IOC see challenges selling Rio and Sochi Olympics

September 09, 2013  |  Canadian Press  |  Comments

The head of marketing for the IOC warned Monday that organizers for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics are facing tough conditions trying to sell local sponsorships for South America’s first games.

Speaking Monday before the International Olympic Committee‘s general assembly in Buenos Aires, Gerhard Heiberg said the climate had changed in Brazil, which is facing a slowing economy that makes companies less willing to invest in sponsorships.

Leo Gryner, chief operating officer of the Rio organizing committee, acknowledged last month that $700 million in government money might be needed to balance the operating budget for the games if there is a shortfall in selling local sponsorships.

Rio’s organizing committee exceeded its initial sponsorship target of 1 billion reals ($440 million).

Heiberg said Beijing 2008 and London 2012 each reached about $1.2 billion in local sponsorships, and many expect Rio to have a similar target.

Heiberg, head of the IOC marketing commission, did not reveal any current Rio sponsorship numbers.

“They (Rio) had a very strong start in the commercial program and they have completed several deals so far,” Heiberg said. “However Rio is facing a tough Brazilian economy and the climate, the market, certainly looks very different than when the program was launched.”

Rio officials have acknowledged that next year’s World Cup in Brazil has cut into the pool of sponsors interested in investing in the games. Inflation and the loss of value in the local currency in terms of dollars also hurt.

Meanwhile, the head of the Sochi Olympics asked the IOC on Sunday to help “stop this campaign and this speculation” related to the anti-gay law that has been overshadowing preparations for next year’s Winter Games in Russia.

Heiberg said sponsors are “afraid” of the fallout of possible demonstrations in Sochi.

“I think this could ruin a lot for all of us… We have to be prepared.”

IOC President Jacques Rogge said the Olympic body will remind athletes to refrain from any protests or political gestures during the Feb. 7-23 Sochi Games.

Sochi organizing chief Dmitry Chernyshenko was asked at the IOC general assembly about the possible impact of the legislation that bans gay “propaganda.”

He said the Russian government had made clear the law would not affect the games, and he urged the IOC to convey the message to “those who are still trying to speculate on this very transparent and very clear topic.”

“It’s very important to have your support to stop this campaign and this speculation regarding this issue,” Chernyshenko said.

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