The NY Times has a piece online that will be in tomorrow's paper that discusses how it's hard for NY to attract top Americans with the Olympic Trials in January.
It also discusses the financial hit marathoners take by running the Olympics.
"If he runs only the trials and the Olympics, Hall would lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in appearance fees and potential prize money and estimated that his salary would be cut in half in 2012."
Ryan Hall then says, "It’s a huge issue. It’s kind of a bummer. I love the Olympics, but we take huge hits to run in the Olympics.”
The article got me thinking overall are the Olympics a net financial loser for Ryan Hall.
I don't think they are.
Hall's situation is pretty unique. First, he's in an Olympic sport where there actually is some money to be made from competing outside of the Olympics with prize money and appearance fees for the top guys. Second, he's a marathoner and the opportunity cost of running a marathon for free is huge - you can't run another one for a while.
A tennis player goes to the Olympics and it's not like it prevents him from playing in Wimbledon right before it or the US Open after it. Same thing with Usain Bolt.
I don't know what Hall's total take from last month's Chicago Marathon was in in terms of appearance fee/performance bonus from the race (let's ignore what he gets from Asics). I'll throw the uninformed figure of $200,000 out there. (With the Olympic Trials this January and lack of American runners available, the scarcity of runners likely drove up Ryan's price this fall so that may have helped him get more than he usually would have, but lets ignore that).
So next year if Hall just did the Olympic Trials and the Olympics and no fall marathon he would lose out on $200,000 X 2. However, in 2008 when Ryan won the Olympic Trials he won $100,000 so let's assume he gets $100,000 this year.
That would still leave him $300,000 short. With the Olympics in early August, Ryan could easily do a fall marathon after the Olympics and get his appearance fee. I bet he does one. But that would require him to work more (3 marathons in the year instead of his customary 2) so let's pretend he'll only does 2.
Does the fact Ryan is an Olympian and he's trying to make the Olympics generate him an extra $300,000 every four years in endorsements? I would say most definitely yes. Big corporate brands like Nissan love the fact marathoning is an Olympic sport. Asics and the public love the Olympics. Without the Olympics, sure marathoning would be popular but not as popular and a lot of marketing $ would dry up. Talk to any sports marketer, they're already talking about London 2012. Everyone on letsrun is talking about the Olympic Trials, take out the Olympics and a lot of that chatter goes away.
We haven't even factored in the long-term financial windfall if he could medal at the Olympics.
Sure it would be much better for Ryan if marathoning wasn't so tough on the body and Ryan could run 5 a year. The Olympics wouldn't cost much short term. But I think long-term they still are a huge financial benefit to him. He definitely is in a unique situation as for two straight races he'll make less than he normally would ($100,000 max at the Olympic Trials, $0 for the Olympics). That is tough to give up when you may only compete twice a year in the marathon. Other Olympic non-marathoners don't have the same situation and most don't get nearly the appearance fees Ryan does.
Top marathoners like Ryan Hall routinely skip the World Championships (where there is prize money but not appearance fees), they never skip the Olympics. Sure there is some love of country and love of Olympics going on but I think running the Olympics is in their financial interest long term.
That doesn't mean Ryan might take home less next year.
Feel free to agree/disagree with my logic.