USOC

Larry Probst steps down as USOC board chair

Larry Probst steps down as USOC board chair

It’s not surprising that Larry Probst has announced his intent to step down as chairman of the U.S. Olympic Committee.


The only twist is the timing.


Many close observers believed Probst, 68, who has been in the post since 2008, might see through his third four-year term — that is, through the Tokyo 2020 Games. 


Instead, the USOC announced Monday that Probst will step down at the end of the year. Susanne Lyons, who served as acting chief executive from the end of February through mid-August, will succeed him. Her first four-year term starts Jan. 1. Sarah Hirshland has taken over as CEO.


To be honest, if I were Larry Probst, I would leave now, too. Any reasonable person would.

Eyes on the (2028) prize

Eyes on the (2028) prize

If the weekend seems a long way away for most if not many of you, 2028 probably seems like Pluto, the farthest reaches of your personal universe.

In Olympic time, however, 2028 is already on the horizon, and the days and weeks are already slipping by. These next 10 years are the imperative for the United States Olympic Committee and, indeed, for all who would understand the transformative potential of those Los Angeles Summer Games.

The USOC must — must — keep its eye on the prize.

That’s what it did Thursday in naming Sarah Hirshland, chief commercial officer of the U.S. Golf Association, its chief executive officer.

Real culture change, real funding, less rhetoric

Real culture change, real funding, less rhetoric

Takeaways from Wednesday’s hearing before the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, sparked by the Larry Nassar case:

— The NFL anthem protest policy was announced literally in the middle of the Congressional hearing. So no matter how important this hearing, it was immediately dwarfed by the NFL. That is a hard truth in the American sporting and cultural landscape. 

— The cues were clear before Wednesday’s session that Congress seems remarkably disinclined to undertake a wholesale restructuring of the Olympic system in the United States. To reiterate a point made over and again in this space: the U.S. Olympic Committee is not boss of 49 national governing bodies. Instead, the USOC and NGBs are affiliated.

— What’s also crystal clear is that sexual abuse is a serious problem in Olympic sport. No one should pretend otherwise. It’s a problem in society at large. It would be the height of naivete to think that sport should be immune. 

— What’s equally, profoundly clear is that it’s going to take real money to address this very serious issue. So who has stepped up? The USOC. Anyone else? 

Common sense, please, about the USOC

Common sense, please, about the USOC

Common-sense test here. If, as a publicity-seeking lawsuit filed in federal court in Denver alleges, the U.S. Olympic Committee had been engaging in “commercial sex trafficking,” and that was even in the slightest bit true, wouldn’t every single one of the USOC’s corporate partners have fled like rats on a sinking ship?

That lawsuit was filed May 4, a Friday.  

I have deliberately waited a full business week — five full days, Monday through Friday — to see whether even one corporate entity, super-sensitive to such matters in this #MeToo era, would take action. The USOC’s sponsors include some known for wholesome family-style branding campaigns; there’s also Nike, itself wrapped up in harassment allegations.

How many have said as much as boo?

None.

On the USOC: more patience, less hyperventilating

On the USOC: more patience, less hyperventilating

A few days before the start of the 2018 Winter Games, the Dalai Lama, who runs a fascinating Twitter account, put this out there:

“Many people,” his holiness said to his 18.2 million followers, “think that patience is a sign of weakness. I think this is a mistake. It is anger that is a sign of weakness, whereas patience is a sign of strength.”

These words of wisdom carry particular resonance now amid what is — let’s be blunt here — the rush to judgment in some quarters directed at the U.S. Olympic Committee sparked, of course, by the horrific crimes committed by Larry Nassar.

All institutions can be better. For sure the USOC can be. 

Anger, though, is not helpful. Patience — and a regard for the facts — is, as ever, the sign of real strength. 

Mob justice is not fair or right

Mob justice is not fair or right

When the U.S. men’s and women’s basketball teams won the gold medals at the Summer Games at both London in 2012 and Rio de Janeiro in 2016, that was the work of USA Basketball, the players, staff, coaches Mike Krzyzewski and Geno Auriemma and chairman Jerry Colangelo. What did the chief executive officer of the U.S. Olympic Committee, Scott Blackmun, do to help USA Basketball win those gold medals? Answer: pretty much zero.

