But no matter how much time he spends willing it to be otherwise, many observers are certain to measure Payne's and Atlanta's performance against the $1 billion in municipal debt incurred by organizers of the Montreal Olympics, and the $250 million surplus delivered to Los Angeles by Peter Ueberroth and his 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee.
The success of most organizations of ACOG's size is measured in large part by their ability to sustain themselves over generations. But Payne's creation is designed to instantly disappear. Big companies blow a quarter or a fiscal year and come back strong the next time around, but Payne and ACOG have only one shot at the bottom line. The Olympic Games are the focus of an estimated $100 billion-plus worldwide sports economy that has exploded through the constant addition of leagues, teams, logos, licensing and endorsement deals, television outlets, sports talk-radio channels, sponsored events and even new sports synthesized to feed a market demand. One of the many transparencies used in a typical corporate-style presentation by an ACOG marketing executive shows a giant red sphere representing the "$5.1 billion economic impact of the Centennial Olympic Games" in the Atlanta area alone. A much smaller green sphere on the same chart, looking like the tiniest moon of a very big planet, represents the paltry $166 million generated by Super Bowl XXVIII. While NBC is now looking to reap upward of $650 million from Olympic television ads, the network can expect around $80 million from the forthcoming Super Bowl.
The official Olympic employee and volunteer garments to which Payne has paid such attention are actually donations, part of a $100 million-plus partnership between ACOG and the Sara Lee Corp. Sara Lee's investment covers, among other things, $40 million in various Olympic partnership fees, about $20 million in licensing guarantees covering everything from sweatshirts to meat, and perhaps $15 million in "hospitality" for VIP guests. Sara Lee's Hanes division is even connecting the Olympics to endorser Michael Jordan via a TV ad campaign called Olympic Briefs. Sara Lee officials say they are confident that they will recoup all of the money in stronger brands and increased product sales.
In 1992 NationsBank CEO Hugh McColl came to visit ACOG from his headquarters in Charlotte, N.C. McColl listened to the Payne pitch and quickly inquired about the price tag for the right to attach the Olympic flame and rings to his ever-expanding banking empire. "Aw, hell," McColl remembers replying when Payne said $40 million. "I thought you were gonna ask for a hundred. We're in."
McColl says he would have committed to a figure "way north" of that $40 million. "See, we're the third-largest bank in America, and we spend north of $100 million a year on marketing alone," he says. "We had just taken over C&S/Sovran, the biggest bank in Atlanta. I thought of the sponsorship as a way to show our commitment to the city, and I also wanted to make the general point that we are 'successful people' at NationsBank—which is a substitute for saying we're big and we're rich."
Although recent estimates show ACOG has fallen some $85 million short of original sponsorship projections, the effort still netted hundreds of millions of dollars from companies that had never committed to a local organizing effort before.
Suggest that the Atlanta free-market way of putting on the Olympics might be risky and inefficient, and Payne's eyes widen and he suggests in no uncertain terms that you are wrong. During a speech at the Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C., last spring, the IOC's Pound proclaimed, "We will never award the Games in the future to a city, in the United States or elsewhere, which has no significant public-sector commitment, either in the form of financial contribution or, at the very least, in the form of a guarantee to meet the necessary costs of organizing the Games." Pound contended that the lack of government underwriting and the resulting concentration on raising private-sector money has diverted ACOG's focus from other details. Pound also questioned ACOG's strategy of giving the Olympic Stadium to the city of Atlanta as a new home for the Braves when the Games are over, saying that this is not what Olympic sponsorship money should be used for.
Though Payne acknowledges that the-Olympics cannot grow much larger than Atlanta '96 without public-sector support, Pound's speech infuriated him. He screamed at Pound on the phone. Now Payne asks, "Am I happy with the way certain other parties get certain shares?"—referring to a formula by which nearly 35 cents of every dollar raised through marketing deals must go to the U.S. and International Olympic committees—"Well, no. I've been aggravated by the system."
To which Young adds, "You have to make the people who will enjoy the Olympics pay for it. It's unfair to the poor of the world, or to the poor of Atlanta, to take any of the funds that ought to be building houses for them and providing education, and use them to bring elite athletes here. From now on, sports should always be self-sustaining.
"What the lack of government underwriting causes is the continual questioning of whether we will make it," Young continues. "The question preoccupies the media...and it preoccupies Dick Pound. But none of it will make a difference, because we will make it."