This week the Dutch National Olympic Committee will present  a focus list of 10 sports that could help the Netherlands in realizing its ambition to structurally end in the top 10 of the Olympics medal table. This is one of the requirements for hosting the Olympic Games. Our analysis shows  the 10 sports which will make the focus list and which hence may receive extra funding are likely to be the following ones: skating, aquatics, athletics, rowing, judo, field hockey, cycling, sailing, equestrian and gymnastics.

On 30 august the Dutch National Olympic Committee (NOC NSF) will present its “study top 10”. This study should give insight in the present top sports climate in The Netherlands and its future ambitions. In order to fulfill its objective to host the Olympics in 2028, one of the ambitions of the NOC NSF is to structurally end in the medals top 10 of Olympic Games. The top 10 should be seen in this perspective; it consists of those sports that have a decent chance to realize this ambition. Clearly these sports should qualify for extra financial support.

The Netherlands has only once been in the Olympics medal top 10 table. Let’s first briefly examine how The Netherlands has performed during  the Olympics in the last 7 editions and simultaneously how many gold medals were required to end up in the medal top 10. 


Olympics Dutch gold Medal Ranking Medals required
  medals   to be in top 10
2008 7 12 7
2004 9 17 9
2000 11 8 11
1996 7 15 7
1992 7 20 7
1988 6 22 6
1984 6 13 6


From this table the following conclusions can be drawn:

  1. The Netherlands has only once been able to end in the top 10; this was during the tremendously successful  Sydney 2000 Games.
  2. The Netherlands usually is ending in the top 20 in the Olympics medal table
  3. In order to realize a top 10 position around 7 gold medals are required. Only during the 2000 and 2004 editions this number was exceeded
  4. In order to structurally end up in the medals top 10 The Netherlands needs more gold medals.

Choices have to be made. Not surprisingly more money is required to stand a chance to realize this ambition. Besides a better sports infrastructure, better facilitation and better support of top athletes, it is clear that choices have to be made as far as sports are concerned. One would invest in those sports where chances of gold medals are the best.  The 80/20 rule also applies to sports and it is no different from your average company, where just a few clients (20%) make up 80% of the turnover. As we will see, it ain’t that different in sports; a few sports are accounting for the vast majority of medals. It doesn’t require rocket science to determine which sports these are. We have used 3 criteria to pinpoint where The Netherlands would have a decent chance to gain gold medals.

  1. How many gold medals per sports discipline are at stake during the Olympics? Clearly this makes a difference; are we going to invest in athletics, where 47 medals are to be gained or say in triathlon with only 2 gold medals to be divided.
  2. Do we have sufficient talent available in those sports to support our ambitions? In order to measure this, we have looked at the size (in terms of members)  of each sports federation that could be active on the games
  3. In which sports do we have a historic tradition as far as medals are concerned? In several Olympic sports, we have barely won any medals  at all. For example The Netherlands does not have a tradition in wrestling, where it has never gained any medals (also reflected in the number of members at the wrestling union). It should therefore be questionable whether such tradition can be reversed quickly, particularly given the available resources of such sports.

 In the table below we have listed the different Olympic sports in accordance with the criteria mentioned above.

  Sports Gold medals Sports Members Sports Medals NL
1 Athletics 47 Football 1152674 Aquatics 55
2 Aquatics 46 Tennis 693024 Cycling 40
3 Cycling 18 Gymnastics 273811 Rowing 26
4 Gymnastics 18 Field hockey 210498 Equestrian 22
5 Wrestling 18 Equestrian 203007 Judo 20
6 Canoeing 16 Aquatics 144259 Sailing 18
7 Shooting 15 Athletics 127639 Athletics 15
8 Weightlifting 15 Volleyball 127047 Field hockey 14
9 Judo 14 Sailing 101040 Canoeing 8
10 Rowing 14 Badminton 61321 Boxing 6
11 Boxing 13 Judo 57686 Fencing 5
12 Fencing 10 Handball 57192 Weightlifting 3
13 Sailing 10 Basketball 42134 Football 3
14 Taekwondo 8 Shooting 41882 Shooting 2
15 Equestrian 6 Table tennis 34288 Tennis 2
16 Badminton 5 Cycling 28456 Volleyball 2
17 Tennis 5 Rowing 28092 Archery 2
18 Volleyball 4 Triathlon 14019 Gymnastics 1
19 Archery 4 Archery 10071 Badminton 1
20 Table tennis 4 Taekwondo 8574 Wrestling 0
21 Basketball 2 Canoeing 6938 Taekwondo 0
22 Field hockey 2 Wrestling 4096 Table tennis 0
23 Football 2 Fencing 2539 Basketball 0
24 Handball 2 Boxing 1497 Handball 0
25 Modern Pentathlon 2 Modern Pentathlon 415 Modern Pentathlon 0
26 Triathlon 2 Weightlifting – –  Triathlon 0


