Study: Olympians should push for collective bargaining

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En esta imagen de archivo, tomada el 2 de abril de 2020, un hombre con una mascarilla pasa por delante del logo de los Juegos Olmpicos de Tokio 2020, en Tokio. (AP Foto/Eugene Hoshiko, archivo)

A study of the worldwide Olympic bureaucracy's finances concludes there's far more money available for athletes than what they receive, and that they would be best served by the sort of collective-bargaining arrangement that's common in pro leagues.

The study, a collaboration between the Global Athlete advocacy group and the Ryerson University Ted Rogers School of Management in Toronto, said the IOC — the largest and most integral cog in the Olympic system — averages $1.4 billion a year in revenue and spends 4.1% of it on athletes.

Even since the Olympics departed from the amateur-only model on which it was founded, the majority of athletes have been largely dependent on their own sports organizations and national Olympic committees for funding. Lucrative sponsorship deals exist for only a small percentage of top-tier Olympians.

At the same time, the study says, because the IOC receives most of its revenue (91%) from TV and marketing and virtually nothing from donations, its model is more in sync with the NFL, NBA and other pro leagues than the family of nonprofit organizations it is part of.

The study says those pro leagues return between 40% and 60% of their revenues to the players, while the Olympic movement gives back 4.1%, the bulk of which “is mostly through scholarships, grants and awards for successful competition, numbers which athletes cannot negotiate.”

“If the IOC and its affiliates are unwilling or unable to compensate its athletes, collective bargaining will change the face of the Olympic Movement,” the report concluded, while also underscoring athletes' chance to grab a central role in reshaping the movement in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic that has delayed the Tokyo Games by a year.

The IOC called the claim that it spends 4.1% of of its revenue on athletes “just plain wrong.”

“It redistributes 90% of all its income generated from the Olympic Games to assist athletes and develop sport worldwide,” the IOC said. “As a result, every day the IOC distributes about $3.4 million around the world to help athletes and sporting organizations.”