Olympic sports on board for US 2024 bid

EDDIE PELLS
AP National Writer

CHICAGO (AP) — The U.S. Olympic Committee received near-unanimous support from the country’s sports federations in a poll asking whether they would support a bid for the 2024 Olympics — another sign that a U.S. city will make a run at hosting the next available Summer Games.

In his annual address Friday to the USOC Assembly, CEO Scott Blackmun said 40 of the 47 national governing bodies took part in the poll and all 40 answered positively to the question: “Is it important for the United States to host the Games?”

The USOC is in the final stages of deciding whether to put a city up for consideration. Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington are the candidates.

Blackmun said at the next assembly, a year from now, “hopefully we’ll be in the final stages of submitting a bid.”

The U.S. last hosted the Summer Games in Atlanta in 1996. The 2016 Olympics are scheduled for Rio de Janerio and the 2020 Games were recently awarded to Tokyo.

The NGBs also answered with an overwhelming “No” to the question of whether a bid takes the USOC’s focus off its main mission, which is supporting athletes.

Having the sports federations on board is no small thing. Five years ago, when Chicago was bidding for the 2016 Games, the NGBs were in open rebellion against the newly appointed CEO, Stephanie Streeter. It was the USOC’s dysfunction, both domestically and internationally, that voters and observers blamed for Chicago’s last-place finish.

Since Blackmun replaced Streeter and chairman Larry Probst replaced Peter Ueberroth, the USOC has smoothed relations with the IOC — becoming more active in international events and also, importantly, ironing out details of a new revenue-sharing agreement. Probst was elected to the IOC last year.

“It’s an old-boy network, but you have to be part of the network to change the game,” said Tiger Shaw, who recently replaced Bill Marolt as CEO of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association. “You can’t just lob bombs in. It antagonizes relationships. There’s a double-edged sword here. Being part of the crowd and instituting change from within, we feel that’s important.”

The USOC board heard from Pat Ryan, the chairman of the Chicago 2016 bid, who offered advice to the next potential candidate.

“He strongly encouraged us to move forward with a bid if there was an environment in which we could win,” Blackmun said.

Before making a final decision, the USOC is waiting to see results of the IOC’s “Agenda 2020,” which could change the selection process. Any changes will be finalized in December.

Barring something drastic, though, the USOC appears primed for a bid.

“There’s a whole generation of Americans who haven’t seen the Olympic Games on American soil, and that’s very, very important to us,” Blackmun said.

Rich Bender, the executive director of USA Wrestling, said an Olympics in the United States provides a lift for all the sports, and that even the bid process adds energy to the movement.

“I’m cautiously optimistic that we have a chance,” Bender said. “A lot of work needs to be done. Of course, there are no sure things in sports, particularly with the IOC.”

AROUND THE RINGS: Probst left to be with his ailing father and was not at Friday’s meetings. … USOC general counsel Rana Dershowitz is leaving to take the same post with Aspen Skiing Company. … Chief of sport performance Alan Ashley: “We’re not getting as many Olympians and Paralympians on the podium as we used to. It’s a trend we need to change.” Asked about that, Blackmun said it means the USOC has tough choices ahead as it tries to allocate dollars to NGBs with the most potential for Olympic medals. … Blackmun said he’s not completely confident about finding the final $5 million of funding needed to start an independent agency to investigate sex abuse in Olympic sports. The USOC and NGBs are in for around $5 million each, but the USOC is looking for philanthropists and sponsors to pay for the final part.

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Follow Eddie Pells on Twitter at www.twitter.com/epells

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