HARD WORDS CAN HELP IOC

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It's our hope International Olympic Committee corporate sponsors were blunt during this month's closed door meeting in New York with top IOC marketing officials Richard Pound and Michael Payne. As stakeholders, they needed to be. At this juncture in the Olympic bidding scandals, plain talk about the need for reforms at IOC is what best serves everyone's interests, both in the short term and long term.

Few IOC corporate sponsors may be prepared to be as forceful or public as John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Co. President David F. D'Allesandro, who has publicized specific proposals for IOC action (inviting in outside investigators, creating a new membership selection system, changing the host city selection process, adding tougher gift disclosure rules and immediately starting a search for an eventual successor to IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch). Nor are they likely to threaten to cancel Olympic Games TV ad schedules as the John Hancock executive has done. But all have a constructive role to play by demanding change.

Moreover, many of these IOC sponsors, and those that support national Olympic committees as well, do so because the Games represent more than a marketing opportunity. In an era of increasing globalism, marketers also subscribe to the ideals of the Olympic movement and to the spirit of competition and international friendship it represents. That's worth trying to preserve -- especially when it is the very success the Games have enjoyed, and the money that is now involved in their production, that is at the root of the IOC's problems. It needs to be put on a firmer footing.

For now, marketers should look at the IOC as they do a major corporate investment and insist on the kind of sound management controls and accountability they expect from their other investments, or in their own companies.

The IOC has a critical meeting next month. What it does about its problems, and its willingness to initiate change, will be closely gauged by world governments, journalists, sports federations, would-be host cities and others. While sponsor dollars can move elsewhere, we hope Olympic corporate sponsors see their Olympic ties as investments for the long haul. That means doing whatever they can, now,