THE Lillehammer Olympics, opening Saturday, will net a Winter Games commercial record of $525 million in revenue, the International Olympic Committee said Monday.
``Lillehammer is set to break all Olympic Winter Games records, which is a particular pleasure because it comes from the basis of such a small country,'' marketing commission chairman Dick Pound told a press conference yesterday.
He said $355 million had been earned from television rights, with the rest made up from sponsors, the sale of tickets, and a share of licensed products.
The previous revenue record was set at the Albertville, France, Games two years ago when the final figure was about $45 million less than that expected at Lillehammer, IOC marketing chief Michael Payne said.
Pound said it was remarkable that Norway, with a population of less than 5 million, had been able to achieve such high figures. Record sales of licensed products sporting the Olympic logo or mascot reached $170 million, an average of $35 for each of the country's residents.
Pound said Lillehammer was breaking other records with more than 100 countries covering the Games on television, compared with 86 in Albertville, and an estimated global audience 15 to 20 percent higher than in 1992.
With 85 percent of all tickets already sold, Lillehammer has beaten all past figures in percentage terms even before the Games start, he said.
Pound said revenue figures could have been higher but the IOC preferred to promote a wider television audience than extract the maximum from rights.
Many countries in the former Soviet bloc will receive free television because they simply could not afford to pay, he said.
Asked how long the Olympic Committee would resist attempts by sponsors to have advertising billboards at Olympic sites, Pound replied: ``I hope we can hold out forever.
``We've done a lot to try to promote the Olympics as different from other sporting events. One of the most visible ways of doing that is to be invisible - that is, no advertising at venues. Our philosophy is that you shouldn't search among billboards to find athletic competitors. But there is a cost. We could certainly make considerably more money.''