The International Olympic Committee is a juggernaut that in 2021 brought in $4.2 billion in revenue. But the organization wasn’t always that wealthy, and it took a lot of work to create the programs that brought the IOC from the brink of destruction to the global powerhouse it is today.
Michael Payne was one of the people who helped the IOC right its course. As the organization’s first marketing director, he helped develop the TOP sponsorship program and also managed broadcast rights. After working at the IOC for 16 years, he left in 2004 to start Payne Sports Media Strategies, his own sports and entertainment strategic consulting firm. During the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, he put together a coffee table book of Olympics-related political cartoons called Toon In!, for which he was honored with the Pierre de Coubertin medal for his contributions to Olympism.
We talked with Michael about his book and developing the TOP sponsorship program, as well as some interesting planning negotiations during Seoul 1988.
In our history moment, Alison starts off with perhaps the most infamous moment of the Seoul 1988 Olympics Opening Ceremonies–one that changed the trajectory of this element of the ceremony from then on–the dove-burning cauldron:
We’ll have more Opening Ceremony stories in future weeks, so catch the full show here:
In our visit to TKFLASTAN, we have updates from:
- Nordic combined competitor Annika Malacinski
- Short track speed skater Ryan Shane
- Long track speed skater Erin Jackson
- Bobsledder Josh Williamson
- Hurdler Dawn Harper Nelson
- Super Fan Sarah
We also have Games news from
Thanks so much for listening, and until next time, keep the flame alive!
Note: This is an uncorrected machine-generated transcript. It contains errors. Please do not quote from the transcript; use the audio file as the record of note.
Jill: Hello, and welcome to another episode of Keep the Flame Alive, the podcast four fans of the Olympics and Paralympics. If you love the games, we are the show for you. Each week we share stories from athletes and people behind the scenes to help you have more fun watching the games. I am your host, Jill Jaracz, joined as always by my lovely co-host, Alison Brown.
Alison, hello. How are you?
Alison: Are you mad at. How come? Because last night I had a terrible dream. Oh no. That we were trapped in Tokyo, which we have never been to. Right. And it was the Olympics again, and you were really mad at me.
Jill: Did I have a
Alison: reason? I had done something stupid. , which, gee, there’s a
It’d be nice to my friend Alison.
Alison: Oh, it was terrible. So then when we were coming on to record, I was like, oh no, maybe I’m getting bad vibes. . Jill is mad at me. , let’s just say that you could have won some of the athletics events of throwing things. Oh, really? I was that. Yeah, I’ve never seen you mad, ever.
Jill: Oh, that’s good. Let’s keep it like that even in your dreams. Come on, . Come on, Alison. Dream world. .
Alison: it was much more traumatic than the, than the dream where we were in Stockholm on the rollercoaster, going to the Stockholm Olympics . So if anyone who’s a psychologist out there and can help me, I would appreciate it.
[00:01:52] Michael Payne Interview
Jill: Oh boy. Wow. Well that wild ride leaves us into a nice, fun interview. Today we are talking with Michael Payne. Michael has been connected with the Olympic movement since the 1980s. First working with a marketing agency that did the International Olympic Committees Marketing. And then in 1988 when the I O C brought that function in-house, he became its first director of marketing and also managed.
Broadcast rights, helping to develop the top sponsorship program. He left the I O C in 2004 and created his own firm called Payne Sports Media Strategies, which does strategic consulting in the sports and entertainment industries, including working with Olympic bids and sponsors. He’s also been a special advisor to Bernie Ecclestone in Formula One.
In December, the I O C U awarded Michael the P R d KTown Medal for his contribu, his contributions to Olympism, notably for his book Toon In! A collection of 1200 political cartoons depicting the history of the Olympic movement. We talked with Michael about his book and developing the top sponsorship program, and we talked with him in November, so this was before he got the Coton medal.
After we knew that Seoul, 1988 was going to be our historical focus for the year, so we got some Seoul talk in there as well. So take a listen.
Michael, thank you so much for joining us. You’ve had a long career on the marketing side of the ioc, which predates the IOC having a marketing function. So talk to us a little bit about those times.
I mean, it was 1983 when you started working with the games in a contract type role. the IOC was a very different organization then. So what made them decide to invest in marketing?
Michael Payne: Well, listen, great to be with everybody today. Thank you for inviting me on. Yeah, it’s a, it’s a long time ago, back into the early eighties when I first became involved with the Olympic movement.
And it’s funny when people sort of look at the Olympics today with, the billions of dollars of contracts, the, so the sheer scope and size of staging the games and the importance as a media asset. They forget in the early eighties before the Los Angeles games, for most people it was game over.
They didn’t see much of a future for the Olympics. There was no money coming in. There were no bid cities. And most of the commentators at the time, most of the media were writing the obituary of the Olympic movement, saying it had been great for the 20th century, but had become too political, too expensive memories of the bankruptcy of Montreal.
The games were not expected to continue. So when I joined in the early eighties, it was um, not necessarily at the time viewed as a potential interesting career move, but under the leadership of the I c under Sam Ranch there was no cure of people waiting to support the games to ensure they [00:05:00] survived.
There were no governments lining up to write a big check. And so it really was a question of survival. Either the IOC was to succeed in finding its feat and its own independent revenue sources, or they were gonna shut up shop. And so, to answer the question why survival, if there was no revenue support, the games would not have continued.
Alison: So when you’re talking about survival, this is coming off the boycott of 1980, how much of an influence was that in that view that it was gone?
Michael Payne: Well, I think that was just part of the broader backdrop you were dealing with, that if by chance you could persuade a city to host the games and you were prepare, you would then spend seven years preparing.