When tennis star Serena Williams won the women’s singles gold medal at the 2012 Games at Wimbledon, what did Scott Blackmun have to do with that? 

When the U.S. women’s soccer team won gold before 80,000 fans at famed Wembley Stadium in London, the team’s six-win run to the championship including a come-from-behind semifinal victory over Canada, Carli Lloyd scoring goals in the 2-1 gold-medal game over Japan — how much did Scott Blackmun have to do with that?

The USOC announced Wednesday that Blackmun is resigning amid the Larry Nassar sex-abuse scandal that has rocked USA Gymnastics. 

What the USOC ought to tell United Airlines

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United Airlines is a key sponsor of the U.S. Olympic Committee. The Olympic values: respect, excellence and friendship. In light of the video evidence showing security officials at Chicago’s O’Hare airport literally yanking a passenger off a United flight Sunday because the airline needed seats for its staff, if you were the USOC, aren't your next moves super-obvious?

1. Tell United Airlines that what everyone can see on that video is so not in keeping with the Olympic spirit. 2. Then either get out of your deal with United or commence a conversation in which the airline understands with clarity that it will henceforth deliver major service upgrades. Again, for emphasis: those upgrades will be for everyone involved in the Olympic mission, and in particular the female athletes of Team USA, if recent chatter involving the women’s national hockey team can be of particular guidance.

https://twitter.com/JayseDavid/status/851223662976004096

This video speaks to an institutional culture at the airline gone so very wrong. United chief executive Oscar Munoz's several missteps -- the apologies now seem forced and ring hollow -- only underscore that wayward culture.

In almost every situation, it's inevitably a risk to rush to judgment.

Even so: what benefit does the USOC get from continued affiliation with that culture? And what risk does the USOC run by having its own brand, which it has cautiously and carefully rebuilt after governance meltdowns 15 years ago, associated with a sponsor that not only could but would violate someone's dignity in such a profound manner? For the sin of paying good money and just sitting there, trying to get from Chicago to Louisville?

Of course the USOC needs an airline partner. An airline provides what in Olympic or sponsor speak is called VIK, or value-in-kind. Instead of cash, an airline offers travel -- that is, seats. The USOC needs those seats to get athletes as well as officials and administrators to, well, wherever.

What the USOC has right now is called leverage. It ought to use it, big time. Hello, American or Delta -- let's talk.

In the meantime, United deserves all the "re-accommodating" it can get. Big time.

https://twitter.com/joethomas73/status/851478374438645760

https://twitter.com/ebonstorm/status/851476768003313665

https://twitter.com/saadmohseni/status/851827321942274051

And, finally, this -- some world-class trolling:

https://youtu.be/aEevyPse3f8

100-days-out memo: oh, right, there's an LA24 bid

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Curious: why, with a Los Angeles bid for the 2024 Summer Games underway, would the U.S. Olympic Committee opt Wednesday to have its 100-days-to-Rio-2016 event in Times Square in New York City? What about that, given the LA24 bid, makes any sense?

First Lady Michelle Obama on Wednesday in Times Square // Getty Images

1. Times Square, dressed in neon, is unquestionably many things. Like, if you’re lucky, you can catch a glimpse of the Naked Cowboy — big hat, small underwear — picking at his strategically placed guitar and panning for dollars. Wow!

New York? Biggest (and most self-important) city in the United States. So what? LA is No. 2, with a much-richer Olympic history. Also this about New York: big-time 2005 loser for the 2012 Summer Games, which went to London.

On Wednesday evening, as part of the 100-day countdown, the Empire State Building was lit up red, white and blue.

Beijing 2008 gymnastics gold medalist Nastia Liukin on scene as U.S. athletes light the Empire State Building red, white and blue // Getty Images

Which leads to: what is the particular relevance this summer of plans to light up the Freedom Tower, built on the destroyed World Trade Center site, with the Team USA Rio medals count? Even the New York 2012 bid did not play on the 9/11 terror attacks. So what is it? There are tall buildings in New York? Please. Light up the top of the 73-story U.S. Bank Tower in downtown LA. Or Staples Center a few blocks away. Or the Hollywood sign.

