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U.S. OLYMPIC TEAM MEDIA SUMMIT: Quotes from USOC Leadership Press Conference Tuesday, April 15

April 15, 2008, 1 a.m. (ET)
Press Conference Quotes Tuesday, April 15 2:30 - 3:30 p.m. USOC Leadership Participants: Peter Ueberroth (PU) Jim Scherr (JS) Steve Roush (SR) Darryl Seibel (DS) Quotes: Q: How are you feeling about the issues of Tibet, pollution, Darfur and the way our government and the USOC have been dealing with those' JS: Good easy question to start. We feel good about the state of readiness for the Games and for the readiness of our teams at the Olympic Trials as they attempt to qualify for the Games with either domestic or international competitions. Well, certainly the Olympic Games and the issues have taken prominence over the Games and the competition of the Games. They were concerned about the Games and preparing them to compete and those issues will play out over the next 120 days and we feel good about where our team is and our readiness to take our team to represent our country well. Q: All three of the Presidential Candidates have recommended Bush boycott the Opening Ceremonies. What impact do you think that'll have on Chicago's bid' PU: I always turn over political questions. I was co-chair of the committee to elect Dianne Feinstein for the Senate in California, I refer those to her. I don't think, I just hope that anyone that doesn't go to the Olympic Games Opening Ceremonies has the good judgment to give their tickets to the families of some competing athlete wherever country they come from. That's what I feel and I think it won't be a factor. Q: What would you like to see from athletes' Would you like to see them take on issues' JS: I prefer that the athletes do what they want to do. Basically, they can do so as long as they do so within the rules of the USOC. If they don't want to do so, they want to focus on their training, they should be left alone to their training. And we all have many groups, NGOs, that are utilizing the platform of the Olympics as leverage to promote their cause and if the athletes want to do that they should and if they don't, they shouldn't feel undue pressure to be a part of someone else's cause. A lot of them have spent their whole lives training for this moment in the Olympic Games and it is their only opportunity. They should be allowed to focus on it, to compete to the best of their ability. And that through their competition, and what they do, and in the Olympic Village, that will make a statement to the world. If they want to do something in addition to that, great. If they don't they should be allowed to do that. Q: The last time you were here you said Chicago was third or fourth (in the 2016 bid city process). Where are they now' PU: You can't really give it a number, certainly not first. But I think Chicago-they haven't bid in the past, they have not been in the Olympic Movement and are gaining expertise all the time. There are citizens of various diverse communities joining the effort. I think all those things they are doing well. I think they are improving, but still not anywhere near first. Q: What provisions will be provided to athletes' JS: Well, there are many unique logistical circumstances. Our athletes are being prepared for the specifics for these Games. We are working with the issues as you have mentioned, air quality and the things you mentioned, so that our coaches and our athletes know what to expect. SR: Again, I think each Games we learn a little bit more and try to get better for the next Games. In Beijing_ I think we learned a lot in Athens. The air quality was an issue for us. The heat and humidity there was similar to what we are facing in Beijing. Teaching coaches and the athletes how to best prepare is critical, and in the area of nutrition we've gotten better. I think it was an area we were woefully short in giving education to our athletes and how they need to prepare themselves. In China, I think the key for us is preparing them for the high level of interest, with 4 billion people that will be watching worldwide and letting them know that they need to stay focused and keep their minds on what they need to do on the field of play. The USOC is there to enhance whatever they need when they're there competing in the Games. Q: You said certainly not first (regarding Chicago 2016). Who is first' And also, last fall you said Chicago needs to have civic leaders overseeing and talking up the bid. Has that happened' PU: Well, first, I'm going to decline to state on your first question. I don't think that is fair. The IOC asks us not to specifically point out the other candidate cities, so I respect their wishes. And it is not diplomats; I said that people that naturally travel, whether with families or businesses, that was one of the reasons Chicago was selected. Some of our key staff (were at) some kind of European competition where people were holding up Chicago signs for the U.S., people who naturally go and take the enthusiasm of the city and cultural diversity of the city. That's its best asset; its clearly best asset. It wants to be, and can be, whatever place it wants to be on that issue and hopefully they'll continue to do that. Q: If an American athlete wants to wear a mask during competition, could they, and who would be a part of that discussion' JS: Yes. Discussion would be with our scientists to see if those athletes and the surrounding athletes, if that