And then suddenly when it was time for everybody to turn up, The superpowers would scream, boycott. And whether it was, I mean, in 76, it really started with the African boycott in Montreal with the debate over a apartheid in New Zealand. By 1980 Olympics was caught completely in the crossfire of superpower politics with decisions being taken by political leaders.
Often on a, a very ill-informed basis, if one looked at how President Carter called for the boycott of moss. I mean, frankly it is, it is scary. How limited information, how zero due diligence, zero questioning. It was a real knee-jerk reaction. And the IOC at the time didn’t have the sort of political leadership to preempt this, to at least try and say, can we have a discussion, a phone call back channel to talk it through?
No, I mean, the IOC was on the receiving end. You go forward four years later with the Soviet boycott of Los Angeles. A lot has been written about that, whether it was really tit for tat. It’s probably a longer story as to what were some of the, the driving forces there. But this was all then part of.
The background that the Olympics didn’t have any revenue, you couldn’t pay for them, and they were caught in a sort, the political cold war between the superpowers. It was not a um, not a pretty
Jill: picture. And the IOC is also dealing with relatively new leadership too, because Juan Antonio Samran hadn’t been in as president for very long at that point.
Michael Payne: Absolutely correct. I mean, he came in on the back of the American boycott for Moscow and then had in his first four years deal with the eventual boycott of Los Angeles. Whilst, I mean, he may be new to the IOC president, he was an exceedingly experienced and agile diplomat and politician. He had spent the previous decade as the Spanish ambassador to the Soviet Union, and he was very well versed at geopolitics and in that sense was the perfect president at the time.
I think, under Lord Collan, who was president at the time of the Montreal Games and on through Moscow in part the Boycots came about because Kannon wasn’t proactive to head it off at the start.
Jill: Was there a worry about soul having issues as well? in the boycott arena, given that it was kind of a coming out for the country.
Michael Payne: Uh, Absolutely. I mean, remember when Seoul was elected, which was when in 1981, most people thought that the IOC was completely, you know, lost the plot because how could you appoint a country to host the games that technically was still in a war zone that wasn’t recognized by 40% of the countries around the world in particular the sporting superpower of the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe at that’s, China that had just come back to the Olympics.
So most people thought the IOC was absolutely crazy. To elect Seoul as opposed to Na Nago Japan. And it probably just only fueled the uncertainty as to whether the Olympics could survive. And right up until se 88 there were big question marks. I mean, if you remember with the Asian Games whether the year or two [00:10:00] before the Olympic Games North Korea was letting off bombs at Kim o Airport in Seoul and I was in Korea at the time.
Again, it wasn’t exactly a perceived as a stable, comfortable location to be inviting the youth of the world. And again, a completely sort of separate story of the politics as to how. Korea was able to succeed in inviting the world, how nations who were the backers of North Korea finally agreed to turn up and compete in Seoul, and how Korea was went on to be made, perhaps the safest country in the planet at that time.
Alison: I remember at the time that there was a lot of discussion that the Soviet boycott of Los Angeles was the best thing that could have happened, for se, because the idea that they would boycott two in a row was unlikely. Or was that kind of a made up news story?
Michael Payne: if you’ll forgive me? I think that was a very made up news story.
There was a fascinating book written by Dick Pound called Five Rings Over Korea and. that tells the story of how samran, the height of his political skills effectively ensure that the Soviet Union would not boycott North Korea, so it would not boycott the games, in se. And he did this by double crossing North Korea because if you were going through the eighties and through 85, 86, the North Koreans were demanding to let the games be co-hosted.
And much to South Korea’s astonishment Sam Ranch said, I think you should entertain this idea. And back then the ioc, a much smaller organization, didn’t have the political sort of power to enforce these decisions. So Sam Ranch had to grit South Korea to understand that. The best insurance policy of ensuring that the so games would be a great success would be initially to engage with North Korea in a dialogue over whether they would co-host and Sam Ranch convincing the, president of the committee and the president of the country to basically trust me here.
And the North Koreans came along with a number of demands, which ranged from, they wanted to co-host some events, and Sam Ranch sort of said, yes, why don’t you have archery? Which again, people looked on us and said, why on earth did he give them archery? That’s the one sport that South Korea was guaranteed to win gold medals in.
And they said Exactly. Have the South Koreans winning gold medals in North Korea. And, you know, the discussions went on and all of the North Korean demands were met. And the IOC only had a couple of demands, one of which was everybody who has an accreditation must be allowed to attend the events. Very simple statement, which therefore included 20,000 journalists.
And the one thing that North Korea didn’t fancy was 20,000 journalists turning up on their doorstep. And so having accepted all of North Korea’s demands, and they suddenly said, whoa, no, we’re not sure about this. The Soviet Union, China and the others said, The IOCs given you everything you asked for.
We never expected the IOC to do that. You’re on your own, we’re going. But if one had rejected North Korea initially, it would’ve been much harder for the Soviets and for the Chinese to, if you want a line with North Korea’s arch enemy, it was a fascinating period of the geopolitics at the time. And subsequently looking at one of the legacies of those games was how South Korea went on to build very strong and powerful trading and political relationships with Russia and China.
Jill Jaracz: When you worked for the agency that worked with the IOC to develop marketing. What was the brief and how did you tackle this, function?
Michael Payne: Well, I, I was hired in the early eighties by isl which was the agency that had been set up by the Adidas head horse.
Who had had a previous agency in England called West n and West N had developed all of the marketing for the soccer World Cup and pfa. And I’d been working there. And when Dassler created his new agency, I was the first executive to transfer from West Alley to his new agency. And the, the remit was build a global sponsorship program, which might on paper sound okay, but first of all, the IOC had no rights.[00:15:00]
All of the rates were held by each National Olympic Committee. So unless you got each National Olympic committee to sign up to a central marketing program, you had nothing. Secondly, sponsorship at the time was defined by having advertising in the stadium, advertising on the name of the athlete.
