Adorned with works by the famed glass sculptor Dale Chihuly, the bar at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Singapore sits just off the lobby, to the right as you walk in. Management insists on keeping the bar chilled to levels inspired by a meat locker. Drinks were crazy expensive ($13 for a pot of green tea). The piano could be just a touch loud at night. Even so, the bar was without question the place to see and be seen during the recently concluded Youth Olympic Games.
Some number from the United States Olympic Committee proved bar regulars during the Youth Games. Indeed, let it be noted that the USOC crew actually shut the bar down late one night.
So Thursday's announcement that the USOC and the International Olympic Committee had come to an agreement over the USOC share of what in Olympic jargon are called "Games costs" comes not as a surprise. Instead, it's the logical extension of what happens when you invest in relationships and in playing the game the way it has to be played within the wider Olympic movement.
Though terms were not formally announced, the USOC will pay about $18 million to help pay for anti-doping programs, operations of the Court of Arbitration for Sport and other administrative costs.
To be clear: the agreement is a win-win all around.
It's unequivocally a win for the USOC.
Why? Because it underscores the willingness on the part of chairman Larry Probst and chief executive Scott Blackmun to reach out to the IOC. Each has said repeatedly in recent months that they would deal with the IOC in good faith; the deal makes real that talk.
Probst and Blackmun worked seamlessly as a team, and both deserve credit for that, too.
Probst, for his part, gets it now -- how he, as the chairman, and thus the senior American figure on the scene, is the one who absolutely has to be at certain meetings with certain IOC figures for any progress to be achieved.
Blackmun is the one appropriately hammering out the particulars.
Moreover, the USOC's annual assembly comes in two weeks, in Colorado Springs. Now Probst and Blackmun will get to stand up before the USOC's many stakeholders and announce they have delivered on their promise to make progress with the IOC.
At the same time, the announcement Thursday indisputably marks a major win for the IOC, too.
Why? Because it acknowledges that the Olympic movement is stronger and better off all around when the USOC and IOC are in it together, and that the IOC is -- without question -- committed to that proposition.
IOC leadership now gets to go to a major conference in October in Acapulco, at which its policy-making executive board will mingle with officials from the more than 200 national Olympic committees from around the world, and announce progress in the relationship with the USOC.
It's why the bar scene in Singapore proved so intriguing.
It's not that the deal itself was struck in the bar.
It's the recognition of how things get done in the Olympic scene, where relationships are everything.
Indeed, the deal that was announced Thursday marks the culmination of meetings that began in Denver in 2009, then continued in Vancouver at the Winter Games earlier this year, and then again in Switzerland earlier this summer, and then came together in Singapore.
The outlines of the deal were largely worked out in Vancouver.
Intriguingly, it's more or less a deal of the sort that could have been worked out five or six years ago -- which would have completely re-framed a great many things, including perhaps Chicago's bid for the 2016 Summer Games, an effort that all along had to contend with some level of contentiousness within the wider IOC membership about the USOC's finances.
Chicago was booted in the first round of IOC voting last October; Rio de Janeiro won.
So why did the deal that was largely framed up in Vancouver had to wait a few more months to be finalized?
The answer: to develop the two IOC top-tier sponsorship deals that were announced this summer, with Proctor & Gamble and with Dow Chemical, and in particular the Dow deal. P&G was already a USOC sponsor; adding Dow, though, gives the USOC new revenues, and allows for considerably more flexibility.
Now the focus shifts to Part Two of the USOC-IOC finances -- the USOC's 20 percent share of worldwide marketing revenues and 12.75 percent cut of U.S. broadcast rights fees.
The two sides agreed in Denver that they would commence negotiations in 2013 on a new formula that would kick off in 2020.
The announcement Thursday enables them to start those talks sooner.
And start sooner they must. It's in everyone's interest for Part Two to get resolved while Jacques Rogge is the IOC president; his term expires in 2013.
See you in the bar in Acapulco, amigos.