5 out of 26 different sports account for 50% of the medals. There are 302 gold medals to be handed out at the next Olympics in London split over 26 different sports and even more disciplines. Important to realize is that 5 of these sports account for approximately 50% of all the medals, coincidentally wrestling being one of these sports. The 10 sports with the least gold medals to be gained account for only 10% of all the medals. Hence, this explains why focusing is important. Looking at the total members per union, it is clear where the Netherlands has the biggest resources as far as talent, trainers and tradition is concerned and not surprisingly this is also reflected in the column detailing the total number of medals that historically have been gained in a certain sport.

The top 10 focus list. Taking these criteria as a yardstick it is not difficult to arrive at a focus list (or a study top 10 as NOC NSF is defining it). Apart from skating (we have not analyzed the Winter Olympics for obvious reasons –  the vast majority of Dutch gold medals are gained in skating -), we would arrive at the following sports: athletics, aquatics, cycling, judo, rowing, sailing, equestrian and field hockey.  It means there is one sports left. As football and tennis are played on a full-time professional level and not primarily dependent on NOC NSF, we would not expect these sports to be on the list. Given both the number of medals at stake and the number of people participating in the sports, we believe gymnastics would be a prime candidate to end the list.

van_2010_logoWith a large part of the Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver now behind us, it is interesting to notice that the Games continue their unbridled growth both in terms of participating athletes and nations as well as in the number of events. However, this comes at a expense. Whereas since 1980 (Lake Placid) the number of athletes and events have increased by 2.5x and 2.3x respectively, the expenses related to the games have increased by a staggering 13x and when compared to 1984 (Sarajevo) even by 20x! This exponential increase is clearly not sustainable going forward. Since Lake Placid the number of events, athletes and nations has more than doubled.

Vancouver, Canada is the pride host of the XXI Olympic Winter Games. After Calgary, it is the second time Canada is hosting the games. Since then a lot has changed, but what has not changed is that the Winter Games are continuing to witness unbridled growth in terms of events, countries, participating athletes, participating officials, TV coverage and revenues and expenses. So far the end is not in sight, albeit that growth is slowing down. This should not be surprising given the fact that two sources of growth seem to slowly get saturated. The increase in the number of participating countries is slowing down and more importantly the growth in the number of participating athletes and events is coming down. The table below shows that since Lake Placid in 1980 the number of participating countries, the number of athletes and the number of events has more than doubled, implying that compounded growth for each time Winter Games were organized on average exceeds the 10% figure. As can be seen the Torino and Vancouver Games have witnessed significant lower growth.

Year Host City Country Countries % chg Athletes % chg Events %chg
1924 Chamonix France 16 290 16
1928 St Moritz Switzerland 25 56% 360 24% 14 -13%
1932 Lake Placid USA 17 -32% 280 -22% 14 0%
1936 Garmish Germany 28 65% 760 171% 17 21%
1948 St Moritz Switzerland 28 0% 810 7% 22 29%
1952 Oslo Norway 32 14% 730 -10% 22 0%
1956 Cortina d’Ampezzo Italy 32 0% 920 26% 24 9%
1960 Squaw Valley USA 30 -6% 650 -29% 27 13%
1964 Innsbruck Austria 36 20% 930 43% 34 26%
1968 Grenoble France 37 3% 1290 39% 34 0%
1972 Sapporo Japan 35 -5% 1130 -12% 35 3%
1976 Innsbruck Austria 37 6% 1260 12% 37 6%
1980 Lake Placid USA 39 5% 1280 2% 38 3%
1984 Sarajevo Yugoslavia 49 26% 1490 16% 39 3%
1988 Calgary Canada 57 16% 1550 4% 46 18%
1992 Albertville France 64 12% 1800 16% 57 24%
1994 lillehammer Norway 67 5% 1730 -4% 61 7%
1998 Nagano Japan 72 7% 2180 26% 68 11%
2002 Salt Lake City USA 77 7% 2400 10% 78 15%
2006 Torino Italy 80 4% 2500 4% 84 8%
2010 Vancouver Canada 82 2% 2632 5% 87 4%