Well, the Olympics didn’t have advertising in the stadium or on the name of the athlete. And so what were you selling? And even if you could convince somebody, say, well look, focus on the Olympic rings, the most recognizable mark in the world, everything that the Olympic brand stands for, or the rings at that stage stand for.
Cause nobody understood the terminology brand. there was no territory to activate your rights. And an element of this came off the Los Angeles Olympic Games where Peter Ooff had been very successful at developing some commercial sponsorship. And he sold to companies like Coca-Cola. But Coca-Cola found that they couldn’t exercise any rights outside of America.
They were then in a contract race with Pepsi Cola to see who would sign up the rights with each country. Cause if you became a sponsor of the British Olympic team or the Japanese Olympic team, you blocked the sponsorship of the games. And so you had this very unworkable structure. And, a lot of people talk about the success of the top program being eventually able to attract a number of partners to the program.
But frankly, the biggest success was getting all of the countries to agree to sign up to a single marketing program. And back then there were around 160 National Olympic committees and that proved a. Far more complex and challenging exercise than you could ever imagine.
Alison: Where do you even start with something like that?
Michael Payne: Well, you may I give you maybe one anecdote, which just paints the scene against the sort of political backdrop that we were dealing with. Obviously we had to get the American Olympic Committee to sign on board, and in one of the negotiations with the American Olympic Committee, I remember the vice president of the U S O C turning around to me and saying, look, just talk me through this again, how this is gonna work.
You want to develop a worldwide program? And he said, yes, and you’re gonna go and sell this to companies like Coca-Cola Kodak. And he said, yes, that’s the idea. So you’re gonna sell this to American companies. Because Coca-Cola and Kodak is an American company. It’s one of these, these are worldwide companies.
They do business around the world. Ah, okay. And you’re then gonna go and take the money and distribute this to all of the countries around the world. And you said, yes, that’s the plan. And, and know, I was quite young at the time and the vice president looked at me and said, listen, young boy, you don’t come in here and steal the money of American companies to give it to communists and take away our gold medals.
Michael Payne: That was one of maybe 30 negotiations with the United States Olympic Committee to get them in. And then you had the reverse where you’re negotiating with the Soviets and they said, so you’ll come and you’ll give all this money to the countries around the world? And they said, yes. We’re not sure.
That’s a good idea because then we will just have to increase the amount of money we spend on our team because the Americans and the others are getting more money for their teams. So you’re just gonna get into a sort of Star Wars race of funding for athletes and then, you know, you would go to, you know, I know Africa or whatever, and they go, marketing sponsorship, what’s that?
So it was a incredible journey the first three, four years, creating or at least getting all the countries signed up. Parallel to that, you were working to sign up the companies and you were approaching, some of the companies who maybe had shown some interest. The Olympics cuz they were a sponsor in Los Angeles, so, we went to American Express, who was the sponsor of the Los Angeles games and said, look, you had this experience in Los Angeles, hopefully it was successful.
We’re looking at creating a worldwide program. And American Express said, no, you’ll never, we’re not interested in the worldwide program. We’re only interested in the top 10 markets. That’s where we’re, that’s where our businesses come back to us. When you realized your program has failed and, and they’re still waiting for you, , you know,
you were getting a, you were getting a lot of slammed doors.
Oh, and by the way, we have no competition. And it’s true because at the time, visa was a membership of 14,000 different member banks and incapable of taking any central decision until. They had [00:20:00] a new advertising agency and the new senior Vice President of marketing who was looking for a program that could help to bring the Visa brand together.
They also faced a major perception problem. That Visa, even though they had four or five times more card members than American Express, had many more places that would accept Visa over American Express. American Express was viewed as the travel card. If you were traveling on business, you only went with American Express, and Visa wanted to change that.
And the, the Chief marketing officer, a guy named John Bennett, had the vision to understand that if I associated with the Olympics and used the advertising slogan, If you’re going to go to the Olympic Games, don’t forget to take your Visa card because the Olympics doesn’t take American Express.
You could transform the image of global travel and perspective, and that is exactly what Visa signed up for. And because they came in with no preconceived ideas for sports sponsorship, they wrote the rule book, they rewrote the rule book. There was no advertising. They weren’t looking at advertising.
They were looking at how do you take the brand, the power of the brand of the Olympics and marry it to the objectives of what Visa had in hand. And this campaign was so successful that the, so games hadn’t even taken place, which was the first games they were the sponsor of. And the uh, chief Executive of American Express called.
Me up and said, I think there might have been a little misunderstanding. Here is a blank check to take the Olympics back, whatever amount of money you want. And we said, look, you turned us down and we wanna be loyal to our partner. So no thank you. And the ceo, James Robinson was subsequently quoted as saying that turning down the Olympics was the worst professional business mistake he ever made.
And those types of stories and campaigns really helped to launch the top program into what it is today. Where you still have, visa decades on as one of the key partner.
Jill: you started this, how good were you at negotiating?
Michael Payne: I dunno, I was very young and we were making it up as we went along. ,
Jill: what sort of things did you
Michael Payne: learn? Literally, I mean, I say that slightly tongue in cheek. There was no rule book. you know, the goal was there. How do you get 150 countries signed up and how do you persuade companies to back the Olympics and all of this against the backdrop said, yeah, but it’s all caught up in the politics and boycots.
And even if we’re gonna be a sponsor, nobody that won’t turn up. It was a very challenging. Time, and it probably wasn’t until after the Barcelona games in 92 that people really accepted that the Olympics were unequivocally back, strong foundations and the sponsorship was really starting to develop.
