Selling the Five Rings: The International Olympic Committee and the Rise of Olympic Commercialism

Article excerpt

Selling the Five Rings

The International Olympic Committee and the Rise of Olympic Commercialism

Robert K Barney, Stephen R Wenn & Scott G Martyn (2004; revised edition)

The University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City, UT.

ISBN-10: 087480809X

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As the 2008 Beijing Olympics come ever closer, interest among researchers and students will inevitably be drawn towards the Olympic movement and the mega-event of the Games themselves. In the United Kingdom this is especially the case as academia gears itself up for the five-year period of expectancy leading up to the 2012 London Games.

Arguably the most significant stumbling block in researching or teaching about management of the Olympics is that the main natural source of data is the International Olympic Committee (IOC) itself, with its revisionist approach to history--the air-brushing out of the 1906 Intercalated Athens Olympics, for example--and its less-than-balanced view of the role of Pierre de Courbetin in establishing the modern Games by ignoring the roles of Evangelis Zappas and William Penny Brookes. Their roles have been put into a more reasonable perspective by the notable work of David C Young (2003), which is, however, of little relevance to the modern Olympic Games, given Young's chosen period of pre-modern Olympic history. While a number of authors are coming into print on the management and marketing dimensions of the Olympic Games, it is difficult to find a text that covers a full management history of the modern Olympics and has strong contemporary relevance.

This work by Barney, Wenn and Martyn provides just such a text. It is essentially a very well researched account of the growing commercialism (born in the de Courbetin era, we discover) and its eventual dominance in IOC affairs. Examined in detail are the development of sponsorship, broadcasting rights, the battle between the IOC, the individual Olympic Games Organising Committees (OGOCs), National Committees and the international federations of the various Olympic sports, and the emergence of third parties as stakeholders.

The historical narrative is important for our understanding of the situation today: there are fewer discontinuances than might be imagined. As well as examining the role of Juan Antonio Samaranch, the President of the IOC, due consideration is given to the roles of his predecessors, including Lord Killanin and Avery Brundage. A picture emerges of highly individualistic leadership styles of the successive presidents, with their resultant polices having far-reaching consequences for the evolution of the Olympic Games. …

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