Olympic Families Feel the Financial Squeeze

(Note: this post is somewhat off course of media criticism & commentary. My initial interest was due to the article referenced below about brand enforcers roaming the streets of London.)

Despite the Olympics in London being billed as an event to “Inspire a generation,” it’s hard to know who or what the Games are supposed to inspire. It could be the fans who come from thousands of miles away and all corners of the globe to witness not only their fellow citizens but also the athletic prowess of people at the top of their game. Or perhaps the Games inspire the athletes themselves to compete for a medal to bring home. Athletes must practice years with top notch coaching at state of the art facilities to make this happen. Or perhaps large corporations hope to inspire an event with ultimate branding potential, as thousands of spectators attend the events and millions around the world tune in. Of the three groups who may be inspired by the Games of 2012, group number three–corporate sponsors–profit unfortunately on the backs of thousands of athletes and their families.

Take two U.S. Olympic stars who have been in the news lately: swimmer Ryan Lochte and gymnast Gabby Douglas. Recently it was reported that Lochte’s parents have amassed so much debt that they are currently in foreclosure on their home. Gabby Douglas’s mom filed for bankruptcy earlier this year. The costs of being an Olympic champion are indeed trying. For example, The Daily Beast offered the following numbers: training costs can top $1,000 a month for gymnasts; leotards and warm-up suits costs several hundred dollars, and additional training costs around $600 a month. For parents to travel with their children, transportation can be run in the thousands. As for swimmers, access to top swim clubs can run up to $3,000 annually, equipment up to $500 per year, and swim gear retails around $395.

Sponsors also fork out money to help put on the Olympics. However, although sponsors will give a collective $1.4 billion, the money they give out is relatively small potatoes for them. As for the exposure that the Olympics brings to them, the benefits are huge. In terms of raw value, many sponsors such as Coca-cola and McDonald’s are raking in huge sums of money as the official drink or french fry of the Games. They also profit substantially from the marketing opportunity. Event spectators as well as viewers around the world will see their marks everywhere at the Games.

Furthermore, the host country, England, is tasked with enforcing sponsor brands. In fact, a full force of almost 300 were in charge of inspecting the cityscape for brand infractions. These included: using two words from a verboten list within the same sentence, words like “2012” or “games”; using the image of the Olympic rings themselves; or taking personal pictures of Olympic events. As hosts,  the people of London were essentially held hostage to the Twenty Twelve (2012) Olympic Games, where athletes competed for gold, silver, and bronze medal prizes. Corporate sponsors are determined to profit as much as possible from the games, and hundreds of brand enforcers will help the do just that.

Therefore, in spite of the lucrative deals that corporate partners receive, Olympic competitors and their families are suffering at the hands of a profit motive whose benefits vastly help corporate partners over the real center of the Olympics: the Olympians themselves.

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