In spite of the most boring, unimaginative and biggest waste of time opening ceremonies in my lifetime, the 2012 Olympic Games are underway. And there is no question the money is flowing to London and around the world.

The Army, the Olympics and Olympic sponsorship all have the same motto, “If you’re good enough to get in.” Or, in the case of sponsors, “If you are rich enough to get in.” This will be the first Olympics with iPads, and full-blown social media. You will literally have to wear a blindfold and ear plugs to avoid hearing race results before the prime time delay finally reaches our shores.

Rich Enough

Eleven companies are rich enough to be major sponsors of the 2012 games. Coca-Cola, Dow Chemical, General Electric, McDonald’s, Procter & Gamble, and Visa, are the six US companies. Five foreign corporations round out the rest of the field. Taiwan computer maker Acer, Atos Origin, a French IT company, Omega Watches, Japan’s electronic giant, Panasonic along with Samsung of South Korea.

Two of these companies, Coke and McDonalds, are long time sponsors of the Olympics. Coke going all the way back to 1928, McDonald’s writing their first check in 1976. All these companies, except Acer, have contracts through the 2020 games.

R.O.I. (Return on Investment)

Does an investment like this really pay off for these companies? With over a billion people predicted to be viewing the games, the bean counters say yes. And, it will pay off even more in the years ahead, which is why these companies are locking in their sponsorships for the next eight years. The next three summer games will be held in Russia, Brazil, and South Korea. All three are strong emerging markets for the previously mentioned companies, and could produce major customers as their respective economies grow.

Couples that, with the increases in Internet and communication devices that are currently on the drawing board, but will be in wide use in the next 8-10 years, and you are looking at some smart future investments.

Athletes: Olympics Equal Big Bucks

Going for the gold is only the tip of the iceberg for top Olympic athletes. Product endorsements, spokesperson opportunities, public speaking can put many athletes into the million-dollar income category literally overnight. Come in fourth and you are back to a day job somewhere.

The more medals you win, the higher your income potential. Michael Phelps has an amazing opportunity to be the top medal winner of all time but so far has not performed as advertised. If he fails, the cost could be a potential loss of millions in endorsements and other income streams.

Some Final Thoughts

The famous “Wide World of Sports” on ABC began with the words, “The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.” Sports, like life is unforgiving. A lifetime of practice, perfection and sacrifice often come down to one event. A do-or-die performance is mandatory. You can either advance or go home. If you are young enough, you might get another opportunity. If not, it’s a lifetime of “what if.”

The downside of the Olympics has always been the politics of the countries involved. Going as far back as Jessie Owens and Adolph Hitler or the Munich Massacre. Most people remember the black-hand salute of Gold Medalist Tommie Smith and Bronze Medal winner John Carlos at the ‘68 games at the height of the civil rights movement.

For some reason, we feel the need to interject personal selfish ideologies into every public opportunity. I guess good sportsmanship ends as soon as you walk off the field of play.