With the 2006 Olympic Winter Games safely in the past, the University of Calgary is basking in the reflected glory of the most successful Canadian Olympic Team in history. Ever since the Calgary Games of 1988, the U of C has been a training hub for speed skaters, hockey players and bob-sledders from across the country. In total, 22 athletes directly related to the U of C have given the sweat off their backs for the privilege of representing Canada at the 2006 Games, an event that many regard as the most honourable in sport. But is it really?
From 2001 to 2004 the International Olympic Committee generated $4.12 billion U.S. from selling broadcast rights, sponsorship deals and ticket sales. From that total, 92 per cent went to the "Olympic Movement" while the remaining eight per cent went to its operational and administrative expenses. That's $328 million to administer an organization largely run by volunteers, $2.4 billion going toward the Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games--a 16 day event--and the remainder landing with national Olympic committees and international federations. These costs do not include the stadiums, roads, ski hills and other infrastructure provided by the host countries.
The IOC uses a volunteer workforce, amateur performers, gets someone else to pay the start-up costs and generates an income of $4.2 billion per quadrennium, all while having the world convinced that the event is about peace, cooperation and sport. This is quite possibly the best business model known to man.
Should the exorbitant expenses and profit of the Olympics take away from the excitement and national pride that people across the globe feel every four years? Maybe yes, maybe no, but the next time your eyes mist as a cross country skier sings to the Canadian anthem on the podium, remember that someone is getting very very rich, and it's not her.