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Intel becomes major Olympics sponsor as games go digital

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US chipmaker Intel has said it will showcase new technologies at the Olympics, starting next year at the Winter Games in South Korea. The deal comes a week after McDonalds and the Olympic Committee severed ties.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) partnered with fast processors instead of fast food as it announced a new sponsorship deal with US chipmaker Intel on Wednesday.

The agreement, which runs until 2024, will see the technology firm showcase a range of new technologies at the upcoming Summer and Winter Games, including 5G wireless technology, virtual reality, artificial intelligence and drones.

"Were very excited to be working with the Intel team to drive the future of the Olympic Games through cutting-edge technology," said IOC President Thomas Bach.

Some of that technology is expected to be showcased as early as next year, when Pyeongchang in South Korea hosts the 2018 Winter Games.

Announcing the deal in New York late on Wednesday, Bach and Intel Chief Executive Officer Brian Krzanich said the deal would open a host of new experiences up to athletes, fans and viewers.

"Through this close collaboration with the Olympic family, we will accelerate the adoption of technology for the future of sports on the worlds largest athletic stage," Krzanich said. "Well allow people online to feel like they are there."

Courting younger audiences

The IOC has been trying to make the games more technology-savvy in a bid to appeal to younger viewers. Earlier this year, it signed a similar sponsorship deal with the Chinese e-commerce firm, Alibaba. Samsung has also been a prominent Olympic partner since in 1988.

Bach admitted that Olympic viewership over the past decade had trended towards older audiences.

"I got really concerned because then, you have to ask yourself, Why?" he said in an interview with The Associated Press. "We could see from about 2012 on that it was very much a question about the platform. The youth just werent watching as much TV as they used to in the past."

Bach described the deal as a "novel step" and "a milestone in achieving our goals" of bringing more young people to the Olympics.

Intels Asia drive

Intel has in recent years sought to move beyond its core microprocessor business, which has faced declines as the personal computing market veers towards mobile devices.

Earlier this year, it acquired Mobileye, an Israeli tech firm specializing in autonomous driving technology, for just under $15 billion.

The deal will also see Intel expand its reach into Asia, which will host the next three consecutive Olympic Games. After the 2018 games in Pyeongchang, Tokyo will host the 2020 Summer Games and Beijing the Winter Games in 2022.

McDonalds pulls out of Olympics sponsorship

The IOCs deal with Intel comes a week after it and fast-food giant McDonalds ended their 41-year sponsorship. McDonalds cited a change in the company priorities as the reason for terminating the deal.

The company has been tightening costs as it invests in improving its food quality, restaurant service and online ordering to woo back diners in the United States, where intense competition has gnawed away at sales.

Meanwhile, the IOC faced criticism from public health campaigners for allowing sponsors such as Coca-Cola and McDonalds to use the Games as an opportunity to market their products, which contrast with the image of healthy living that the event seeks to promote.

"With McDonalds, its very easy," Bach said. "They are changing and we are changing and this is why we agreed on going different ways."

dm/sms (AP, Reuters)
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