|Scott Blackmun speaks to members of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team
at the University of East London on July 27, 2012 in London.
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – With less than four months remaining until the start of the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games, the U.S. Olympic Committee appears to be poised for strong performances in Russia and beyond.
The USOC’s leaders, speaking at the annual U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Assembly held near its headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colo., were pleased with its improved relationship with the International Olympic Committee, the growth of its Paralympic program, its increased ability to help its national governing bodies and the growth of its media platform.
The USOC leaders also seemed optimistic about plans to host an Olympic Games on U.S. soil in the near future.
“We are very, very strong as an organization,” said Scott Blackmun, the CEO of the USOC. ”But we can be stronger.”
In addition, Blackmun said the USOC board revised its non-discrimination policy to include sexual orientation. The board passed the measure Thursday, a week after chairman Larry Probst, the USOC chairman and a new member of the International Olympic Committee, said he would support a similar change to the IOC Olympic charter.
"The fact that we do not think it is our role to advocate for a change in the Russian law does not mean that we support the law, and we do not," Blackmun said.
More than 400 members of the Olympic and Paralympic Movement gathered to discuss a myriad of topics regarding the United States’ role in the world of sport.
The main goal for the USOC is to be a host to an upcoming Olympic Games.
“We want to leave a lasting impression of United States, that our nation can, in fact, host large events and deliver a Games that both inspires the host city and country, but also youth around the world,” Probst said.
This comes as quite a change from four years ago, where the USOC’s influence and position in the international community was drastically different.
Although the USOC had struggled in the past to establish strong ties within the IOC, today, Probst proudly spoke of a new type of relationship within the global Olympic family.
“At September’s IOC board meeting in Buenos Aires, the feel was completely different from four years ago in Copenhagen,” Probst said, “We are no longer a silent and heavy-handed partner in the Olympic family.”
Since the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games, the USOC has been making strides toward both repairing and securing a solid relationship internationally. Both Probst and USOC CEO Scott Blackmun attended close to 100 meetings with various members of the IOC and other international sport organizations to get the USOC back on track.
The result of their efforts did not go unnoticed, as the USOC won Sport Business Journal’s “League of the Year Award” in 2012.
“We are now far better positioned for success and to submit a potential bid in the coming years,” Probst said. ”Now, we must address fundamental questions regarding partnership, location and whether or not a U.S. bid will provide a meaningful contribution to the worldwide Olympic Movement.”
In addition to an improved international relationship, Blackmun delivered some staggering statistics that further prove the strength of the U.S. Olympic family.
Over the past year, the USOC has focused largely on generating resources for the each sport’s National Governing Body by way of implementing cutting-edge technology and revenue generation unheard of in previous years.
“The NGBs are crucial for the USOC’s success and are responsible for membership, getting kids interested in sports and training officials and coaches alike,” Blackmun said. “If we can continue to generate the resources and allocate them properly, each NGB can implement the high-performance programs necessary for success.”
Blackmun referenced USA Swimming and USA Gymnastics as examples of NGBs with thriving high-performance programs. Traditionally, the larger, more well-known NGBs such as these receive a majority of funding, while smaller NGBs sometimes receive much smaller budgets.
“That is something we want to change,” Blackmun said. “In addition to resource allocation, we want to help these smaller, less-funded NGBs come up with viable plans to help them along and get the athletes the support they need. The USOC is here to help you win medals.”
Blackmun then cited US Speedskating and USA Boxing as models of success. US Speedskating’s interim president Mike Plant has completely transformed the NGB and set it in the right direction by implementing policy changes and shifting board obligations.
Similarly, USA Boxing received a facelift after London, where the U.S. men’s team returned home empty-handed. After passing new bylaws and electing new board members, USA Boxing has turned around and is ready to fight.
On the digital front, the USOC has experienced enormous growth as well, citing London as the turning point from a media standpoint. TeamUSA.org continues to grow as a site, as seven NGBs were recently added to the platform. In addition, the USOC has over 4.5 million followers across its social media platforms.
Looking ahead, the USOC is preparing to launch a mobile and tablet app in preparation for the upcoming Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games, as well as continue to find interesting and unique ways to engage fans both domestically and internationally through community outreach events, such as the “Road to Sochi” nationwide tour.
“Our main focus is to continue to enforce the fact that we are solely reliable on sponsorships and donations and through the great work of our marketing team and media platforms, we are making headway in that regard,” Blackmun said.
U.S. Paralympics has seen major growth and improvement in the last year as well. Following the London 2012 Olympic Games, the USOC renewed its focus on Paralympic sports and has made a conscious effort to integrate Paralympic sports into every platform at the USOC.
“We’ve seen tremendous growth on the Paralympic side of the organization, and I’m pleased to announce that there will be a record-high 50 hours of Paralympic broadcasting and live streaming in Sochi,” Blackmun said.
This shatters the precedence set in London, where hardly any Paralympic competitions aired, and it was difficult to follow athletes during the Games.
Katherine Keel is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org.