27 Jul 2023

The plan for the rich and famous at the Olympics

10:07 am on 27 July 2023
Usain Bolt strikes his pose after winning the men's 200m final at the London Olympics.

Usain Bolt strikes his pose after winning the men's 200m final at the London Olympics. Photo: AFP

These opportunities could be on the Paris Games menu, for a princely price, next year as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and hospitality partner On Location roll out a VIP version of faster, higher, stronger.

Following a playbook developed for the Super Bowl, On Location will offer gold medal fan engagement with faster access, higher prices and a stronger connection to the action.

From lavish hospita

lity suites at almost every event (where you can quaff champagne while everyone else in the arena will be limited to water and soft drinks) to guaranteed reservations at some of Paris's finest restaurants, the IOC will modernise the Olympic fan experience with all the bells and whistles and A-list perks now expected at the world's biggest events.

A waiter holds two glasses of champagne, at a gala dinner (file).

Alcohol will only be available for those in hospitality suites at the Paris Olympics. Photo: 123RF

"The Olympics is a two week event but no one ever thought of it as an experience like this," Will Whiston, On Location executive vice president Olympics & Paralympics, told Reuters.

"The whole Olympic experience is going to be taken to another level.

"It's still the Games first and foremost but it is elevating the experience."

Retired-Olympic greats will be prominent at On Location venues and while the line-up of athlete ambassadors has not been finalised, Whiston offered a "stay tuned" hinting at big names.

Near the Eiffel Tower, On Location will set up hospitality base at the Palais de Tokyo - a building that is normally home to modern and contemporary art exhibits that will be transformed into Clubhouse 24.

Once off limits to everyone but American athletes, officials and sponsors, On Location guests will also have access to Team USA House in the historic Palais Brongniart.

There they can schmooze with Olympians and celebrate with medal winners.

"That sort of experience is beyond priceless," gushed Whiston. "Olympic fans of the U.S. might go up to bar and brush elbows with Michael Phelps or Michael Johnson.


"Then the music starts and you turn around and they are doing the medal celebration for Sydney McLaughlin on the stage directly behind you.

"There is nothing more authentic than that."

The hospitality upgrades are part of the IOC's Olympic Agenda 2020+5 reforms to introduce long-term turnkey solutions aimed at simplifying operations and driving new revenue streams.

Entry level packages start as low as 100 euros ($NZ180) and go all the way up whatever your wallet can handle.

A six-night package that includes luxury hotel, a ticket to the opening ceremony, rugby 7s, tennis, handball, gymnastics and swimming along with a city tour and other perks will cost $NZ75,000.

A ticket to the opening ceremony is going for $NZ16000 but Whiston said apart from getting the best seat in the house, the guest will become part of the show as On Location will be taking over an entire bridge.

"It's daring but it is a way to be immersed in the show, with the team boats passing underneath you with Olympians waving their flags," said Whiston.

"The backdrop is the Eiffel Tower and on the bridge in front of you is where (French president Emmanuel) Macron comes out to greet the crowd."

Paris 2024 Olympics on the triumphal arch

Paris 2024 Olympics on the triumphal arch Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Whiston described the introduction of global hospitality model as a watershed moment for the IOC, comparing it to broadcasting rights deals.

Mike Duignan, a director at University of Central Florida's USA Olympic Studies Center, also sees it as a potentially key moment for the Olympic Movement if rolled out properly.

"This is a long, long time coming," Duignan told Reuters.

"This is a way to essentially move people beyond the venues and fan zones to engage with the city.

"The only problem with all of it is that this is clearly an exclusive elite travel experience.

"Part of Olympic 2020+5 agenda talks about social sustainability and the question is how much will go back into the local community.

"Will this be a way of encouraging people to venture into local areas and spend money with local vendors or will it just stay in the sponsor and elites pockets."