DENVER — Tucked into the more than $257 million the U.S. Olympic Committee spent in 2016 was a $10 million payment to the International Olympic Committee designed, in part, to give the United States a better chance of hosting an Olympics someday — possibly in Los Angeles in 2024.
That $10 million payment is for “International Games Cost Sharing” — essentially, administrative costs for the Rio de Janeiro Games — and was part of a complex negotiation from 2012 in which the USOC gave up millions to get back into the bidding game after years of embarrassing rejections.
The USOC also paid $5 million in 2014 to offset expenses at the Sochi Games. The overall tab will rise to $20 million per Olympic cycle starting in 2020.
“We hope this has removed a road block from a successful bid for the United States,” USOC chairman Larry Probst said, after agreeing to the deal five years ago.
Los Angeles and Paris are the bidders for the 2024 Olympics, with a winner to be determined in September.
The USOC released its 2016 tax forms this week, and the $10 million payment represented about 3.9 percent of the federation’s overall expenses. The USOC brought in more than $336 million — a typical surplus for an Olympic year — nearly $173 million of which came from broadcast rights and $121 million of which came from sponsorship deals, some of which came from a revenue-sharing agreement with the IOC.
The revenue-sharing deal hung over previous U.S. bids like a black cloud — an unfair bargain in the mind of many IOC members, who used it to justify votes against the United States in its humiliating defeats in the bidding for 2012 and 2016.
But the USOC brings the biggest, most successful team to the Olympics, along with NBC and its TV deal — more than $12 billion for Olympics from 2014 through 2032 — and there are many in the United States who believe the USOC was every bit entitled to special treatment.
This quote, in one of former chairman Peter Ueberroth’s farewell speeches in 2008, was widely cited as undermining the Chicago bid for the 2016 Olympics:
“Who pays the bill for the world Olympic movement?” Ueberroth said. “Make no mistake about it. … U.S. corporations have paid 60 percent of all the money, period. Be sure you all understand that. The rest of the world pays 40 percent. It’s pretty simple math.”
As Ueberroth’s successor, Probst vowed to turn the USOC into a less heavy-handed Olympic partner, and he also vowed not to bid for the Olympics again until the revenue-sharing piece was resolved.
“The negotiations in the past were designed at creating better relationships between the IOC and USOC, and I think we’ve seen, over time, the relationships have improved,” USOC chief communications officer Patrick Sandusky said. “We can only benefit on and off the field of play with solid relationship with the IOC.”
The 2024 bidding process has turned into something of an embarrassment for the IOC, with three cities dropping out and the U.S. having to switch its bid city to Los Angeles after Boston residents rebelled against being a candidate.
In July, the IOC will meet to consider awarding both the 2024 and 2028 Olympics. The final decision comes at its meeting in Peru in September. If both games are awarded, it would mean no “losers” in the bid process, though neither city is jumping at the prospect of getting a “win” for four years later than it planned.
The decisions of the next few months will be as good a gauge as any as to whether the USOC negotiations were worth the trouble.