Jill: So you also worked with broadcasting rights. Was that a similar story as the marketing situation?
Michael Payne: No, it, the broadcasting had its own challenges. Again, returning to our friends at the United States Olympic Committee where they decided, Not without some reason that the United States was paying 90% of the TV rights and that the rest of the world was paying nothing and why should they, carry all the freight.
And the US Olympic Committee made a a couple of, if you want, rating parties to Congress to get the legislation changed, where it would no longer be the IOC that could sell the rights, but the United States Olympic Committee would sell the rights. And it was a great political story cuz the money would go to the US athletes.
And so we had to deal with the politics of the United States Olympic Committee, basically trying to do an end run, which they had successfully done some years previously over the ownership of the Olympic symbol. And at the same time break the cartel that was operating in other parts of the world notably Europe to get them to start paying their fair share of the TV rights.
I mean, I think when I joined the ioc, Europe was paying maybe 20 million top if that. When I left the ioc 20 years later, Europe was paying over 800 million and starting to pay their way. And, you know, you had, you know, other countries, Japan and elsewhere that was paying very little. So there was some, some understanding of, the US’ [00:25:00] position to say, hang on, we shouldn’t be paying, and subsidizing the rest of the world, but, Equally, if the IOC had allowed the US ooc to take over the TV rights, that would’ve also been game over for the Olympics very quickly.
Alison: During your time at the ioc, the IOC itself grew a great deal, and how did that change just office politics and water cooler talk and how it functioned in a, in a day to day way?
Michael Payne: The, the explosive growth, to be honest, came after I left after the Athens Games. The, the i c up through 2000 and under Sam Ranch.
Was a relatively small organization no bureaucracy. You had three or four directors that were fully empowered for their mandate and portfolio. And you might have had a one or two IOC members who, if you like, were a political masters in, in my case Dick Pound, who, was a very strong visionary influential leader.
And, frankly, Samran should have turned around to Dick and me and just say, get on. And you were empowered to get on with it. You took very early control over the organizing committee and after some of the problems that we encountered in Atlanta, games took over total control in terms of, as it related to the business perspective going forward.
Clearly when you are growing that fast you don’t have all of the sort of the processes and everything else to support. And when Jack Ro took over the presidency you sort of entered into a period more of sort of consolidation, stability. There wasn’t the same sort of innovation, explosive growth and the organization began to become a little bit more bureaucratic.
The new director general who replaced France Kaha, or ico. It became sort of clear that at times that the journey and process was actually more important than the result, which is a disease that can affect international organizations. And I think, one of the subsequent challenges for Thomas Bach when he took over was to how to get some of the energy entrepreneurship innovation back into the i c and less of the sort of bureaucracy that had been in play.
Jill: One of the things you’ve done since you left the IOC was be on the other side of the negotiations with representing Alibaba. What was it like to be on the other side representing a potential sponsor and working with the IOC and negotiating with them in that capacity?
Michael Payne: You mean gamekeeper term culture?
Yeah, . Well, when you’ve spent as much time as I did with the Olympics, and even if, after Athens, I went on to Formula One and some of the other big sports properties, you never get the sort of Olympics out of your um, blood system. And so I, I stayed close and through the era with , I was asked by two or three of the broadcasting companies to basically help them.
Either get Olympic rights back or negotiate new contracts, which is what I did from Australia to with Channel seven to TV Global in Brazil. And then when Thomas Bark became president who I’d known for, for many, many years we had one or two discussions about sponsorship and I had one or two ideas and went off in the case of Alibaba to eventually sit down with Jack Ma and to talking through what a potential Olympic partnership could mean.
And Jack thought this was an interesting idea. And the rest, as they say is history.
Alison: Does anyone intimidate you sitting across the table?
Michael Payne: Oh, . Oh, I think, sort of over the years when you’ve been dealing with the Soviets at certain hard times or whatever, and or back to, the, the us so vice president who gave me the lecture about stealing American money and giving it to communists and everything else, you’re probably in an environment that’s way beyond your pay grade at the time.
But you know, you struggle along and, maybe through sort of being stubborn or whatever you keep at it. But I guess, there’s certainly, you’ve been in the positions I held, been very privileged to Meet incredible visionary business leaders and, people like Jack Ma. I mean, yes, they do intimidate with their intellect.
Some of these leaders. I think Jack is probably from a business standpoint, the most impressive business leader and visionary that, that I’ve met. Yeah. They, they will intimidate you, but in a, not in a negative sense, in a, in a positive sense.
Alison: So you’ve also done bits speaking on being on the other side of the table.
How did that transition from marketing to bids happen for.
Michael Payne: It started out with after I’d left the I c and, you know, really wanted to try and make a bit [00:30:00] of a break from the Olympics, but she co who was running the London bit at the time was a very good friend. Long before my Olympic career, I actually done a lot of the marketing for track and field and the events that said was running in.
So we went back a long way and I suppose late in, what would it have been, 2004? The campaign for the two 12 games was really gaining momentum going into the final straight, and I think in November I turned around and told Serb, you’re not gonna. And he said, why? I said, because Za, the administration, the president, they’re trying to make this a straightforward race about who’s got the best venues that are already built and the fixes in for Paris.
And said, Hmm, you may be right. What do you think we should do? That’s why I, I have no idea. I was just telling you, you’re not gonna win. I wasn’t coming here to tell you what to do. So, yeah, but what do you think? And I said, again, I’ve got no idea, but if you want to come and stay with me in Switzerland over New Year up in the mountains, you know, we’ll light the fire, have some good wine around the fireplace, and, you know, we’ll see if we can come up with a couple of good ideas.
