Bid Plans in Store?
| Larry Probst addressing the USOC's annual assembly Sept. 21
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- The glow from the London Games still fresh in the minds of everyone in the audience, the chairman of the U.S. Olympic Committee's board got to the question on everyone's minds right away.
"Make no mistake," Larry Probst told the USOC's annual assembly here at the Antlers Hilton Hotel, "we do want to bid, and we do want to win.
"But we will only bid if the business logic is as compelling as the sport logic."
Probst's comments highlighted the remarks at a markedly low-key assembly in the wake of the high-octane American performance in London -- the 46 gold medals and 104 overall, both best in the world.
All along this year, Probst -- and USOC chief executive Scott Blackmun -- had been quietly confident that American athletes would perform well at the 2012 Olympic Games. Probst said Friday that "despite the naysayers and predictions of the end of Team USA's preeminence, our athletes rose to the challenge and demonstrated, once again, just how deeply the pursuit of excellence is ingrained in our character."
He said that one of his favorite in-person London moments was getting to watch Serena Williams defeat Russia's Maria Sharapova at Wimbledon for the women's singles gold medal, adding that Williams represented the "heart and soul" of the USOC's mission, to "produce sustained competitive excellence over time."
The obvious question, Probst said, having seen the excitement that the Games brought to London and Britain, is when the United States will be back in the bid game.
For those unfamiliar with the story, he provided a reminder that when he became board chair four years ago, the USOC was, as he put it, and this would be gently, "engulfed in a period of challenge and turmoil."
New York was put up in 2005 for the 2012 summer Games. Chicago was put forward in 2009 for the 2016 Games. Both lost, and lost big, in large measure because of the USOC's relationship with the wider Olympic movement.
As Probst put it Friday, the USOC needed a "major course correction."
That course correction came this past May, when the USOC and International Olympic Committee struck a deal that resolved a longstanding dispute over certain broadcasting and marketing revenue shares.
Friction over the current deal played a key role in the wider bad karma that helped sink the New York and Chicago bids.
The new deal runs from 2020 until 2040, and removes "the largest single impediment to building the kind of international partnerships we have always desired with the Olympic movement," Probst said.
The deal was negotiated by Blackmun and Fraser Bullock on the USOC side and by IOC members Gerhard Heibert and Richard Carrion, and IOC director general Christophe de Kepper. Probst said all "approached the final discussions with openness and an honest desire to move beyond the conflict."
A USOC working group on the bid process is due to report back to the full board in December. Up for study is either the 2024 summer or 2026 winter Games; the smart money would seem to be on a 2024 summer bid, with San Francisco and New York atop the list of possible cities and Chicago sure to be mentioned again.
"We want the Games back in the United States, and we have a number of friends in the international community who want us to host the Games as well," Probst said, adding, "That's perhaps the best news I could possibly give you today."