DURBAN, South Africa -- The International Olympic Committee's 123rd session, or annual general assembly, closed here Saturday, the occasion marking 10 years of Jacques Rogge's presidency. By every objective measure, the IOC is in remarkably good shape.
History ultimately will judge whether Rogge proved a great president. It's too soon. In the moment it's clear that the president deserves, across the board, high marks.
No institution is immune from constructive criticism, and that includes the IOC. That's to be expected when dealing with multitudes of national Olympic committees, international sports federations and, of course, governments worldwide. To underscore the complexity of the IOC's task, meanwhile, a fair wrap-up of this 123rd session would have to note that while the Winter Games program is innovative and progressive, the Summer Games program -- bluntly -- needs help.
Rogge should give thanks each and every day that Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps are global icons. The Summer Games depends on the making of heroes; those heroes connect with young people; and those two are about it right now.
Pause for a moment now to try to think of others. Go ahead.
That said, with only two years to go before he leaves office, and he underscored Saturday at his wrap-up news conference that he would indeed leave at the end of his second term in September, 2013, Rogge's record on most big-picture issues is incredibly positive.
His financial advisors, including IOC member Richard Carrion of Puerto Rico, a banker, have -- despite the worst financial conditions in decades -- managed to grow the IOC's financial reserve to $592 million at the end of 2010 from $105 million in 2001.
The reserve is designed to allow the IOC to continue to operate for a full four-year cycle in case an Olympics is canceled. Rogge made growing it a priority soon after he was elected president in 2001.
In other financial matters, NBC's $4.38 billion U.S. TV rights deal secures the IOC's financial base through 2020. The IOC's global sponsorship program has raised $957 million for the four-year run through the 2012 London Games; a 12th sponsor would take the number over $1 billion.
Already, the IOC has raised $921 million from global sponsors for Sochi 2014 and Rio 2016, and $632 million for 2018 and 2020.
The big news here, of course, was that Pyeongchang was elected to stage the 2018 Winter Games, Rogge saying at the ending news conference, "The Koreans have been rewarded for their patience, their perseverance and maybe their program of 'new horizons.' "
The "new horizons" trend produced Sochi for 2014, Rio for 2016, Pyeongchang for 2018 and is now likely to see Istanbul enter the 2020 race. Rome is already a declared candidate. Madrid is likely to announce soon that it's in. Tokyo may, too, though why the IOC would go back to Asia in 2020 after 2018 remains uncertain.
Rogge said he would be "delighted" to see an American bid for 2020. Of course. It's in the IOC's interest to solicit as many bids as possible.
Is it in the U.S. Olympic Committee's?
USOC officials have said consistently that they first need to resolve a longstanding revenue dispute with the IOC -- a matter that historians may also come to see as one of the defining threads of Rogge's years.
A resolution may, or may not, happen before the Sept. 1 deadline for declaring for 2020.
Even if the financial dispute is resolved, the overarching question is whether, "new horizons" and all, a U.S. bid can win.
Also part of the calculus is whether 2022 might make for a smarter American play.
It used to be that the revenue disparity between a Summer and Winter Games could be pronounced -- that is, in favor a Summer Games. No more. Dmitry Chernyshenko, the head of those Sochi 2014 Games, told a small group of reporters here that his committee is on target right now to raise $1.3 billion in domestic sponsorships, in Russia; that's more than they did in China for the Summer Games in Beijing just three years ago.
Moreover, the United States has become a winter sports power, with a best-in-the-world 37 medals in 2010 in Vancouver that produced marketable American stars such as Lindsey Vonn, Apolo Ohno and Evan Lysacek.
And then there's the innovation issue -- the drawing power of the Winter Games for the demographically key youth market.
The Winter Games program has in recent years seen the addition of snowboarding, snowboard-cross and ski-cross. Earlier this year, the IOC added women's ski jumping. Here, it added slopestyle, among other disciplines.
Shaun White is now a two-time gold medalist. The double McTwist 1260 that he threw to win gold on his second run in Vancouver, a trick he did not have to do -- he had already won gold on his first run -- but did, anyway, is one of those moments that make kids everywhere want to soar like Shaun.
"I am so stoked that slopestyle will be included in the next Olympic Games," Jamie Anderson, a six-time X Games medalist (three gold), said in a statement released by the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Assn., about the Sochi program.
Now, the contrast.
The Summer Games program for 2020 -- the IOC is already planning that far ahead after including golf and rugby for Rio in 2016 -- will involve 25 so-called "core sports," down from 26. It's not clear what will be dropped. Also in the mix, the IOC announced here, are these eight:
Baseball, softball, rock climbing, wushu, roller sports, wakeboard, karate and squash.
To frame the matter simply: when was the last time you heard a wushu competitor say he or she was stoked about the possibility of competing at the Olympics?
The IOC insists it wants to attract young people. And then it goes and throws out a short-list that doesn't take into account the range of sports that gets kids where they live.
Anyone who knows the movement understands that there are political issues involving control of skateboarding as an Olympic sport.
Those need to be resolved. Shaun White is just as good on a skateboard as he is on a snowboard. How is it that he's not being given the chance to show that at the Summer Games?
How about surfing? Come on, IOC -- tap into the endless summer, dudes! A gracious Fernando Aguerre, president of the international surfing association, issued a statement that said, "We may have missed this big wave but like any good surfer we know there are more waves to come. We will therefore continue to develop the sport of surfing on a global level and explore the best way to contribute to the Olympic movement."
Why not, for that matter, cricket? One would think the IOC would jump at the chance to get a billion-plus crazed cricket fans connected to the Olympics.
Sure, it might be complicated. There might be turf wars. Last I looked, soccer was in the Games.
As a European journalist friend of mine likes to say -- we must always work toward a solution. And, yes, the IOC can be traditionally minded. But when it wants to move, it can do so.
In the meantime, there's this. The London Games start next July 27. The men's 100-meter track and field final goes down August 5. Organizers received more than one million requests for tickets to that race. Bolt is a phenomenon, and the Olympic movement needs more phenomenal stuff.