And frankly said, you know, I was a sounding board devil’s advocate and. Over the course of, two or three nights and some good wine and snaps. Um, Basically it came up with the premise that, you know, I said there’s a bigger picture here. I think that whilst the administration and the president is trying to get everything being very technical, I said, honestly, all of the cities, London, Paris, new, they can all build the stadiums, the venues.
I think there’s a bigger vision and it’s how can the Olympics and the staging of the Olympics be used as a catalyst to fulfill potentially a bigger vision. And I would wage her that 51% of the membership would buy into. Whatever that vision might be. And it was said, who subsequently came up with one of the biggest challenges facing sport is engaging the youth of the world because they’re like, whether it’s becoming couch, potatoes, sport isn’t on the school curriculums and the way it used to be certain sports events are not being followed.
I think he was talking even about his own kids not really following the world track and field championships. And yet, when he was growing up, when I was growing up, that was the, big event to follow. And that’s where, said, sort of came up with, well, maybe we should use the Olympics as an inspiration for the youth.
And I said, look, I I think that’s a powerful message. Why don’t you go and try it out on a few members, see what they. And he called me back a couple of weeks later and said, we’re on. That’s the point, that’s the message. And so, you know, I, helped London through the games. Didn’t make myself very popular with the French, as, I mean, as an aside, the, the book I wrote on the, on the business of the Olympics Olympic Turnaround, which tells the whole business story, I think has been translated into 15 languages.
The only language that’s not been translated into is French. And I think probably, you know, with my occasional comments on how things stand with Paris 24, that I think in the end will be great games. But like every road, it’s a bit of a bumpy road getting there. So after London I knew the leadership in Brazil and, they asked if I would sort of help an act as an advisor to them.
And I made it very clear with my work at Formula One, with Benny Eggleston that I would sort of still maintain certain other mandates. And Brazil was another, fascinating journey and challenge of bringing the games to, a continent that had never hosted but had a potentially very powerful story to tell.
And with a few other. International consultants we, gently tried to knock Brazil into shape and I think we succeeded in knocking him into shape into the bid. But the day after they won, they all went feral .
Jill: So Having the vision and something bigger really tip Brazil, because I lived in Chicago during the time of the 2016 bid and it kind of knew that Chicago would be a strong city.
We didn’t realize that they were gonna be the first ones knocked out,
Michael Payne: I don’t think anybody expected them to be knocked out first round. And they, they were a very strong city, but you had. Bid leadership that didn’t understand how to campaign and lobby. And I’m not talking about, you know, any nefarious issues here that sort of subsequently came to light.
And frankly, when you look at the results, you know, were completely unnecessary. But I, I give you one anecdote. We started working with President Lula and what his messaging should be one year before the presentation. When President Obama made his speech. And you know, as he started speaking, I mean, clearly this is one of the greatest orators in the world.
Oh, mind, you know, your view on politics or whatever. He is a brilliant orator. And he began speaking and I said, it’s game [00:35:00] over. We’re good. And. I knew one or two of the people who’d been working for the Chicago bid and said, look what happened. Where was the visionary, powerful speech? And they said, Michael Dun asks, do you wanna know when he started writing the speech on Air Force one flying over?
Alison: You cannot leave your homework to the last minute.
Michael Payne: Well, it, it’s actually, I mean, I know that there was a big debate about whether he should fly to Copenhagen for the session or not. And he was damned if he did and damned if he didn’t. But I think at the leadership level was very poorly advised as to how the politics of all of this worked and the leadership of the Chicago bid.
Thought that this was gonna be a, a sort of technical beauty contest. And it isn’t just a technical beauty contest. And I remember at the time during the voting, I was asked by the BBC if I would do the sort of live color commentary as to the voting process and was in there, in the media center.
And on my left were I think the four US networks. And they’d flown in all of their heavyweight talent to sort of present. And I think on my right were the Japanese and, and other broadcasters. And I remember as the voting was about to start it, know, the, the opening question was, so, Michael, who’s gonna go out first?
Will it be, I think it was expected to be Japan? And I said, oh, no, no, I’m not gonna, I’m not gonna judge on that. There is always the curse or the first round. And if you haven’t built up enough friends to get you through the first round, and there’s an awful lot of sympathy vote going on in the first round.
And the Japanese knew they weren’t gonna win, but they went round to their friends and said, look, please don’t have to vote for us in the final, but please give us your vote for the first round. Don’t allow us to lose face. So the Japanese locked up their first round vote, Madrid and Spain locked up its first round vote Rio.
Who by that stage within the membership was seen as by far the strongest candidate. And. Chicago, that was everybody expected to go through to the second round, expected it might have even been through to the final. But the one thing Chicago didn’t understand is they had to get through the first round.
And so when when RAG opened the envelope and said, and Chicago will not proceed to the next round, the four networks to my left, you could have heard a pin drop that was in total shock and it took them probably nearly 10 seconds to sort of finally blurt out. Well, that was a surprise.
But you know, it was indicative of, a lot of the lessons that the US had been so successful at learning when they won the games in Atlanta for 96. That was a surprise for everybody else then, but they’d not carried those lessons through. And the relationship with the United States Olympic Committee had become dysfunctional with the international movement.
And so you had us a perfect storm against Chicago, which didn’t do justice to the quality of the technical plan they were proposing.
Jill: Let’s try to do Munich really quickly since we heard the pun Chan side. What happened with the Munich bid?
Michael Payne: I was always told by Samran to be very wary of Italians and Koreans in elections. And this was. Third time that Koreans were bidding they were very, very focused bidding against Munich which had a great technical bid, but was also led by the IOC member Thomas Bark, who many people were expecting, would be the lead candidate for the presidency.
