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IOC to Rio 2016: We Will Not Help Pay Your Olympic Debt

At this week's IOC Executive Board meeting, the Rio 2016 committee asked the IOC to help settle approximately $28 million in outstanding debt. The IOC, despite receiving $4 billion in TV rights for the Games, refused.

by Aaron Gordon
Jul 10 2017, 3:50pm

El intratable presidente del COI

The closing ceremony for Rio 2016 was almost 11 months ago, but Rio 2016 still exists. At least, legally speaking. Rio 2016, the organizing committee behind the Games, can't officially shut down because it still owes money, many millions, although the exact figure is unknown. The committee has already tried selling used cables and air conditioners. They have tried asking the local and federal governments for payments, but these governments are in massive debt too. In a last ditch effort, Rio 2016 asked for help from the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the ones who profited most off the 2016 Olympics.

They said no.

To be fair, the IOC has already contributed $1.5 billion toward the Rio Games, which they are quick to point out is the most the organization has ever contributed to one Olympics. But this is only one-tenth of the estimated $13.1 billion cost of the Rio Olympics. The difference was mostly covered by the Brazilian federal government, the Rio State and city governments, and, of course, the Rio Organizing Committee.

IOC Spokesperson Mark Adams is not wrong when he justified the IOC's decision by saying "We have to understand the situation the country is in. This is a country in severe financial, political and social crisis." Part of the reason Rio 2016 still has outstanding debts is because the last mayor of Rio, Eduardo Paes, promised the committee some $46 million which only partially materialized, and the new mayor has not made up the difference. This is pretty much the Rio 2016 story: they thought they had plenty of money, then a whole lot of unexpected shit happened, and suddenly nobody had any money and bills came due.

Of course, this isn't a justification to not help Rio 2016 settle debts, but the exact argument for it. The IOC does have money, thanks to the Olympics, its only revenue-generating product. During the 2013-2016 Olympic cycle, the IOC made $5.6 billion in revenue, a majority from TV rights deals for the Summer Games. But they consider their affiliation with Rio 2016 officially closed nonetheless. Once again, for all the talks of positive legacies, the IOC is perfectly content to walk away.