Friday, July 22, 2011
USOC CEO: IOC talks progress
LONDON -- U.S. and international Olympic leaders made substantial progress Friday toward a new revenue-sharing agreement that they hope to complete in the next few weeks, officials from both sides told The Associated Press.
U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun said he would not rule out an American bid for the 2020 Olympics if a deal is signed soon, although time is running out and chances remain slim.
USOC and International Olympic Committee officials met in New York for the latest round of talks aimed at resolving their long-standing money dispute, an issue that contributed to defeats for U.S. cities in bids for the 2012 and 2016 Games.
"We have surfaced some new ideas that I think are causing us all to be optimistic that there's an approach to this that's going to be acceptable to the working group," Blackmun told the AP by phone. "The next step for both of us is to go back to do some due diligence and crunch some numbers."
The IOC also expressed optimism of an imminent deal.
"We are getting very close," IOC executive board member Richard Carrion told the AP.
At the heart of the dispute is the USOC's 20 percent share of global sponsorship revenues and 12.75 percent cut of U.S. broadcast rights deals. Many IOC and international sports officials consider the U.S. share excessive and want the money spread to other Olympic bodies. Any new formula would take effect after 2020.
"We don't even have a tentative agreement yet but we're encouraged by the fact that we have a new idea on the table," Blackmun said. "We have a structure that we're optimistic about."
An agreement would remove a major impediment to a U.S. Olympic bid. The USOC has repeatedly said it would not bid until the money issue is resolved.
National Olympic Committees have until Sept. 1 to submit the names of any 2020 applicant cities to the IOC.
"As each day goes by, the chances of us submitting a bid decreases, but as long as there is some possibility I don't want to rule it out," Blackmun said.
In the meantime, he said, the USOC will meet the July 30 deadline of confirming compliance with rules of the World Anti-Doping Agency and Court of Arbitration for Sport -- a requirement for any 2020 bids.
"It's only a matter of keeping options alive," Blackmun said. "We're not going to designate a city when we make that filing."
The U.S. hasn't hosted a Summer Olympics since the 1996 Atlanta Games. Among U.S. cities mentioned as potential bidders for 2020 include New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, Minneapolis and Tulsa, Okla.
Blackmun said, if things go well, the USOC and IOC could sign a "term sheet" or memorandum of understanding within the next couple of weeks.
"There's a really strong mutual desire on both sides to get this done sooner rather than later," he said.
The agreement will require approval of the IOC and USOC boards.
Both sides referred to a "new approach" to structuring the deal but declined to disclose specifics.
International resentment over the USOC's share of Olympic revenues was a key factor in Chicago's first-round loss in the 2009 vote for the 2016 Olympics, which were awarded to Rio de Janeiro. That followed New York's defeat in 2005 for the 2012 Games, which went to London.
Rome, Madrid and Tokyo have announced bids for the 2020 Olympics, with Istanbul saying it also plans to enter the race. Other potential candidates include Doha, Qatar, and Dubai, United Arab Emirates. South Africa announced last month it would not bid, but has indicated it could still reverse the decision.
The American side in Friday's talks was represented by Blackmun, USOC chairman Larry Probst and business executive Fraser Bullock. The IOC delegation included Carrion, marketing commission chairman Gerhard Heiberg and director general Christophe De Kepper.
AP National Writer Eddie Pells in Denver contributed to this report.