POSTED: July 9th 2009

Olympic legend Michael Johnson may have helpful hint for USOC over cash

KEIR RADNEDGE / Sports Features Communications

LONDON: If the United States Olympic Committee wants to defuse the issue over its share of Games revenue then it needs to state its case more effectively.

That was an obvious conclusion to be drawn from comments in London by Michael Johnson, the former double Olympic gold-medallist at 200m and 400s.

Johnson was speaking in the wake of comments by keynote speakers including former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Chariots of Fire film-maker Lord Puttnam at a Beyond Sport conference about the need for sport to invest more money and effort in social development.

That led on to a question of whether the USOC should take a larger slice of the financial cake than other – and, in particular, far poorer - national Olympic committees. The row not only continues, despite an agreement between the USOC and the IOC on the formula for a long-term solution, but is potentially damaging to Chicago's 2016 hosting bid.

Johnson said: “I don’t know the [financial] model. I know NBC pays big money and the majority of the Olympic sponsors are US-based. In that case, I would imagine the USOC would have some deserving claim - if they can show it’s their own effort which helped bring them all on board.

“But I don’t know if that’s true.”

Fears for the future

Johnson went on to express his concerns about the future of track and field unless governing bodies – including the IAAF – took drastic action to ramp up its visibility through a repackaging of international events.

He said: “Participation is certainly not the problem. But at top level, in its present state, the sport’s appeal to TV rights-holders and sponsors is probably not very good.

“One of the problems for athletics is that it is half a dozen different sports all wrapped up the same package – and there may not be many people who are interested in all of them.”

However Johnson praised athletics’ fight against drug cheats.

He did not believe that such scandals had affected a sport’s popularity, adding: “If that were true then the Tour de France would be dead and Major League Baseball would be dead. Cycling has been riddled with scandals but the Tour is as popular as ever. MJB has polled many of its fans and they all say they don’t care.

“It’s unfortunate. But that’s another story.”

Keywords · United States Olympic Committee · Olympic Games · revenue · Michael Johnson

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