The Olympic Games are over and should have once again delighted an audience of billions around the world.

However, their dazzling images hide the adverse, sometimes precarious working and living conditions of the athletes.

Their stories and top performances are the product with which the International Olympic Committee (IOC) generates billions in sales.

Participation in the Olympics is preceded by a life marked by discipline and asceticism. Athletes put their bodies on the line and put up with psychological stress. Family and friends stand back, professional ambitions are postponed. In many countries, the state jumps into the breach as the financier of top-class sport. The athletes do not receive a fair wage for their decisive contribution to the marketing of the Olympic billions.

Because: The Olympic Movement largely shields its sales from and at the expense of the athletes by protecting the exclusivity of their sponsors.

It's good for the IOC, but bad for the athletes.

This is made possible by rule 40 of the Olympic Charter.

It prohibits the athletes from carrying out their own advertising activities during the “frozen period” shortly before, during and shortly after the games.

During this period it is hardly possible for them to advertise with their own sponsors, be it with the car dealership in their home town.

It's hard to beat when it comes to audacity: At the height of their careers, the protagonists of the games are excluded from a billion-dollar market for advertising and image rights.

Advertising restrictions relaxed

Over the years, the IOC has transformed into a for-profit institution that operates like a multinational company: from 2014 to 2019, it generated annual sales of more than 1.4 billion US dollars and achieved sales increases of 140 million US dollars per year. Only about four percent of the funds are intended directly for athletes, for example in the form of scholarships. At best, they benefit indirectly from the scandalously non-transparent return of money into the international and national sports systems, which regularly attract attention with corruption and waste of money. It is therefore extremely questionable how much of the IOC income, 90 percent of which goes back to sport, actually goes to the athletes.

The Olympic business model has a stifling effect on the economic participation rights of the athletes and is in conflict with antitrust and human rights. After a complaint from Athletes Germany, individual athletes and the sporting goods industry, the Federal Cartel Office made it clear to the monopolists DOSB and IOC in 2019 that Rule 40 represented abuse of a dominant position and is therefore anti-competitive. For German athletes, the advertising restrictions have therefore been relaxed somewhat.

For example, since the games in Tokyo it has been a little easier for them to use their social media channels with advertising or thanks to sponsors. Nevertheless, only a fraction of the German Olympic team advertised on Instagram with non-Olympic sponsors. Other countries also relaxed their regulations after the German decision, but to a different extent.