The 2016 Olympic Bid: Wanting Vs. Needing Chicago

steve raquelContributor IOctober 1, 2009

COPENHAGEN, DENMARK - OCTOBER 1:  Supporters of Chicago 2016 cheer as a boat carrying IOC members to  the opening ceremonies of the the 121st International Olympic Committee (IOC) Session and XIII Olympic Congress at the Copenhagen Opera House passes on October 1, 2009 in Copenhagen, Denmark. The 121st session of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) will vote on October 2 on whether Chicago, Tokyo, Rio de Janeiro or Madrid will host the 2016 Olympic Games. (Photo by Charles Dharapak-Pool/Getty Images)

Within the next 24 hours, the International Olympic Committee will be selecting the host city for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games.  For those of us in Chicago, the anticipation can’t be any higher.

As one who has worked on or for four different Olympic Games since 1996, including a front row seat during the Salt Lake City bid scandal, I believe the 2016 Summer Games host city will come down to this simple question:

Does the Olympic Movement want or really need Chicago?

I believe they want Rio, but they need Chicago. 

Actually, they really need Chicago.

While the media will focus on the strength of each city’s bid and the assurances of putting on a world-class 17-day event, there is an underlying tension in the Olympic Movement that rages on:

One-on-end is the ultimate desire of the Olympic Movement wanting to have the Olympic Games hosted on every habitable continent on the world.  Since the Games are focus on the world, nothing would please them more to see this mission carried on when awarding the 2016 games.  Of the remaining continents, Africa and South America are still waiting for their card to be called.

If this is the case—Rio, it’s Olympic Mardi Gras time.

However, there is a reality the IOC must face on the other end.

Take a look and see if you can guess:

Coca Cola, Acer, Atos Virgin, General Electric, McDonald’s, Omega, Panasonic, Samsung, Visa.

Notice something?

Four of those TOP Sponsors or Worldwide Sponsors are located within the U.S. with four more having a significant presence in the US.  One is located just 20 miles west of Chicago.

In addition, add in the fact that NBC paid more than $2.01 billion for the US media rights for just the 2010 and 2012 Olympic Games and more than 211 million Americans watched 2008 Summer Olympics, making the US one of the key viewing markets in the world.

This combination of marketing sponsorship dollars, media broadcast rights, and a large US viewing audience are key for the future success of the Olympics. 

Per the IOC website, these two channels account for more than 87 percent of the Olympic Revenue.  In the quad of 2001-2004, the combined revenue was almost $3 billion dollars. 

I can only imagine what the revenue will be for the 2013-2016 time period if it is in Chicago—a full 20 years since the last Olympic Summer Games was hosted in our backyard.

Also, if Chicago is selected, the IOC gets to walk into the CEO offices of more than 25 Chicago-based Fortune 500 companies to ask to be a part of the Games. 

What do you think they’ll say?

However, if Chicago doesn’t get selected for 2016, it could be 2020 or 2024 until the Summer Games are back on US soil.  That’s a long time for the US to be watching the Summer Olympics live at two in the morning for 17 days three times in a row.

If Rio is selected, I expect a number of US-based Global and US Olympic Committee sponsors (those who only have marketing rights within the US and with the US Olympic Team) will start to, if they haven’t already, look at exiting or reducing their investment in the movement, leaving the IOC and USOC scrambling on how to make up the lost revenue.

For the IOC, upwards of 87 percent of it.

It may not see the immediate impact of it, but I’ll bet it’ll get harder and harder each year to convince a US based sponsor to pony up millions of sponsorship dollars on an international or even national level to support a movement won't see the American shores until after my children get out of college.

My guess is that they’ll leave that meeting faster than a Usain Bolt 100m race.

So when the final vote is tallied tomorrow—and if the Olympics aren’t awarded to Chicago— it’ll be clear to me that the IOC is committed to their overall mission and hoping US based sponsors and viewers will be patient with them for a couple more years.

However, I’m not sure how patient they will be in return.

For the sake of US sponsors, NBC and more than 220 million American TV viewers, I hope I'm wrong and that Rio will be the one singing the blues....


Steve Raquel is sports fan and an online social media expert who helps professional athletes, individuals and businesses navigate and succeed in leveraging social media as the president of Illinois Online Ventures.  Contact Steve directly at or follow him on twitter at @sraquel.