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 right 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, 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, and said that Williams represents 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 reminded everyone that when he became board chair four years ago, the USOC was, as he put it, "engulfed in a period of challenge and turmoil."
New York was put forward in 2005 for the 2012 Summer Games. Chicago was the candidate in 2009 for the 2016 Games. Both lost, and lost big, 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 gives the USOC 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 Heiberg 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, ultimately, 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.
At a news conference later Friday, both Probst and Blackmun cautioned that the working group is not -- repeat, not -- going to come back with specific recommendations, Summer or Winter, this city or that.
Probst said it would focus on "guiding principles around the bid or next steps," with Blackmun emphasizing that budgets, economics and due diligence in a variety of areas are a must.
The IOC demands certain guarantees from a bid city. The nature of American federalism -- with the national government traditionally not involved in the bid business, leaving state and local governments on the hook -- makes those guarantees particularly difficult to satisfy. Both Probst and Blackmun said that issue deserves renewed study.
Both also cautioned repeatedly that a bid simply has to make sense, Blackmun saying at that news conference, "If we don't think we will win, we will not bid."
What they didn't say is what they didn't have to. The resolution of the revenue dispute, as well as the geopolitics of the 2000 (Sydney), 2004 (Athens), 2008 (Beijing), 2012 (London), 2016 (Rio de Janeiro) Games and the 2020 campaign (Tokyo, Madrid and Istanbul) mitigate strongly in favor of a first-rate bid from the United States for 2024.
"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 told the assembly, adding, "That's perhaps the best news I could possibly give you today."