2. If you're trying to convey the notion that Times Square is akin to Town Square USA, which is ridiculous in the first instance, how in the world does that promote an LA bid? The plaza at LA Live, which holds Staples and the Microsoft Theater, is plenty big enough, and has proven plenty cool enough for virtually every awards show there is.

3. If the USOC believes New York is all that great, move your entire office there. But no. The USOC manages quite nicely to do the bulk of its business from Colorado Springs, Colorado. So why New York? Bottom line: it would have been just as easy, and way more consistent with the 2024 bid, to stage this 100-days-out event in Los Angeles.

4. If the suggestion is that the event was not just for media and Olympic fans but for sponsors and donors (party Tuesday evening at the Museum of Modern Art for 300 “Team USA supporters”) — uh, sophisticated donors and businesspeople do business, and lots of it, in California. If California was a stand-alone country, it would be the eighth-largest economy in the world as measured by gross domestic (or, the case of California, state) product, immediately behind Brazil, where — oh — the Games will be held in 100 days.

Rhetorical question: wouldn’t it make sense to invite important people to SoCal and showcase not only Rio 2016 but LA24?

As for parties — again, it’s awards season, and more, every week in Los Angeles and Southern California.

Another rhetorical question: so you want, like the IOC and USOC, to find imaginative ways to connect young people with the Games? Music and sport are the two universal languages. The Coachella festival just ran for the past two weekends. Come on.

5. The Paris people had their 100 days out in — Paris. Not Lyon or Marseilles. And not just any old spot in Paris. It was at the Palais de Chaillot at the Trocadero by the Eiffel Tower.

Paris 2024 bid co-president Bernard Lapasset at the 100 days out event // Getty Images

Incidentally, the Paris 2024 team — including the city's first female mayor, Anne Hidalgo — did go earlier this week to Marseilles, to promote the bid. But when it came to 100 days out, it was back in Paris all the way. Just like the USOC should have been Wednesday in LA.

6. The Associated Press story out of Times Square dutifully noted that First Lady Michelle Obama appeared in front of dozens of U.S. athletes, and quoted her as saying she was a “real, lifelong, die-hard Olympics fan.”

For an American audience, that’s perhaps lovely. But in the midst of a spirited bid campaign, who are the target audiences?

If the point was to appeal to a U.S. audience exclusively — why? There’s a bid campaign going on! Kill two birds with the one stone, please.

Not to mention: the Obamas, after their appearance at the IOC session in Copenhagen in 2009 at which Chicago got kicked out of 2016 voting in the first round, are the favorites of few, at best, in the International Olympic Committee.

At any rate, not one word in that AP story about Los Angeles bidding for 2024. Maybe the reporter opted not to include anything. Or maybe it wasn’t a USOC point of emphasis Wednesday that, you know, LA is bidding for the 2024 Olympics, even though — outside of the performance of the team at the Rio Games — the bid is the undeniable No. 1 USOC priority for the next 17 or so months, until the IOC election in September 2017 in Lima, Peru.

As a maybe-not-so-helpful reminder Wednesday of that trip by President Obama and First Lady to Copenhagen, here was Republican front-runner Donald Trump, speaking in Washington at the Center for the National Interest, in a story reported at length by the Chicago Tribune:

"Do you remember when the president made a long, expensive trip to Copenhagen, Denmark, to get the Olympics for our country? And, after this unprecedented effort, it was announced that the United States came in fourth. Fourth place.

"The president of the United States making this trip, unprecedented, comes in fourth place. He should have known the result before making such an embarrassing commitment. We were laughed at all over the world as we have been many, many times. The list of humiliations go on and on and on.”

It’s easy to dismiss Trump’s comments, to assert they bear no relevance to the Times Square event. But maybe they do. If only one IOC voter reads his rant and goes, yep, maybe he’s right, then what? Especially since that Tribune story duly connected Trump’s remarks with Mrs. Obama’s appearance at the Times Square production, quoting the First Lady at length:

"’To this day, I still remember the excitement that I felt as a little girl growing up on the South Side of Chicago when Olympic season would roll around,’ she said, adding how her friends would gather with her to watch the Games on TV. ‘I mean, these times meant the world to kids in neighborhoods all over the country.’” Especially, obviously, Southern California, where there’s an Olympic bid going on.

