USOC execs named to key IOC roles

LONDON -- The U.S. Olympic Committee's top leaders were appointed to two key IOC commissions Friday, another sign of the American body's return to the international fold after years of strained relations.

USOC chairman Larry Probst was placed on the IOC's international relations commission, while USOC CEO Scott Blackmun was included on the marketing commission. It's the first time either has served on one of the International Olympic Committee's advisory commissions.

Probst and Blackmun have worked hard to improve relations with the IOC and reconnect with the international Olympic movement following Chicago's humiliating first-round loss in the 2009 vote for the 2016 Olympics, which were awarded to Rio de Janeiro.

"We are grateful that the IOC has selected us to serve alongside so many important leaders of the Olympic movement," Blackmun said in a statement.

While the U.S. remains without representation on the IOC's powerful executive board, the appointment of Probst and Blackmun to the commissions represents a major step for the USOC's standing in the international body.

Blackmun's presence on the marketing panel carries particular significance, given the history of the long-running financial dispute that divided the USOC and IOC.

The marketing commission, headed by IOC executive board member Gerhard Heiberg of Norway, deals with the multimillion-dollar corporate sponsorship deals that provide much of the IOC's revenues.

The USOC receives 20 percent of global sponsorship revenue and nearly 13 percent of U.S. broadcast rights deals -- figures many international officials consider excessive.

The two sides agreed last year to negotiate a new formula that will take effect in 2020. The first round of talks was held in January in Lausanne, Switzerland.

The international relations panel, chaired by IOC vice president Mario Pescante of Italy, deals with various global issues, including the IOC's recent status as a permanent observer at the United Nations.

The three U.S. IOC members, meanwhile, retain their commission posts: Anita DeFrantz, chair of the women and sports commission; Angela Ruggiero, member of the athletes' commission; and Jim Easton, member of the nominations commission.