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Olympic Wheel of Fortune

08/31/2013, 9:45am MDT
By David Segal, NY Times

ONE of the year’s most heated competitions in all of sports will take place in a Hilton hotel conference room in Buenos Aires. But unless any of the participants get a case of the jitters, you won’t see a lot of sweat. You won’t see many athletes, either, or any courts, nets, uniforms or scoreboards.

Instead, on Sunday, Sept. 8, you’ll see the leaders of three sports federations — wrestling, squash and baseball-softball, which combined last year — presenting finely honed sales pitches to the 104 members of theInternational Olympic Committee. After each 20-minute spiel, there will be 10 minutes of questions and answers. At some point, the committee members will test their electronic voting equipment with an irrelevant warm-up question. (The group was once asked to choose a favorite of three oceans; the Atlantic won.) Then the members will decide a matter of genuine import: Which of these sports will join the Olympic Games in 2020?

It will be the culmination of a contest that began two years ago and has cost the finalists millions of dollars. But for the winner, the prize is so big that it’s hard to value. Actually, part of it can be valued. Every sport gets a cut of the money generated by the Games’ broadcast and revenue deals, with each share determined by the sport’s popularity, measured by the number of spectators, television viewers and other factors. The pot to be divvied up for sports in the London Games last year is $520 million.

More important, the sport gets the global exposure of billions of television and online viewers and a place in the sports pantheon in which countries worldwide invest, simply because the sport is part of the Olympics. Suddenly, there are youth leagues and commercial endorsements. Medals are at stake, and with them a chance to burnish national self-image.

“The U.S. is a special case because, unlike most countries, it doesn’t have a direct federal government program for sports,” says Michael Payne, the I.O.C.’s former marketing director....

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Tag(s): International News