7. At any rate, compare and contrast the AP story Wednesday out of Paris.

Headline: “Passing Security Test at Euro 2016 Will Help 2024 Paris Bid.”

Sixth paragraph, quoting French Olympic Committee president Denis Masseglia: “‘It's important to prove that our system — to guarantee everybody's security — is the best system, and the [April 3] Paris marathon was a success,’ said Masseglia, who was speaking at an event to mark 100 days until the start of the Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro.”

8. If the reason the USOC event went down in New York is because it's easier for NBC, the U.S. television rights-holder, that doesn't really make a lot of sense.

NBC has a travel budget; see the social media shots posted Tuesday of longtime Olympic host Bob Costas along with senior executives Jim Bell and Joe Gesue, and others, in Rio. Moreover, NBC has a brand-new newsroom in Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley, in Universal City (where the main press and broadcast centers would be if LA wins for 2024). Other networks: CBS? Big facility in midtown LA. ESPN? Studio downtown at Staples. Fox? Century City studio.

Wheels up for day of 100 days prep work in Rio #RoadToRio #BobInRio

A photo posted by NBC Olympics (@nbcolympics) on

9. If the thinking was that the other 'important' media are in New York, that is way old school, and not remotely true anymore, a nod to the East Coast bias that regrettably permeates way too much regressive thinking about the way our country works. Plain and simple: Los Angeles and California are the present and, more important, the future. That’s why LA is the 2024 bid.

At the risk of being super-obvious, having this kind of promotional event in New York serves as a profound disconnect from the core message the USOC purportedly is seeking to send the IOC about LA and California as the future of media and technology.

When IOC president Thomas Bach came to the United States earlier this year, his check-the-box visit to LA — in keeping with similar trips he had made to the other three 2024 bid cities, Paris, Rome and Budapest — provided necessary cover to meet with Google, Facebook, Twitter and other California-based technology executives. At the SportAccord convention last week in Switzerland, who served as key presenters at the so-called “Digital Summit”? Executives from Facebook, Twitter and Venice, California-based Snapchat.

Why give even one IOC member any opportunity to think the institution can count on the full support of those companies, along with others up and down California, if LA doesn’t win?

10. You want a disconnect? One of the promoted features of the Times Square event involved the unveiling of 47 full-sized surfboards, one for each Team USA sponsor, that had been individually decorated and turned into what a USOC release called a “piece of customized art.”

Everyone knows that surfing and Times Square go together like pickles and maple syrup.

If you want to buy tickets to “Les Miserables,” cool, see you at TKTS at Times Square. But surfing? See ya at Zuma, dude.

Further, as the USOC pointed out, three extra surfboards — an Olympic, Paralympic and Team USA board, bringing the total to 50 — were designed by Hurley. The company traces its roots to the Southern California surf industry in the 1970s. Maybe that’s because it’s based in Costa Mesa, California.

A photo posted by NBC Olympics (@nbcolympics) on

Let’s not forget that the USOC is the institution that a year and a half ago couldn’t figure out that it should have gone to Los Angeles in the first instance, not Boston.

Memo to the USOC: there is a 2024 campaign going on, and LA is your candidate. Why make this even the least bit difficult  when some things should be so easy?

USOC, in it to win it, picks Boston for 2024

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In deciding Thursday which city it wanted to put forward for the 2024 Summer Games, there were many considerations the U.S. Olympic Committee had to take into account. Ultimately, though, only one truly mattered: the USOC is in it to win it. It picked Boston. Nearly two years ago, the USOC started with roughly three dozen cities. It winnowed that many to four: Boston, Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco. All along, the Boston plan — despite vocal local opposition and uncertainties about basics such as an Olympic stadium — captured the imagination of USOC leadership and staff.

To hear the USOC tell it Thursday after the announcement was made following a board of directors meeting at the Denver airport, they are, well, excited to get this show on the road:

The Boston skyline from across Boston harbor // Getty Images

“We’re excited about our plans to submit a bid for the 2024 Games and feel we have an incredibly strong partner in Boston that will work with us to present a compelling bid,” USOC chairman Larry Probst said in a statement.

Chief executive Scott Blackmun said the USOC “couldn’t be more excited about the partnership we’ve established with the leadership team in Boston,” including bid leader John Fish and the mayor, Marty Walsh.

