There have been so many Olympic moments that've given viewers in our country pause to stop what they're doing and plop themselves in front of the TV. However, the Athens games were marred by drug-doping scandals, potential terrorist attacks that kept key athletes away, judging mishaps, a marathon runner pushed off course, and athletes who appear difficult to promote.

While it is historically accurate that TV networks lose money when they broadcast the Olympics, General Electric's (NYSE:GE) NBC Universal unit still paid in excess of $3.5 billion to secure the rights to the games between 2000 and 2008. The Olympic coverage is seen more as a feather in the cap than a sound business decision because most networks have leaked millions of dollars on the event.

Despite sponsors such as General Motors (NYSE:GM), Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO), AT&T Wireless (NYSE:AWE), McDonald's (NYSE:MCD), and Visa behind the network, advertisers and viewers are having a difficult time focusing in on specific heroes from these games. Nike (NYSE:NKE) and Coke/Sprite were also hurt by the fact that chief spokesman LeBron James played only sparingly for the U.S. men's basketball team.

According to, the Olympic TV audience was up more than 10% from the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Many of these additional viewers were women (ages 25 to 54) who were watching U.S. gold medal performances in women's beach volleyball, basketball, and soccer. With many basketball players such as Shaquille O'Neal and Kevin Garnett staying home over security concerns, much of the interest in the U.S. men's basketball team waned along with the team's chances. There was also very little juice from traditionally strong sports such as track and field and boxing, and the men's gymnastics competition was marred by an alleged judging error.

Phone company Sprint (NYSE:FON) even brought back past Olympic champions in a commercial because this Olympics lacked a compelling story beyond swimmer Michael Phelps. Phelps came up short in his bid to eclipse Mark Spitz's record of seven gold medals at the 1972 Olympics, but he did manage to gain the lion's share of corporate sponsorships from Speedo, Visa, and AT&T Wireless. There was no Mary Lou Retton, Bruce Jenner, Carl Lewis, or Magic Johnson-led Dream Team at these Olympics. Success, in these Olympics, seems to have been measured by a lack of a terrorist attack.

I wouldn't call the Athens Olympics a corporate flop, because the limited shelf life of the event's advertising translated into only marginal risk for the participants. The real risk for companies would have been to throw an excessive amount of money for this event only. In truth, I saw just as many older commercials as I did new ads during the Olympic Games. With the Olympics over, the world can breathe a sigh of relief and companies can prepare themselves for other big events that will hopefully have a more lasting impact on consumers.

For other viewpoints on the Athens Olympics, read:

Fool contributor Phil Wohl spent more than 12 years on Wall Street and now concentrates his writing on more fictional characters. He has no stake in any firm mentioned above.