And there were a lot of members, I think, who were saying, well, we’re gonna be voting for Thomas anyway next year so we can reward the Koreans for their loyalty with their third bid this time round. And it just validated that, as I just said a moment ago, it’s not a technical beauty contest.
It wasn’t a technical beauty contest for London, that’s why Paris, if it was Paris, would’ve won similarly for Chicago. So there’s a lot, an awful lot of other factors from geopolitics, geography other votes that may be particularly on the winter games that may be coming up as a pity, because I think Munich would’ve been a uh, a phenomenal, phenomenal host.
Alison: Michael, this will, this question will determine how I feel for the rest of the week.
No. How is it, I know, how is it working with the princess?
Michael Payne: She is a very informed[00:40:00] fun member. But because of her title, people would often be somewhat standoffish and if there was a, a cocktail party you know, people at times would be, sort of scared to sort of go and embrace talk with her. But as I was a, British passport carrying, up until Brexit, would often sort of engage with her and, she’d be the first one to say, so what’s happening?
What do I need to know? And. You know, Was a, a very senior informed member who had not only been an Olympian, but held number of important posts throughout the sports movement.
Alison: She’s my favorite IOC member, so
Michael Payne: Well, I’m sure she please know that she’s chair, she’s chairwoman of the IOC nominating committee.
Jill: Let’s talk really quickly about your book Tune in Covid Project. What made you decide to put this history of the Olympics together in political cartoons?
Michael Payne: Well, back at, at my time at the ioc, I had started collecting some of the political cartoons. I had great respect for the way the cartoonists could often take a very complicated.
Sensitive political message and sort of convey it in a drawing without even words. So I used to collect the few cartoons I had them hanging in my office that often sort of would cause raised eyebrows for journalists when they would come in there. Cause you know, some of them were quite edgy, shall we say, towards the ioc.
And I just thought, wouldn’t it be fun to tell the history through the political cartoon? But like always, it’s one of these projects that you talk about you never actually bother to get round to doing. Along comes Covid, you couldn’t travel. So I thought, well, why don’t I actually sort of shut up and.
Do something, try and see if I could put it together. And at the time I think I had maybe a hundred cartoons and I thought that would be enough to write the book, but it became like a drug. The more we got into sort researching it and get me on. And I think I ended up with around 3000 cartoons which I had to edit down to maybe 1200.
Then I had to track down all the cartoonists, 500 of them around the world to get permission to get the uh, high definition version of the cartoons. And then write all the stories, behind the scene of the cartoons as to what was really going on at the time. And a lot of stories that had never been told before.
And, you know, at the end of it, we had a five kilo coffee table book which I’d all. Pulled together for charity. And it was a fun project that’s caused quite a stir. A lot of people astonished that the IOC didn’t sue me for libel. and a few of the ioc, I think administration would like to sue me for libel.
But the leadership, the IOC actually thought it was a great project and even wanted to write the forward. And I said to the president, I said, look, I’d be very honored but I think it may be a little bit too edgy for you. I don’t think there’s anything in there you’re gonna disagree with.
And he said, okay. But I said, the media is gonna chase you on this and ask you what you think. So we need a good answer. And the IOC came up with a statement that this was a. Outrageous Scarless and probably libelous book and we can’t wait for the second edition, . And with that it was published.
Jill: Will there be a second edition?
Michael Payne: I don’t know. I, I think to be honest I have collected the cartoons from Tokyo and Beijing, so there’s obviously some further good content there, but you know, that’s just adding one further chapter and hopefully everybody who’s interested has already bought their copy of the book. Whether I will do something for maybe broader looking at what’s happened to FIFA in the last few weeks.
There’s a lot of good content there to play with. I dunno, I mean, I need to be locked up again in a, in a room for six months to uh, consider it because it was. Far more complicated and challenging to pull together than I envisaged. And I think if I’d understood it at the outset, I might not have been brave enough to have done it.
Alison: That’s sort of
Jill: like how we feel about our show. There’s a drug element to it, .
Alison: Absolutely. But any of those passion projects that then develop into this, this thing that, that is what gets you through it.
Michael Payne: Absolutely. And um, I think it’s important to have a passion. And if you had the privilege to work for the Olympics and, and the way that I have I can sort of contribute and make a difference.
And the book in the case of Tune in Aside from the cartoons, it does sort of have some fairly hard messages about political interference about the media and the way they report often from a very uninformed perspective. And at the end of it, you know, you look at the resilience of the Olympics in terms of how with all of the nonsense that is thrown at it is able to continue to pull through how it can be a very powerful [00:45:00] movement and cause for good for change.
And a lot of the media, they’re the first ones in the end who will turn around and say, Maybe you’re right, maybe we jumped again a little bit too quickly, or we didn’t have everything in its proper perspective or context. I mean, I just, one, there’s a whole chapter in the book dealing with doping and clearly there were after the problems in Suchi and, the unbelievable stories and lengths that Russia went to, to win the metal table.
And you can imagine the cartoonists in the west, in America. I mean, the stories they were able to develop with this. And it became very political. But I was then able to track down a lot of Russian cartoonists and see how they were telling the story. And they would suddenly, you know, go to American baseball and say, now can you talk me through how this doping thing works in baseball?
And at the end of it, it’s not to necessarily judge, but hopefully to, get the reader to sort of turn around as well. Maybe it’s not quite as black and white as we thought. And with that, people reflect and in the world it’s not getting any simpler the politics of the day the issues of the day to try and look at it from a global perspective, not to be sucked into only looking at it from an Anglo-Saxon perspective or a Chinese perspective, but to really try and uh, build up a global picture which I think is.