The table below gives some more detailed information. Whereas in the past travel to another continent had an impact on the number of participating nations, this seems no longer the case. This is partly due to the fact that the IOC is subsidizing smaller exotic countries that want to participate. These smaller countries are only a small reason behind the enormous growth in the number of athletes. More important growth drivers are the growth in the number of female athletes and the number of events. When looking at the number of women that participate in the Games, we notice that since Lake Placid this number has increased by 355%, whereas the number of participating men only increased by 87%. Also in absolute terms the number of women has grown more rapidly. This is partly due to the increase in the number of events for women, which brings us to another growth driver. Both the number of men’s events and women’s events has more than doubled over this period. New popular events like snowboarding and snow cross have been added, whilst almost all events are now both for women and men. Clearly the new sports will continue to play an important role for the growth in the future. The success of the winter X-games shows the need for action sports and by allowing sports such as boarding and snow cross (which everybody seems to embrace), the IOC is aiming to embrace the younger generations. Ironically, in absolute numbers, the number of team officials has grown the most and now exceeds the number of athletes.

LakePlac. Sarajevo Calgary Albertv. Lilleh. Nagano SaltLake Torino Vancouver
1980 1984 1988 1992 1994 1998 2002 2006 2010
Countries present 39 49 57 64 67 72 77 80 82
% change 26% 16% 12% 5% 7% 7% 4% 2%
Events 38 39 46 57 61 68 78 84 86
% change 3% 18% 24% 7% 11% 15% 8% 2%
Men’s events 24 24 28 32 34 37 42 45 45
% change 0% 17% 14% 6% 9% 14% 7% 0%
Women’s events 12 13 16 23 25 29 34 37 39
% change 8% 23% 44% 9% 16% 17% 9% 5%
Male athletes 839 1000 1110 1312 1215 1389 1513 1548 1572
% change 19% 11% 18% -7% 14% 9% 2% 2%
Female athletes 233 274 313 489 522 788 886 960 1060
% change 18% 14% 56% 7% 51% 12% 8% 10%
Total athletes 1072 1274 1423 1801 1737 2177 2399 2508 2632
% change 19% 12% 27% -4% 25% 10% 5% 5%
Team officials 920 1417 917 1888 1821 1468 2100 2704 2850
% change 54% -35% 106% -4% -19% 43% 29% 5%


Costs have grown exponentially. It should also be interesting to see how the games have done financially. In the table below the revenues, costs and profits are summarised in USD and at constant 2000 prices using the 2000 price index. Two quick conclusions can be drawn: 1. the figures (which exclude investments related to the venues and infrastructure) clearly indicate that the organising committees of the Olympic Winter Games have realised a deficit in most of the cases; 2. The increase in both revenues and costs have grown far more rapidly than the number of participants in the games. The Vancouver Games (we have used the budget numbers) are likely to be the most expensive; Vancouver 2010 is likely to be almost 13x more expensive in terms of costs than Lake Placid 1980 and even 20x more expensive than Sarajevo 1984. This is an astonishing increase when compared to the increase in the number of athletes (2.5x) and the number of events (2.3x). When allocating total expenses over the number of athletes active in the game, it implies that costs per athlete has risen by 414% from USD 107,612 to USD 553,171 using constant 2000 prices. Of course there are plenty of explanations, but it is clear that this exponential cost increase cannot continue in the future!

Lake Pl. Sarajevo Calgary Albertv. Lilleh Nagano Salt Lake Torino Vancouver
1980 1984 1988 1992 1994 1998 2002 2006 2010
Revenues (USDm) 97.6 277.81 626 800 525 1050 1264 1300 1456
% change 185% 125% 28% -34% 100% 20% 3% 12%
Costs (USDm) 115.36 72.93 590 859 868 1002 1317 1333 1456
% change -37% 709% 46% 1% 15% 31% 1% 9%
Profit or loss -17.76 204.88 36 -59 -343 48 -53 -33 0
Costs per athlete USD 107612 57245 414617 476957 499712 460266 548979 531499 553171

The Netherlands has the intention to bid for the 2028 Olympics. One of the most difficult issues related to acquiring the Olympic Games will be the support of the population of The Netherlands. The International Olympic Committee regards widespread support as a very important element in awarding the games to one of the bidding cities. A recent poll showed that around 50% of the Dutch population would support a bid. So in this perspective a lot has to be done, particularly as the Dutch always appear to be very critical as soon as large expenditures are in play. Simultaneously often cynicism is shown whether The Netherlands will be able to organize such a big high profile event. Finally, as 1992 has blatantly shown, minorities can play a very big role in steering the public opinion. Hence it will be very important to have a targeted PR/communication campaign aimed at gathering widespread support of the Dutch population for the Olympic bid. I will briefly outline my view on how this can be organized.