would be a competitive advantage for that particular athlete. If so, then the athlete will be allowed to do that. Q: Based on recent discussion of a boycott, have you let BOCOG know the USOC's stance because of the outside pressure' PU: I think that having just been in Beijing, all of us on this panel, I don't feel that was a question for any country and certainly not for ours. We don't feel any reason to say that. They know we're going to be there and it didn't come up. Q: Are there any concerns from IOC members as they talked to you about the American bid' JS: I think we heard a great number of questions about the specifics of the bid and the plans. Maybe 60 IOC members and all of them have a different vantage point that they are coming to a decision on. I think most particularly they want to meet Pat Ryan and the leaders of this bid, and to introduce them to the world. We think there is a great team here that the world will respond to. PU: Chicago has a great delegation led by Pat Ryan. Then on our board, Bob Ctvrtlik, a volleyball player, on the USOC's board, (is) our liaison with the Chicago bid. He was there in virtually every session. It pretty much became a team effort, led by the Chicago folks, and I think that they are doing a great job. Q: What are your predictions for the medal count' JS: We haven't thought about that at all [sarcasm]. We have a good team, we have a strong team. We believe that the Chinese have the strongest team. SR: Just for the moment that you were asking the question was the only time that not been on my mind. The excitement that is behind the team comes first of all with Russia, China, and the U.S. probably vying, with all three having a legitimate shot vying for the top gold and total medal count. I think that lends itself to some incredible competition that is going to take place. It is very exciting and also challenges our athletes that they know they have to get better and coaches that this is going to be a highly competitive field. I think it has created excitement around these Olympic Games that has maybe been missing for awhile, which is again great. I think our athletes and our coaches are a great team to challenge. I think China, as Jim indicated, has an incredibly strong team which is going to be the host nation and as we know host nations normally can have home field advantage. So we are looking to that. They are excited about the prospects. It may keep me up at nights, but I think it is also keeping the coaches around the country up. There are going to be young athletes that are going to be named that we will be seeing here in the next few months. They are going in and there is a job to be done and (there is) excitement around the competition. PU: Economics is the only subject I know well. We will spend_ Our budgets for our U.S. athletes will be around 5-6 in terms of total expenditures for the athletes in preparation for the Games in comparison to other nations. We do it in our system and I think our system will be effective. I think it will work. JS: We are more excited about the athletes going to the Games, who they are. Every one of those athletes has faced tremendous adversities, in the Olympic trials, or in personal circumstances. And those stories will be told to the American public and to the public in China. And we have a great team that represents the best of our country and we feel good about taking that team to Beijing. Q: Do you feel, going forward, the positives of the Torch run outweigh the negatives' PU: Well, I hope that every Olympics has its own style of Torch Relay. I hope that they continue to have an international Torch Relay and it may be a decision to take it away. Right now I think it is a good idea and the Torch Relay does go throughout the country. Also, we have successfully in '84 and '96, and 2002, and 2004 and so forth, we have had successful Torch Relays. In terms (of) people's rights, (and) because of the destination, (it's important) to have their opinion on a public stage. It is kind of a cheap ticket to get on the public stage. The Games were awarded seven years ago. Now is the time to show up. I think that is alright. We can be peaceful; we are a part of a peaceful society. We hold ourselves as examples to the world. And free speech, the possibility of differences, is the best thing in our country. Q: When these Games were awarded seven years ago, China made promises. Do you have a sense if they will live up to their promises' PU: Two responses: Having gone every year for the last seven years, anyone that has done that, (sees) the change that China is opening up every single minute. Anyone that wants to argue that subject is somehow blind... Terms of promises, that is between the IOC and the people in China, the organizing committee and the Chinese government. Those kinds of discussions are supposed to be going on and I can have my voice and there can be another voice. I think that will have more effect positively long term than anything else. I think the number one country changing, in the world, is China... You have lots of folks you can ask about those things. We are working on sending the greatest group of terrific, clean sportsmen and women to represent our country to Beijing in a very few amount of days. Q: There are theories thinking that in the Olympic year China will have athletes we've never heard of. Do you have a sense that this will suddenly pop up' SR: I don't see China doing the clandestine shadow