“I couldn’t be more excited to share Boston’s athlete-focused vision for the Games with my IOC colleagues,” the former ice hockey star Angela Ruggiero said.

The Olympics tell us about which direction our world is headed, and that direction — for all the IOC’s Eurocentric tradition — increasingly has been looking at and across the Pacific.

Of course the 2012 Summer Games were in London, the 2014 Winter Games were in Sochi, the 2016 Summer Games will be in Rio. There are others elsewhere, too: the 2018 Youth Games, for instance, will be in Buenos Aires.

But consider:

The 2008 Summer Games, Beijing; 2010 Winter, Vancouver; 2010 Youth Games, Singapore; 2014 Youth Games, Nanjing; 2018 Winter, Pyeonghang, South Korea; 2020 Summer, Tokyo; 2022, Almaty, Kazakhstan, or Beijing.

What the USOC rolled the dice on Thursday for 2024, with the choice of Boston, is that the IOC wants not only to come back to the United States but to the East Coast, instead of to San Francisco or Los Angeles, which look out across that very Pacific.

DC, and paying due respect to the energy, enthusiasm and leadership of businessmen Russ Ramsey and Ted Leonsis as well as the input of the likes of former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, was always going to be DOA. Can you say, for instance, CIA? How about that torture report a few weeks back?

Just imagine a two-year bid campaign chock full of headlines blaring “torture,” amplifying the role of the United States of America in overseas adventures. Not to mention the “oversight” of 535 self-appointed know-it-alls, each of the members of Congress. In the IOC, moreover, there are those who well remember the former president, Juan Antonio Samaranch, essentially being hauled before Congress to testify at the height of the late 1990s Salt Lake City crisis.

San Francisco?

There, the IOC would have had the advantage of being able to show off the five rings on the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges. Beautiful, for sure.

But as the New York Times pointed out in a story this week, who wants to go to San Francisco for the complexities of a Summer Games when something seemingly as simple as improving four grass soccer fields last year was met with litigation, protests and a ballot measure?

Plus, there are those in the IOC who remember, too, that the 2008 Beijing torch relay in San Francisco was met with — and had to be dead-ended on the approach to that very same Golden Gate Bridge because of — protests.

Los Angeles made an extraordinary series of presentations to the USOC. And bid leader Casey Wasserman and the mayor, Eric Garcetti, fluent in Spanish, were viewed as stars-in-the-making.

For all that, and for all that is going on in downtown LA — now unequivocally hipster central — the USOC could not, in many conversations with IOC members, apparently get past a “been there, done that” vibe from 1984.

How that jibes with, for instance, London (2012 Games a third time) or Beijing (a 2022 Winter bid favorite, not even seven years after the close of the 2008 Summer Games): unclear.

At any rate, it all pointed to Boston.

The IOC is said to be intrigued by the more than 100 universities in and around Boston, which would be used to house events and athletes. That’s the age demographic the IOC is after, big time.

The Boston plan also features significant numbers of temporary venues. That’s a key feature of “Agenda 2020,” the 40-point plan the IOC membership enacted at a meeting last month in Monaco.

The good news about Boston: it’s a blank slate for many in the IOC.

Boston’s reputation for great sports is, let’s remember, within the United States; that reputation is grossly inflated by ESPN’s incessant showing of Red Sox games and the fact that Tom Brady and the Patriots are on TV seemingly every weekend from September until January.

All that means little to nothing outside the continental 48 states. Brady? Does he play soccer? The Red Sox — overseas, that whole 2004 thing and the 86-year-curse might as well be the far side of the moon. Remember, too: baseball is on the outside of the Olympics trying to get back in.

The USOC, and its new Boston partners, face — let’s be real — a sales job.

The upside: the USOC, and its new Boston friends, get to come up with a story, a compelling narrative, about why Boston, and why the United States for 2024.

Not to say it can’t be done. Or that there are forces that may already want the USOC to prevail.

You don’t think so?

So curious that IOC president Thomas Bach’s op-ed entitled “A New Olympics,” which relayed the highlights of Agenda 2020, ran Tuesday in the Boston Globe, and only in the Boston paper.

Not in the San Francisco Chronicle, or the Washington Post, or the LA Times.