If we want to sell the Olympic Games, we want to accomplish that consumers (or in this case the Dutch population) will embrace the games and identify themselves with it. Hence focus should be on honesty, equality and fraternity, the values of the game. If these values are sold properly through effective communications, it should be possible to grow support.

In order to permanently influence the HEART, SOUL AND MIND of the Dutch population we would design a campaign along the following main issues.

1. Create awareness and transparency on “potential issues”
No doubt a lot of criticism and issues will come forward aimed at why we should not organize the Olympic Games. In order to deal with these issues it will be required that there be full transparency and awareness on these issues. If these are put in the open, an adequate quick reaction should be given immediately, hopefully taking away the ground for the opponents or at least shortening the span of attention. In this perspective it will be extremely important that fulltime communication professionals, who are actively involved in the day to day organization related to the bid, will deal with this in a proper way. In fact it may even be recommendable to come up with potential issues by the organization itself, as this would show a sign of strength.

2. Show the benefits of organizing the Olympic Games in 2028
One of the main arguments of opponents not to organize the Games is related to the benefits of the Games, “what’s in it for me or more specifically for my region/city”. From the beginning onwards it will therefore be important to focus on the benefits for The Netherlands rather than only the ones for Amsterdam or Rotterdam (the two cities which are volunteering). This should not be too difficult as the Games should be seen as a nation wide initiative, however being hosted by one city. We believe the main benefits that can be emphasized are the following ones:

i. Infrastructure: Hosting the Games will fast track key capital projects, especially transportation related initiatives. This should be seen as a big advantage as traffic and transportation currently are seen as major problems in the Netherlands, pestering economic growth. With all regions in The Netherlands likely to be involved, it will imply major investments in possibly public transportation are to be undertaken to solve these problems. It possibly means that regions like Limburg and the northern part of The Netherlands will get better access. This had to be done sooner or later anyway (so incremental costs are likely to be minimal), but the Games might clearly speed up the process, shortening decision times.

ii. Legacy: hosting the Games will imply that The Netherlands and Amsterdam have to upgrade their sports facilities. New venues will allow The Netherlands not only to increase active and passive participation, but also to host major events, which should improve the reputation of The Netherlands as a sporting nation. Additionally the Olympic Village will provide an excellent opportunity to build a new neighborhood or revitalize a neighborhood, which will provide future housing opportunities.

iii. Education: in order to stand a chance to obtain the 2028 Olympics, The Netherlands has to show it is a sporting nation and that it will be able to realize a top 10 position in the medal count. 2028 implies that the participants will be the children of today. This means that our education should become more exposed to sports. It is unimaginable that children do not receive gymnastics lessons etc. Olympic Games will imply that the standards will be raised and children will become more actively involved, not only through school, but also by getting easier access to sports clubs etc. This in turn might result in a healthier life style and less obesity, which should save future health related costs. Moreover, sports tend to unite people and children in particular; it means social cohesion between different parts of the population can be enhanced. Additionally the exposure to the Olympic movement will provide a great educational tool for geography, culture, history etc. The creation of sports related programs should result in children being more exposed to sports

iv. Economic benefits: it is clear that the Games should bring economic benefits before, during and after the Games. The construction of new venues and infrastructure will mean new jobs, whilst being a host city might attract domestic and international companies to open new offices, which in turn will create more jobs. The Games itself will attract a stream of incremental tourists, who will stay in hotels, eat and drink etc, creating additional turnover and jobs. Moreover, the Netherlands as a whole will get a boost from hosting the Games, again possibly resulting in more tourists and business activity after the Games. According to Jacques Rogge studies have shown that the GDP of a country hosting the Olympics rises by 1-1.5% every year during 6 years and that the sustainable incremental employment amounts to 60,000. With the exception of Atlanta and Montreal, all Olympic host countries have benefited from the organization of the Olympics, having realized both substantial profitability as well as sustainable growth.