Is a fascinating sort of journey to go on.
Jill: Excellent. All right, Michael, thank you so much. This has been so interesting for us. We love digging into the, the history to help us understand the present and future.
Thank you so much, Michael. Learn more about him at michaelrpayne.com. Olympic cartoon.com. And on Twitter, he is michaelrpayne1. And we’ll have links to all of those in the show notes.
[00:46:56] Seoul 1988 History Moment
Jill: Ah, that sound means it is time for our history moment. The first one of 2023 Seoul, 1988. Alison, you’re starting us off. What do you got?
Alison: I’m starting us off with probably the most famous story from Seoul. Pigeon roast from the opening ceremonies. We cannot discuss Seoul without starting this. So the opening ceremonies for Seoul took place on September 17th, 1988, and as part of the ceremony as has been done since 1920, over a hundred live doves were released over the stadium.
all I know is that it was over a hundred. Some news reports say hundreds. Some news reports say 800. Some say a flock. So the number is not recorded that I could find. And most of these smart bur birds flew outta the stadium. Some, however, settled on the top and edge of the cauldron. They wanted a good view.
They wanted a good view, and birds settled where there’s edges made perfect sense. The cauldron was going to be lit by three Koreans, one of whom was sung Key Chung, a long distance red runner. and the first ethnic Korean to win a medal at the Olympic Games in 1936, though he had been forced to compete for the Japanese team.
Ooh, whole other story we’re gonna get to at another. But, so these final three torch bearers are lifted up to the cauldron by a a hydraulic platform. Now, as they approached, the torches that they’re carrying are very smoky, and most of this smoke chased most of the birds away. You see them in the videos flying away, however, A few birds didn’t get the hint.
Again, the numbers vary. It is reported as few as three and as many as 12. So honestly, a, a tiny, tiny fraction of the doves that were released remained on the cauldron as it was the cauldron bursts into flames as do the birds on live television.
Windows doves Fry,
So needless to say, there were many viewers who were disturbed by this image
and when you listen to the original American broadcast, they completely ignore the birds. And generally, from the reporting that I read at the time, most broadcasters ignored the birds. Despite the fact that they all saw this coming, but in the news reports at the time, it was rewarded. Hundreds of birds were burnt.
Dozens of birds. Birds were burnt, so it was played up much more. Based on all the video evidence, it is 12 or fewer and down to maybe three. However, since 1988, we have never. A live dove release. They’ve become artistic paper lights [00:50:00] projection, but nobody wants another pigeon fry at their opening ceremonies.
And I’ll tell you. That’s just the first story on the opening ceremonies. We got more coming. Oh, yay. I’m excited.
[00:50:14] TKFLASTAN Update
Alison: Welcome to Shk
Jill: Faan, and now it’s time of the show where we check in with our team, keep the flame alive. These are past guests of the show who make up our citizenship of Shk Faan, our very own country. First off, we have some results nor to combined. Anika Masinsky competed at O Tepa Estonia, and she was part of a mixed team relay that finished eighth and then she also competed individually, but it was a rough weekend for the women and wind.
on her first in individual event, the ski jumping was canceled. Because of high winds, but she placed 14th in the 5K mass start and then the next day was another race and ski jumping was back. She placed 25th in that, but did not participate in the
Alison: 5K race at the US National Short Track Championships Speeds Gator Ryan.
Shane finished seventh overall, and his best finish was third place in one of the men’s 500 races. He also medaled in some of the junior event. Oh,
Jill: good for him. Yes. Straddling the line between junior and senior, but his feet
Alison: have finished growing
Jill: and at the US national long track speed skating championships, Erin Jackson placed first in the two 500 meter races that were there, and then in the 1000 meter she placed third, and in the 1500 meter she placed fourth.
Alison: And in some other updates you mentioned last week about Josh Williamson having a grain injury.
Oh no. He had to have surgery on his hip. What, so he had, I believe it was a, a, a hip labial repair. I may be.
Jill: Is this something like what Deanna Price had? No, Lauren Gibbs. Oh, okay. Oh, I wonder if this is a
Alison: bobsled thing. I don’t know. We’re gonna have to find out. But the good news is he’s doing very well.
He’s up and moving. He is rocking his hospital gown. And he was already on the exercise bicycle. Oh, good for him in the video. So he’s doing well. So best wishes for a speedy recovery for.
Jill: Dawn Harper Nelson gave birth in December to her second child, Zoe Dawn had some complications with birth, but both mom and baby are home and doing well now.
Alison: and more babies. Superfan Sarah and her family. Welcome son Everett Alexander. Few weeks early, he couldn’t wait, but all as well. And Mom and baby are home and doing fine. Yay.
[00:52:45] Beijing 2022 Update
Jill: We have a little bit of news from Beijing 2022, and that is, if you want to go skiing at the resorts in Jean jk, they are open to the public right now, and that is very exciting.
Jean Jako is where they did the all the freestyle events. So they have a whole bunch of resorts back in there for skiing. And honestly, I mean, this might be skiing my speed, which is steep, but not too steep.
Alison: So Jean Ja was the place where I almost slid down the mountain, right , for lack of the two volunteers. I hope everyone’s skiing Avengers. There go a little bit better than mine, .
Jill: So if you go let us know.
[00:53:38] Paris 2024 Update
Jill: We have some ticket pricing for Paris 2024. Our friend, Rich Perlman, over at the Sports Examiner broke out a list He was citing some reporting from Le Parisian, which is a subscriber based publication. So the root along the san for the opening ceremonies is going to be six kilometers long.
