Yeah, that's the enormous importance of the early game. Balancing this stuff is a bit difficult in general, because early game bonuses can be SO strong if they allow you to get something that gets you even further ahead. But if you make them weaker, then they become boring. If you just boost later bonuses to be strong enough to compensate for the delay, then these may feel like you have to really focus on getting them - which may then feel really limiting very fast. I think part of the problem is that the game doesn't really have that many mechanisms that let you catch up when a sponsor gets ahead. I think a free clinic in every city would be a lot weaker than the relic. Still a decent bonus to free some production, but you don't get the "free culture" at the same time. +1 Science (and of course health) is still a nice bonus, but I don't think it's as op, if at all.