team... and I don't think China wants that to be the story written about these Games. They have put together a team. I think you have seen all of their competitors on the field of play in 2008 and I do honestly believe they will field a very competitive team. The 2006 World Championship results where they clearly won the most gold medals of any nation in world. And in major world competition, I think that is the team you will see as well as up and coming ones from the last two years. JS: I don't think it has been a planned shadow team. I think that teams given the international competition_ most of the sports need a significant amount of international experience. Even the United States will have athletes for their first time in the Olympics that will have very little international experience... They will have a lot of athletes who will do that. I don't think it is any part of a large plan. Q What are your thoughts on doping and the major embarrassments for American Olympic athletes as of late' How confident are you that 2008 will not produce more embarrassments' JS: The changes that we made were for the program we now have in place, plus the education efforts. We are very confident this team is clean. Of course, there is no way we can guarantee that situation. But we feel great about this team... I think a lot of what you are hearing about today is from a previous era, and I think we have gone to a new era in our country. PU: I will just say the same words that Jim finished with. This will be a clean team. Q: Why is there no one here from BOCOG' DS: We invited BOCOG. Frankly, they are in the final push to get ready for the Games. I don't think that them not coming had anything to do with not wanting to be here. I think it had everything to do with the preparation for the Games in Beijing. We had a delegation in San Francisco for the Torch run. Q: Is the USOC testing your athletes more' Would you consider having them sign contracts that included financial penalties for doping infractions' JS: Yes, on the first part of the question. There are major testing and protocols leading up to these Games that are more stringent than ever before. As to the specifics, we won't get into that today. As to the second part of the question, the athletes forfeit their results in the Games, they forfeit bonuses from the USOC and bonuses from their National Governing Bodies... they are not under contract with us. Q: Based on your experience in '84, what responses did the Torch Run elicit from ordinary people' Do expect increased patriotism in China' PU: '84 was a long time ago, and as an older fellow I don't remember it that well. We had a system where every runner was required to give $3,000 to a local charity and that is how you got to run. We never took a penny of the donation... So it did create a lot of patriotism, people from their own hometown would turn out. I can't judge the people of Chinese ancestry, either Chinese citizens or American citizens of Chinese background, I can say my own experience that they were supportive. JS: The excitement of the Chinese public is immense and will grow. And I think the Torch Relay will show the [inaudible]...and it will be both patriotic and (an) affirmation of the people hosting the Games. SR: I happen to be in Beijing in 2004, (and I) watched 5-6 million people line the streets just to get a glimpse of the Torch because they knew in four years it was coming to China. The patriotism and pride... has only built in the past four years, and I anticipate there will be strong pride on the part of the Chinese people when they are the host in August. Q: You said the (doping) disgraces are from a different era, but with track , field, do you think the public has lost faith' JS: I don't think they have lost faith in the sport, I think that they are obviously hesitant... about any sport given everything we have seen nationally and internationally in doping. And the sport as you know, in our country, has a pretty loyal and dedicated following of fans. And I think those fans are still loyal to the sport, if not more so. Q: How much money have you received back from athletes due to doping violations' Are you in favor of a clause similar to what the British have which forbids athletes with prior doping violations to be on future Olympic Teams' PU: I will take the financial one. It is an insignificant amount of money that gets recovered. There is usually not a lot of money to start with. I used to be involved in baseball... But there is not a lot of money recovered. JS: For the second part, we have a federal law that protects athletes that are given opportunities to participate. There are the international rules, with the IOC, which currently the doping offense varies, could be two years for the first offense. If they serve that time, they will then be eligible for participation in the national federation or the U.S. Olympic Team. Q: Congress is urging President Bush not to go to the Opening Ceremony. Would that effect our athletes' PU: I think the President is planning on going and I hope he goes. If he changes his mind, so be it. It doesn't impact our athletes at all; they are going there to represent our country and to do the best they can. To anyone that is invited and doesn't go, (we'd ask they) give the tickets to parents of some of the athletes competing. Q: What are your thoughts on recent testimony that may show that prominent medal winners may have to give back medals' JS: That would be speculating. I don't think we have the specific terms... And if the end result was that the medals were won unfairly, then they should give them back. I think it is speculating on which names would come forward... [inaudible] . Q: Steve, can you talk more specifically about medal projections' Why is China the team to beat' SR: I didn't know that I gave any medal projections. I can tell you why I think that China performed the way they did in 2006. The country has 1.3 billion people. They have used large amounts of resources behind these sports programs and it is a very important matter of pride for them. As Peter referred to, we pale in comparison to the level of support we are able to give our Olympic athletes to develop. 