Sponsors riding high on London's feel-good factor

Major sponsors are delighted with how London has staged the Games.

London’s Olympic Stadium. Picture: AFP

LONDON - Major sponsors are delighted with how London has staged the Games while the enthusiasm generated by the success of the British team is also a plus, International Olympic Committee (IOC) marketing chief Gerhard Heiberg said on Tuesday.

Britain had a strong record of organising big sporting events and the IOC had always been confident it would put on a good show, Heiberg said, but the growing tally of British gold medals has lifted the atmosphere in London.

"Everybody feels at home, everybody talks to each other, everybody is roaring and of course the sponsors, the IOC we feel this strongly," he told Reuters.

Both television and sponsors were being well served by the Games which end on August 12, Heiberg said, with a cumulative TV audience of 4.8 billion people.

"Of course they see the joy, the enthusiasm, people smiling, laughing, hugging each other," he said.

"It goes all over the world, it's good for Britain," he added in an interview on the fringes of an international sport business symposium at London's Birkbeck College.

Heiberg was himself the head of the organising committee for the 1994 Winter Games in Lillehammer in his native Norway.

The Olympic movement is funded by television revenues of around $4 billion over a four-year cycle and earns a further $1 billion from 11 international companies who are its global sponsors.

London is an exception to the trend of taking the Olympics to fast developing nations where both the risks and rewards are higher.

Beijing hosted the Games in 2008, while Rio de Janeiro will stage them in 2016. Russia has the Winter Olympics in the Black Sea resort of Sochi in two years' time.

A number of companies from Russia had spoken to the IOC about joining a sponsorship programme that features established U.S. companies like Coca-Cola and Procter & Gamble but the IOC did not believe the Russians were ready yet.

"We feel that Russian companies are developing well but maybe their management style, maybe their ideals and their values are at this stage a little different from what we would like to see," Heiberg said.

He admitted that taking the Olympics to Rio in 2016 was "an experiment" but said it could pave the way for a first Games in Africa as early as 2024 if it went well.

"They have never had such a big event in the whole of South America. They have to do a lot on the infrastructure side," he said of Rio, which also hosts the 2014 football World Cup.

Heiberg noted that South Africa successfully staged a World Cup in 2010 and would be a potential Olympic host were Rio to go according to plan.

"If that is successful, I think the opening for going to Africa will be even bigger because you prove that in a developing nation it is possible," he said.