Q&A: Straight Talk from a Sponsor

David D'Alessandro, an outspoken critic of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) during the Salt Lake City scandals two years ago, talked with Boston Bureau Chief William C. Symonds on June 26. The chairman and CEO of John Hancock Financial Services Inc., one of the top 10 Olympics sponsors, continues to pull few punches about the Games.

Q: Where should the [2008] Games be held?

A: From the sponsors' standpoint, it's simple: It doesn't matter where they are held as long as the main events air during prime time in the U.S. The reason is that the U.S. pays 70% of the IOC's bills.

Q: Wouldn't that pose scheduling problems if the Games were in Beijing?

A: They would have to change the times. They would have to have the flexibility to say that instead of holding the finals at 9 p.m. [Beijing time], they might have to be at 7 or 8 in the morning.Do you satisfy 100,000 people in the stands in Beijing or the millions [watching TV] in the Western Hemisphere? You have to pay attention to who pays the bills.

Q: Should human rights figure into the decision?

A: We have politicians saying it can't be in China. Yet clearly the prior Administration and this [one] are not about to stop trade with China. So what are we saying? That we can trade with a country, but we don't want the Olympics there? Politicians should stay out of it.

Q: What are you, as a sponsor, looking for in the next IOC chief?

A: I would look toward [a candidate] who can guarantee income. The Olympics [will] have a much deeper economic problem longer term than they may understand...if they fail to deliver [TV] ratings for the 2004 Games and through the balance of 2008.

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