2006 was a glimpse, a window... Those were on international soil all around the world. In 2008, they will be at home. The development of their pipelines in sports like diving, where they won every gold medal, that is unheard of, that shows that they have athletes that are so thick in their pipelines. They are coming out and they can only send two entries to the Olympic Games. Third, forth, fifth, sixth could be the top performer in any other country in the world... They have hired the world's best coaches who have not only coached the athletes, but coached their coaches. For future generations, they are building the foundation. 2008 is just the beginning of the process. They are looking at decade from now... and where they are bringing in coaches in sports they have not traditionally done well at because they need to learn the sport. It is there where you are going to see the diversification from them in their medal production in so many sports... in new ones that they have infused new coaches and new resources in. Q: Triathletes are training in South Korea_ how does that work' SR: Each sport sets up their training camps wherever they feel they need to set up. We did the same thing when we went to Athens. We were set up around Europe. At the Olympics, they try to keep them away because the excitement of the Games will not last for two weeks and if you are competing at the end of the Games, the excitement and the newness kind of wears on them. So, I think that each sport looks to make...for their team and offer training camps for the athletes and go into Beijing as fresh as possible recognizing that they need some time to prepare for the Games... You would need to check with Triathlon... (Different sports) will be all throughout Asia preparing for the Games. It is up to each sport and the coaches for each sport. Q: Will the Olympics be a target for terrorists' Is there extra security in Beijing' PU: Within in the BOCOG venues, I think they will have ample security. Q: It's clear you want to send a clean team to the Games. It's unclear how you plan to achieve a clean team. PU: Yes, but that is not something...we want to do everything available to us. We have an unusual group of athletes who have seen the people who have suffered. So we think there are a lot of athletes that make us comfortable. Athens also makes us comfortable. We want to build a reputation of bringing clean teams to all the international competitions. The exact steps we take, it is not something we are going to talk about. Q: Can you be more specific on why you're so sure' Were you also sure in the past' PU: The USOC had a turnover in 2004, with turnover of leadership, with turnover of 104 members. Turnover is not everything. It is trying to do things better and I think (we) have taken a lot of steps to get there, (as with) any non-profit or business group that puts resources and attention towards a problem... We are pleased with 2004, 2006 and 2008. Q: You've been outspoken about China's resources in recent years. Have you alerted sponsors that you need more to remain competitive' JS: We have direct conversations with them all the time. We are trying to manage expectations. I was not surprised to learn, but a little bit surprised to learn, that one of the countries we are competing against has six times the amount (of resources) of ours. They finished fifth or seventh in Athens. Our school college community is a little bit of an equalizer... And so it is the American public, our sponsors, or the government, we need support to do more than we are now. We need more. SR: We also need to be smarter on how we use the resources we do have... That is about being smarter and learning from our mistakes. Q: Can you identify which new sports China will be dominant in while in Beijing' And can you confirm that you'll be able to continue the tradition of giving two tickets to each athlete's family in Beijing' SR: The easy questions are coming now. I can give you just the sports: archery, rowing, canoe, kayak, women's wrestling. They are looking at-I don't know if you have read about-119. They funded them significantly. 