Roland-Garros's loss looks like an ace for the Olympics

The new rightsholder for all Olympics hospitality and ticket-plus travel packages – On Location Experiences – has hired one of the most experienced industry leaders in European sports hospitality to lead their Paris 2024 revenue-side operations with Michael Tonge being announced this past weekend as OLE’s Senior Vice-President Global Hospitality Sales.

In a message to his LinkedIn followers that was posted on Saturday, Tonge paid tribute to the French Tennis Federation where he has worked since April 2016.

‘After 2128 days at the French Tennis Federation, it is time for me to say "au revoir" to great friends, talented colleagues and to an amazing tournament. In a few days, I will be starting an incredible adventure as SVP Global Sales at On Location, the exclusive and official hospitality provider for the Olympics and Paralympics in Paris 2024, Milan-Cortina 2026 and Los Angeles 2028!! Thank you to everyone at Roland-Garros for welcoming "Le Brit"….and here’s to my new family at On Location and to the incredible journey ahead of us.’

As he referenced in his farewell tribute, Tonge had the unusual distinction of being a Briton who, as director of partnerships, hospitality and ticketing, led the  commercial side of one of the most quintessentially French sports properties.

But Tonge has moved comfortably within both French and European sports circles since 1995 – also working for Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile and Union des Associations Européennes de Football as well as telecom companies Cable & Wireless, Hutchison and Orange.

Tonge’s move to OLE was announced over the past weekend and brings to an end an almost-seven year relationship with the Fédération Française de Tennis during which he led a team of 35 and was responsible for more than €150m in annual sales

OLE’s ground-breaking Olympic appointment followed an RFI and RFP process that lasted more than 12 months, and was finally announced in June 2021.

‘We have been looking to help implement turnkey solutions with the future Games so that the operations of delivering the Games can be simplified to reduce the complexity, as well as drive efficiencies and optimize revenue streams, either existing or new,’ Alexis Gros-Piron, IOC head of hospitality, ticketing and spectator experience has said.

‘Hospitality really hits on all three of those, as the former decentralized model was in many ways less effective,’ added Gros-Piron.

The financial terms of OLE’s contract have not been revealed but the respected industry media Sports Business Journal reported that parent company Endeavor had notified regulators of a USD1.3 billion guarantee relating to the contract. The figure received by the IOC and three participating Games’ organising committees is expected to rise over the term of the agreement if certain revenue targets are met.

OLE’s appointment sees, for the first time, the International Olympic Committee inserting itself into a business model which had previously been a series of bilateral appointments between the respective Local Organising Committee and hospitality and travel companies recommended to the LOC by the National Olympic Committees.

Under the Olympic business model that concluded with the OLE appointment, the ticket-plus-travel programmes were left between individual National Olympic Committees and the host Local Organising Committee to structure. For the London 2012 Olympics, the Olympic Council of Ireland [Olympic Federation of Ireland since 2018] selected Marcus Evan’s THG Sports.

The extent to which Beijing is providing an extraordinary level of international support to ensure Winter Games access, while locking down the Games from any chance of coronavirus risk, was underlined thanks to a Facebook post on Sunday from respected sports journalist Jeremy Walker, who edits the Olympic Council of Asia’s Sporting Asia magazine. The Macau-based Jeremy Walker was the only passenger on the specially chartered Air China Airbus A330 flight for Olympic invitees wanting to travel from Hong Kong to Beijing. ‘I left my room in Macau at 9am and checked in to the hotel at 6.30pm. Beijing allowed you to go direct to the hotel and wait in your room until the test result arrived [whereas] Tokyo made you stay at the airport for the result.’

The Washington Post gives a detailed preview of what the Beijing Winter Olympics will look like, the second Olympics to have taken place during the pandemic.
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Charlie Charters is a former rugby union official and sports marketing executive turned thriller writer whose debut book Bolt Action was published by Hodder & Stoughton in 2010.
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