Tuesday, January 12, 2010
USOC: Winter Games a possibility
NEW YORK -- Leaders at the U.S. Olympic Committee would consider bidding to bring a Winter Games to America as part of a larger effort to repair the federation's international standing.
"Nothing's off the table at this point," chairman Larry Probst said during an interview at Associated Press headquarters Tuesday, when asked about a possible 2022 bid.
The USOC has been quiet about future bids since Chicago finished dead last in the running to host the 2016 Summer Games that were awarded to Rio de Janeiro. A bid for the 2020 Summer Games is widely viewed as unlikely given Chicago's recent failure, at the cost of $70 million, and a similar early exit by New York in the race for the 2012 Olympics.
Probst and the USOC's new CEO, Scott Blackmun, said they're exploring the winter bid along with all options that would improve the USOC's strained relationship with the International Olympic Committee. Many saw Chicago's loss as a slap at USOC leadership by IOC members.
Winter Olympics aren't as popular with bid cities as the Summer Games. In some circles, the thought of hosting a Winter Olympics -- or a Youth Olympic Games -- could be viewed as a step toward eventually bringing a Summer Olympics back to the United States.
"Part of the dialogue we need to have with them is that very question," Blackmun said. "It's in the IOC's interest to have the games here, as well, so at some point they're going to come to the table and say, 'Let's work together and make things happen on a basis that's good for both of us.'"
Denver and the Reno-Tahoe area are two places that have expressed interest in hosting Winter Games. The bid process is already under way for the 2018 Olympics, making 2022 the next realistic option.
"We're really supportive of the USOC and the Olympic movement," said KieAnn Brownell, president of the Denver Sports Commission. "We have aspirations from the standpoint of wanting to host international events of all types. We're going to follow the USOC's lead and see where that goes."
Blackmun, who officially takes over for Stephanie Streeter on Jan. 26, will be in charge of turning around the reputation of a federation that is widely viewed as hurting at home and out of touch with IOC members.
The new CEO is getting early positive reviews home and abroad.
"What had been missing was a willingness to come to the table and be constructive," Blackmun said. "The difference now is, both parties are ready to show up at the table and try to do something constructive instead of negotiating in newspapers or sending letters back and forth."
The biggest sticking point in the USOC-IOC relationship is the revenue-sharing agreement that has been lingering for years. The IOC wants a bigger share of the money that comes from top sponsors and the U.S. TV contract.
"That's going to take some time, some analysis on both sides," Probst said. "But if the U.S. is going to be in position to win the games at some point in the future, that's got to be resolved."
Probst stuck to the party line that Rio de Janeiro did more to win the 2016 Games than the USOC and Chicago did to lose them. The IOC, he said, was determined to bring the Olympics to South America for the first time. That fact plus Rio's strong bid were bigger factors than the USOC turmoil, he said.
Still, he conceded it's not bad to be rekindling relationships with the IOC at a time when the Americans don't necessarily want anything -- for example, aren't trying to win a bid. Probst has said fully restoring the USOC's relationship could take 10 years or more.
"The idea is to face in the right direction and start walking," Blackmun said, "and we'll know when we get there."