119 medal opportunities where they can get two or three in that. The second part is, I have remained highly confident of the ability to give two tickets to the athletes' families on the day that they are competing. Q: Why are you not saying how we are doing everything we can (to combat doping) as opposed to why you're so confident there are clean athletes' Are you holding back' Is there confidence in your words' JS: What we can say is, they are getting better every year. They are executing our national program... That program is a broader variety of tests, more investigative aspects of that... Public issues playing out in doping also have an impact and our education programs we are doing with our athletes are having an effect. We feel very comfortable where we are at. PU: They have seen also the penalties. They didn't see them and now they are, whether dignity lost or jail time. All those factors are coming together. We have launched a research collaborative of professional sports, all gathering, trying to get ahead of the problem... But I think there also was an era where it was kind of an accepted thing. And there are a lot of sports in America. I think it is time for America to go from a nation that has a lot of problems... We are at risk. There are no absolute guarantees, but I think we are fine. Q: 2016 will have been 20 years since the Games have been hosted on U.S. soil. I'm wondering how that will impact the USOC's ability to function at the level its grown accustom to' Has the USOC lost its sway with the IOC in regards to the regularity that we used to be able to host a Games' PU: I don't think that your basis is correct. The IOC is totally unpredictable. There used to be a pattern. It was an adopted thing. I remember that you could not have a Games three times. The last Games that London won [2012], the two finalist were both going for the third time. The rules are changing. There's new leadership there too. Now there's Jacques Rogge. Antonio Samaranch was there for 20 years. It is new leadership. We don't have any real sway. We didn't in the past and we don't in the future. I think from time to time, a city gets momentum. It kind of catches the wind. People realize that they're sincere. They realize they're speaking from the heart. They realize they're speaking from citizens of the community. And that's what's beginning to work so well here, and that's why we have some confidence. It's a long way to go because Chicago a rookie in this arena. But I think their leadership is good. We'll do everything we can-we're a partner-to support it. Q: The terms you used for Chicago's ranking, you said they're not first, not by a long shot. Today you said certainly not first' It doesn't sound like it's getting any better. PU: I have said it is getting better. It is impossible to even be asking them to be heading the pack at this time. It's a learning process. It's a master leadership group that's terrific. As they begin to get more support of the international business community out of this country, and this city specifically, or the Midwest, and educate people about this area of the country. I think it is getting better. You asked for an opinion. You got an opinion, you got it straight, but I think they're doing better. Q: Can Chicago 2016 be doing anything better' PU: Probably a handful of things and I certainly would not be talking to you about it. The leadership's in the room and if I have advice they're going to take it some of the time and sometimes not. I've got no magic wand. The people in Chicago should be proud of their efforts so far. JS: There is only one day, October 4, 2009, that leading the pack counts. Whether they're first, fourth, second, third, today doesn't matter at all. The fact that they are working hard on the bid matters. It's not to the advantage of the bid to be the front runner. Front runners haven't done too well in this process when it gets to the final vote. We've got a great bid here in Chicago. We've got a bid that's capable of winning and we need to work hard between now and 2009. We're capable of winning then and that's the day the bid matters. Q: _What's the current status across the board among these federations [NGBs], both winter and summer, and which of the federations are leading the charge in hopes that the workings are complete versus those that by the beginning of this Olympic year are still struggling in the process' PU: I am not going to have a scorecard and put (out there) somebody who hasn't made much progress and because of political reasons they can't make the progress or they have contracts they can't get out of, all those kinds of things. They are all individual. I think that Steve [Roush] and the Sports Performance Team, working with each National Governing Body, and Chris Duplanty [USOC Board Liaison] working with them, almost all of them look a great deal different. We have taken some of them and busted them apart. It's the only way to start fresh, brand new, de-certifying them. We've done all of that, and as you've seen, some of them, they're starting to perform a lot better. They've got two missions. Their mission also is to get youngsters in our country to play the sports that they advocate. Characterized in my mind I would say that we're on that journey getting to where we're comfortable with all the National Governing Bodies. We're probably about 65, 70 percent there. It's been a lot of work and it's ongoing every day. We find people that are interested in some of these sports willing to devote their time. It's finding volunteers who don't get paid, who don't get tickets, who don't get anything, who want to work real hard for some sport, so it'll be better for the next generation. You find those volunteers, together with the dedicated people who work in a sport and love it and have a passion for it-these three individuals [on stage] I can tell you do. Then you start to make sense. We are getting there with a lot of them. JS: We have made tremendous progress the last four years.
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