opening the European television market to competitive bidding.
When we delved into Rogge’s team’s effort to expand the IOC’s financial reserves, the numbers and extent of their success startled us. We knew that television revenue continued to climb after Samaranch stepped down and TOP sponsorships had bigger price tags going forward, but we were taken aback by the reserve fund’s growth from $100 million when Rogge became President (2001) to $900 million when he handed the keys to the IOC’s headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland to his successor, Thomas Bach (2013). The money is providing a backstop for the IOC right now in this challenging phase of its existence and is providing the Olympic Movement with a measure of financial assistance as the world awaits the Tokyo Olympics next year.
We firmly believe the Olympics are about the athletes, their preparation, and their performances in a high stakes, high pressure environment; however, this book examines how the Olympics transformed from their years of association with the ‘amateur ideal’ into a sport property of increasing importance to the corporate world. Our book exposes for the reader the details of the actions and decision-making of the Olympic officials who leveraged the global fascination with athletes and sport to make the Olympics into the multi-billion dollar enterprise it is today.
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