I, I think the athletes may just travel for the whole thing and ahead of. You know what I mean? No. Like the root is so long that when the opening ceremony starts, the parade of athletes also has to start so that they get there in time for,
Alison: so there’s no waiting under the tunnel. You just get on a boat and you just take your boat ride the whole time.
Well, that would be nice. That would be
Jill: nice. Interesting. You gotta be hopeful that the boats all have. a little snack bar because how many times have we heard, I was going to the opening ceremonies. , it didn’t have anything to eat and it was like an all day affair.
Alison: Is this like the Staten Island ferry in New York where they have the bar set up for people after work,
Jill: maybe not that raucous, but it should be a good time. but if you want to watch this along the river, they’re going to have riverside platforms with reserved seat. That’s gonna run anywhere from 90 Euros to [00:55:00] 2,700 euros.
So if you’re in the US that’s about $96 to about 28 75. Then there’s going to be reserved v i p seating on platforms that’s gonna run 4,250 euros to 5,500 Euro. But wait, there’s more. I know if you want reserved seats on a bridge, that’s gonna cost you 9,500 Euros. And if you would like seats on a cruise ship on the river, that’s 25,000
But on the other side, you can just camp out and get some free spots.
Jill: That is the good thing. they said there’s gonna be seating areas, but there’s also going to be a big free viewing space from roadside above the river. So yeah, camp out and get a free space. . I’m very curious how the seeding thing will work, but, but when I saw this price list, I went, oh, that’s where they’re making their money.
as they tout their, what? 1 million tickets that are gonna cost 24 euros.
Alison: Well, we always knew that wasn’t gonna be for the opening ceremonies ,
Jill: right? So, rich Perlman also said that the National Olympic Committees got a ticket catalog last September and the best seating. don’t get discouraged here.
These are the expensive seats, but the best seating. For athletics and swimming was gonna cost 950 Euros a seat for the finals. artistic gymnastics. It was gonna be 600 beach volleyball and volleyball. Were gonna be three 90 each as it was diving in tennis and finals for track cycling in Judah were gonna come in best seats at three 50, so not surprising.
but the best seats are gonna be expensive.
Alison: Right. And we would have to go back and compare. I don’t think these are so out of line with what’s been done previously.
Jill: I don’t either. But I, I would think that if you’re a fan and you’re thinking I want to go to the games, this would kind of discourage me. But don’t despair.
There will be cheap seats.
Alison: And especially things like athletics. There are so many sessions and that’s the finals. And those are gonna be the big ticket events. Exactly,
Jill: exactly. Speaking of athletics, world Athletics announced its schedule competition for that will take place in the second half of the games, August one through 11.
They will have 17 sessions, so there will be a lot of sessions. All of the finals for the non road racing events will be in the evening. So that is something you can plan on already. The road racing events would be the walk and the two marathons. Those are gonna be in the mornings.
[00:57:39] Milan-Cortina 2026 Update
Jill: For 2026. Milan Cortina. I know, I’m,
Alison: so surprised at this. So last year the organizing committee asked for submissions from Italian students, and the public vote should be coming up very soon because the selection will be announced at the 2023 San Remo Festival in February of this year.
Jill: When I saw that you put this on the show sheet, I was very surprised that there was going to be selection that quickly cuz I looked at the festival, the festivals what, in like mid-February or something like that? Yes. That seems really
Alison: quick. Right. And I’m one, we’ll have to see because they haven’t even put up the voting and they’re supposed to be voting.
We did the same thing for the logo. Mm-hmm. and it was announced at San Remo, I believe last year. That’s right. So I guess everything’s gonna get announced at, San Remo. Excuse me, . And got very New York for a second there. . So that’s the consistency which makes sense because that’s when the Olympics will be in, in mm-hmm.
in February, but yeah, it’s awfully early considering we just got the fridges.
Jill: Yeah. I’m very curious if this will actually get pulled off the way that was originally planned, but if it does, we could have more mascots.
Alison: The only thing Milan Cortina has on.
[00:58:55] Winter 2030 Update
Jill: We also have some follow up from our winter 2030 story from last week. Almost immediately after we taped the Mayor of Shamani, Mount Blanc said, oh, you think that there is a joint bid with Italy and Switzerland and us? Oh, that’s nice, but it’s not, not not gonna happen.
we are not interested. private entities are, interested in bidding, not the government. So this could be nothing.
Alison: The way it’s going, the 2030 Olympics is gonna be in my backyard, . It’s like nobody wants this thing. . Maybe Detroit will bit again. Oh, that they did for, for 50 years.
Alison: I, oh, it’s so frustrating.
Jill: Right? but honestly, aren’t a lot of games started with interest from a private. , so who knows? Well that, Hey, that’s gonna do it for this week. Let us know what you remember from Seoul and we will share it in a future episode.
Alison: You can email us at flame alive pod gmail.com.
Call or text us at [01:00:00] (208) 352-6348. That’s 2 0 8. Flame it. Our social handle is at Flame Alive Pod. And be sure to join the Keep the Flame Alive Podcast Group on Facebook. And don’t forget our weekly newsletter filled with other fun stories about this week’s episode, and you can sign up for that at Flame Alive Pod.
Jill: do them I love opening it because you’ve got some fun stories in there every week that we, stuff that we don’t talk about on the episode. So it’s new, exciting content for you, like what
Alison: they did with the cooked pigeons. Really? Is that what’s coming? No, . Aw. Maybe I’ll put some recipes in there.
Jill: Yeah. So be sure to shine up at Play Live pod dot. For that next week, ho. Next week
we will have the first part of our interview with the legendary Dick Pound who has just stepped down as the longest serving member of the International Olympic Committee. Will he go rogue with us? You will have to tune in to find out. And on that note, thank you so much for listening, and until next time, keep the flame alive.