Earlier this year, the U.S. and International Olympic Committees resolved a longstanding dispute over certain broadcasting and marketing revenue shares. That almost immediately prompted speculation that the USOC would get back into the Olympic bid game. Cities across the American West -- Salt Lake City, Denver, Reno and Bozeman, Mont. -- expressed interest in playing host to the 2022 Winter Games. The IOC will select the 2022 site in 2015; a bid for a 2015 Games would be due in the fall of 2013.
The USOC board of directors on Tuesday, however, opted to slow things down, and in a big way, and in so doing it made not only the logical call but the absolute right call.
The board decided not to bid for 2022 but instead to explore the possibility of hosting either the 2024 Summer or 2026 Winter Games.
Translation: It opted to do the right thing, not the fast thing. There's no rush. So why rush?
The smart money here -- there are literally dozens of variables -- is that the working committee the board appointed Tuesday comes back with a push for 2024. The committee is due to make an initial report to the full USOC board in December.
Why Summer? The Winter Games are great but the Summer Games are always going to be the franchise, and the United States can win for 2024.
The IOC will select the Summer Games site in 2017. That's so far out the IOC doesn't even know now where it's going to be meeting in 2017 to be picking the 2024 city.
San Francisco and New York figure to top the list of candidate cities. Chicago will be mentioned again. Dallas is interested, too, but a June Games, which is what they're tentatively talking about down there, would seem to fall outside the IOC window.
San Francisco is a magical name to the Eurocentric IOC.
New York has the advantage of having run a 2005 bid for 2012.
Meanwhile, there doubtlessly will be talk about how South Africa will want to mount a bid for 2024. But that country has a long, long way to go, and all the IOC members who were there for the 2011 session in Durban know that to be the case. And, like those of us in the press, they remember well the warnings not to walk outside the perimeter of the guarded IOC hotel -- even in broad daylight -- for fear of violence.
Paris will be mentioned, too. Sure, 2024 will be the 100th anniversary of Paris' 1924 Games. Big deal. How'd that anniversary work out for Athens in 1896? They held the 1996 Games in Atlanta.
Beyond which, the French are in considerably the same place the Americans were several years ago -- trying to figure out, in the wake of the disastrous single-digit vote for Annecy's 2018 Winter Games campaign, why they keep losing cycle after cycle at the Olympic bid game.
The Americans have now figured it out. It's a relationship business.
And it takes time to build relationships.
That's why Tuesday's decision makes so much sense.
USOC board chairman Larry Probst and chief executive Scott Blackmun have been traveling the world since the start of 2010, working at the relationship thing. Since the United States is not in the bid game, there's no pressure to ask for anything. They are simply trying to be good members of the so-called Olympic family.
The decision Tuesday gives them ample time to keep being just that.
It also allows time, too, for Probst to become an IOC member. That would be enormously helpful for an American bid.
There are other dominoes that need to fall into place. Domestically, for instance, more study needs to be done on the issue of the financial guarantee the IOC demands of host cities. In other countries, the federal government steps up for that guarantee; the nature of American federalism -- a city bids, supported by state and federal governments -- renders that super-complex.
Also, there are political matters at issue. To be candid, the next U.S. Olympic bid has to wait for a new president in the White House.
That didn't come up at Tuesday's USOC meeting. But it's very much the case.
President Obama traveled to Copenhagen in October, 2009, to push for his hometown, Chicago. He was the very first American president to put not only his personal prestige but that of the office on the line before the IOC.
The IOC then sent Chicago packing in the first round with a mere 18 votes.
There simply is no way the USOC can, or would, ask President Obama to appeal again to the IOC.
If he is re-elected -- of course that's a big if -- President Obama's term would end in January, 2017. The IOC vote for 2024 will come later that year.
It will be eight years between the Chicago vote and the 2024 vote; that's a lot of time and distance for feelings to be soothed.
A President Romney would, of course, change the equation considerably. Mitt Romney ran the Salt Lake 2002 organizing committee and he would be welcomed, indeed, at the IOC -- whether lobbying for a Winter or Summer Games.
But not for the notion of déjà vu all over again in Salt Lake City. Amid all the uncertainties ahead, one thing remains a solid bet:
The IOC is not going back to Salt Lake, not after the scandal that shook it in the late 1990s. Not in 2026. No way, no how.