v.Raising international reputation: the Games would offer both Amsterdam and The Netherlands a unique opportunity to present themselves to the world. Newspapers, TV stations, magazines, guests etc will be confronted with our country, which should offer a unique opportunity to raise our reputation/image and take away misperceptions

vi. Enjoy the experience: clearly the build up to the games, the experience of the Games and the aftermath is a unique once in a lifetime experience, which should be truly enjoyed. The Dutch population will have the chance to enjoy elite athletes in its own backyard and to experience the values that make the Games irreplaceable; fairplay, friendship, hope, inspiration, joy etc. Moreover beyond sport the Games will bring great cultural events to the city to be enjoyed by everyone.

Many people are still under the impression the Games will be costly for the nation. It should be made clear over and over again that this should not necessarily be the case. There is a difference between investments (which will require funding and returns) and profitability. Clearly huge upfront investments have to be made, but if managed properly the rewards may be substantial. Important in the communication should be that many of the investments will have to be made anyway (with or without the Games) such as infrastructural and housing investments. Moreover, increasingly there are new ways to finance these investments, which not necessarily have to be made by the government but can be done in cooperation with the private sector through for example PFI initiatives.

3. Create cohesiveness, unity feeling and national pride
The Games should also provide the opportunity to bring greater cohesion between different parts of the population. The values of sports such as cooperation, participation, fairplay and fun have to be forwarded to everyone, which might improve social cohesion if done properly. This could lead to an increased sense of togetherness and national pride. On the one hand this can be done by organizing all kind of (Olympic) activities for the youth, as they are the important consumers during the games. On the other hand this can be realized by attracting big events (such as the world championships) to The Netherlands, which should enhance the feeling that we indeed can organize such events, creating pride. Moreover as sports would play a more important role in society, quality of result should improve, again creating enthusiasm and the necessary top 10 place in the medal count.

4. Create cooperation between government, municipalities, sport and corporate worldIf indeed the HEART and MIND of the Dutch population should be permanently influenced, it will be extremely important that the same message is communicated by everybody. This is likely to be the biggest challenge, but has to be done. Government, municipalities, the sport and the corporate world all have to speak the same language and agree on how to organize the games. Rules of the road have to be defined at an early stage and more importantly all parties have to “walk the talk”. This will mean that all parties will have to give in to some extent. Only if this can be realized (we should start now) the message is broadly carried. If agreements can not be made at these levels, how will it then be possible to convince the people?

5. Create opportunities for Olympic communities on all levels within The Netherlands
– create attachment and active participation, use micromarketing. Obama has shown a targeted individual approach can do the trick. The current information age offers plenty of opportunities to influence people. We believe that the marketing of the Olympic Games should take place on an individual level. Different people have different questions and appetites, but all of them want to be taken seriously. Micromarketing and targeting could be a very effective tool. Individualized E-mails to the population should not only make people enthusiastic for the Games, they also should unveil where there are hurdles to be taken.

– Interactive (Olympic) websites with polls etc, interactive games (where participants create their own games) should also provide insight in what people occupies. Moreover, these platforms can serve as idea creators as well. It will be important that people will feel part of the Olympic movement and identify themselves being future hosts. We believe an individual approach could help in creating enthusiasm.

– Simultaneously we would advise a network approach. Increasingly our society consists of social networks, which all could be used to market the Olympic Games. It means that children can find blogs and info on specific children sites (or get specific info from sportspeople), seniors on senior sites or football players on football sites. Again problems should be unveiled at an early stage, whilst simultaneously attachment and familiarity can be created. If this is being done in a proper way, this could be the most powerful tool in creating Heart and Mind for the games.

6. Appoint figureheads, ambassadors who promote the games
We believe also that there should be specific ambassadors who will promote the games. These should be Dutch sports icons that have been Olympic champions and that appeal to most people. In this perspective we think of people like Pieter van de Hoogenband, Sven Kramer etc. These champions could also play an important international role in this perspective. Additionally we would also favor to have figureheads per sports, which can promote the Olympics within their own sport, particularly amongst children. It means for example that leading judo stars promote the Olympics to practicing young judokas.

If done properly by communication professionals, I feel that support for hosting the Olympics in The Netherlands might increase over the years. By simultaneously running a very good lobby with the IOC (by the right people), I feel the chance of hosting the Games should increase