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USOC looks to build consensus for Olympic bid

Friday - 9/21/2012, 8:49pm  ET

By EDDIE PELLS
AP National Writer

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) - When it comes to amassing medals, money and friends around the world, leaders of the U.S. Olympic Committee couldn't be happier.

Yet to bring the Olympics back to the United States, they know they'll need to keep collecting allies in Washington, too.

Speaking at the USOC's annual assembly Friday, CEO Scott Blackmun said Olympic leaders need to reach out to politicians in the nation's capital to shore up support for a possible bid for the 2024 or 2026 Olympics.

"We believe the next bid needs to be not only the bid of a city but a bid of a nation," Blackmun said. "We want to have the White House and the Hill on board with us. We can't wait two or four years to have them get on board with us."

The USOC has put together a committee to explore a bid; it will report to the board of directors at its next meeting in December.

"Make no mistake, we do want to bid, and we do want to win," chairman Larry Probst said. "But we will only bid if the business logic is as compelling as the sports logic."

Among the issues the USOC will explore in Washington would be getting a federal financial guarantee, the likes of which almost every country brings to the table when they bid. Recent U.S. bids have been backed by state and local guarantees, but not federal.

"I'm not sure they would do that in the future, but we'd certainly appreciate that sort of support," Probst told reporters in a meeting after his prepared address. "We plan to spend some time in Washington to see if that opportunity exists."

On Friday morning, Blackmun and Probst addressed leaders from the U.S. Olympic world _ recapping America's successes at the London Games and looking toward the future. The Winter Olympics in Sochi are only 17 months away and, on a grander scale, the USOC wants to bring the Olympics back to home turf for the first time since 2002.

Probst said the atmosphere for bidding is better both internationally, now that the USOC and International Olympic Committee have reached a deal on revenue sharing, and domestically, where dysfunction that rocked the USOC has largely been resolved.

"When I stepped into this role four years ago, we were engulfed in period of challenge and turmoil, and that's an understatement," Probst said. "We had back-to-back Olympic bids that did not win _ or frankly even come close to winning. ... When Scott and I first sat down at the end of 2009 to chart the future direction of the USOC, we both recognized that the organization needed a major course correction."

While the USOC's internal politics have been smoothed out, the federation wants to make sure it has support from Washington. A handful of congressmen complained before the Olympics that the U.S. team's uniforms for opening ceremony were made in China. The USOC and its supplier, Ralph Lauren, have changed that for future Olympics.

The dust-up illustrated the fine line the USOC walks when delving into the realm of Washington. It seeks support from politicians but doesn't want them micromanaging its affairs, especially considering the USOC doesn't receive federal funding.

These days, supporting the U.S. Olympic movement isn't a high-risk political proposition.

The United States won the most overall (104) and gold medals (46) in London and "sent a clear message to the world," Probst said, that it "is far from finished in raising its competitive game to new heights."

The U.S. team actually took home six more medals from Beijing four years ago than it did from London last month, but the tone at the assembly four years ago couldn't have been more different.

Outgoing chairman Peter Ueberroth, tired of criticism heaped on the USOC for taking too much cash out of the revenue-sharing arrangement with the IOC, gave arguably the most memorable speech in the history of these assemblies. He pointedly reminded international partners that, "U.S. corporations have paid 60 percent of all the money, period. Be sure you all understand that. The rest of the world pays 40 percent. It's pretty simple math."

Meanwhile, behind closed doors, the stage was being set for the ouster of CEO Jim Scherr and a number of other key executives _ moves that both outraged and confused other Olympic leaders and played into Chicago's humiliating fourth-place finish in the bidding for the 2016 Olympics.

Four years later, the keynote addresses were part of an overall love-fest, filled with chart after chart detailing the success stories of the past four years.

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