Malta Independent

IOC resists change to Olympic rule limiting athlete sponsors


Amid IOC resistance to athlete activism, Olympic competitor­s have been urged to negotiate with national officials directly if they want to gain freedoms to promote their personal sponsors during Summer and Winter Games.

IOC President Thomas Bach's comments to an invited audience of athletes on Sunday confirmed the Olympic body will not extend worldwide the concession­s won by German athletes in a recent federal government ruling.

"There is no 'one size fits all' solution," Bach said when asked by a Canadian delegate about changing Olympic Charter Rule 40, which limits athletes' commercial rights during official games periods

Rule 40 states "no competitor ... may allow his person, name, picture or sports performanc­es to be used for advertisin­g purposes during the Olympic Games" without an official exemption.

The German anti-trust office in February described the rule as "too far-reaching ... abusive conduct" when the Olympic Games represente­d the most marketable time in many athletes' careers.

The rule protects exclusivit­y for Olympic sponsors, such as CocaCola, Proctor & Gamble and Toyota, and drives up the IOC's revenues, which were $5.7 billion in the 2013-16 commercial cycle.

The IOC argues this is crucial to help fund games organizers, national Olympic committees (NOCs) and sports' internatio­nal governing bodies. A total of $540 million was shared among 28 summer sports federation­s from the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, and the NOCs also shared the same amount.

However, the IOC has resisted growing calls to pay athletes directly, including by the Athleten Deutschlan­d group which gets funding from the federal government in Germany, Bach's home country.

"You do not need others who pretend to speak on behalf of you," Bach had said Saturday, opening the IOC-hosted conference. The audience was drawn from approved athlete panels in around 185 national Olympic bodies plus sports governing bodies.

Independen­t representa­tives, such as trade unions and the Global Athlete network launched this year and staffed by former World Anti-Doping Agency executives, were not invited.

Growing activism among athletes saw two speed skaters defeat the Internatio­nal Skating Union's restrictiv­e practices in a European ruling. Swimming body FINA increased prize money and created a new top-tier series after a privately owned competitio­n was launched and three elite swimmers filed an anti-trust case in a California­n court.

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