Or maybe that was just a coincidence.

Bids for 2024 are possible from Germany; from Paris; from Rome; and elsewhere.

You might have thought that, back in September, Boston 2024 bid leader Fish seemed to have committed campaign sin No. 1 when he told the Globe he “reckoned” the city’s odds of being named the U.S. entry were “75 percent based on the perceived reaction to Boston’s pitch to USOC officials,” adding, “I’m not in this to lose. I would never bet against myself.”

Over the past five-plus years, ever since Chicago’s 2009 debacle for 2016, the USOC public playbook has been humility and self-deprecating graciousness.

Apparently there was no public reckoning whatsoever.

The USOC is not in this to lose, either. Kudos, Mr. Fish. Congrats, Mayor Walsh.

 

'America's bid,' whichever city it is

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The U.S. Olympic Committee formally announced Tuesday it intends to launch a bid for the 2024 Summer Games, by now the news equivalent of dog bites man. It has been evident for months the USOC would be in the game for the Games. The issue is what city, and when the USOC will finally announce its choice from among four: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston or Washington, D.C. In that spirit, it’s so interesting that International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach is now making plans to attend Super Bowl XLIX on Feb. 1 in Glendale, Arizona. Just imagining here: if you came all the way over from the IOC’s base in Switzerland to Arizona, wouldn’t USOC headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colorado, make for a handy place to ask all four U.S. bid cities to come for, say, a briefing on Agenda 2020, the IOC’s just-passed series of initiatives? Then again, if you were the IOC president spending a little time in the United States, of course you would meet with top-tier sponsors in New York — which would also do just fine, too, for a quiet rendezvous on the side with bid-city teams, right?

If you had an active imagination, you might bet this was why, among other reasons, the USOC didn’t choose one city Tuesday from among the four.

No need. No time pressure. Why, after spending nearly a year getting to Tuesday and board of director approval to jump into 2024, force a decision that doesn’t now need to be made? Early next year sometime — that’s plenty fine.

The five rings in a scene from the 2010 Games in Vancouver // photo Getty Images

This is a race with a long, long, long way to go. It holds many, many variables.

There are but a few certainties.

This: come 2024 it will have been 22 years since the Olympic Games were in the United States, since the Winter Games in Salt Lake City in 2002, and 28 years since the Summer Games in Atlanta in 1996.

This, too: 2008 Beijing (Asia). 2012 London (Europe). 2016 Rio de Janeiro (South America). 2020 Tokyo (back to Asia). The IOC has a kinda-sorta continental rotation rule that’s not really a rule but if it were one — it would be time in 2024 to go to North America.

And this: in May, NBC paid $7.65 billion dollars to the IOC to extend its right to televise the Games in the United States from 2022 through 2032. At some point, the Olympics are coming back to the United States; the first opportunity is 2024.

Rome jumped in Monday to the 2024 campaign. Fascinating. For the 2020 race, the economy was so bad in Italy that the then-prime minister yanked the Rome bid right out. Since, all across Europe, cities pulled out of the 2022 Winter Games race, mostly because of the economy (and the prospect of spending billions of euros when measured against that $51 billion figure associated with the Sochi 2014 Games).

Italian premier Matteo Renzi told Associated Press the Rome 2024 campaign “isn’t based on great infrastructures or big dreams but rather great people,” adding, “We will be at the vanguard for all the spending controls.”

Berlin or Hamburg are going to jump, if they can get past voters in Germany. With all due respect to the IOC president, who is German, this proved the challenge in Munich, which — after coming up short for 2018 — tried to mount a campaign for 2022 and could not get past the ballot box.

Paris is making noise about 2024. OK, but have the French learned their lessons from the disaster that was the Annecy bid for 2018? Oh, and the European economy.

Budapest? Where the sports leaders are eager but the political establishment not so much? And about that European economy …

Istanbul? The 2020 bid leader, Hasan Arat, is one of the great guys in the Olympic movement. The challenge there is president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Three weeks ago, at an international conference on justice and rights for women, he said, “You cannot put women and men on equal footing,” and, for good measure, said some forms of work are just not suitable for women: “Give her a shovel and maker her work — this cannot be. It would be primarily against her delicate nature.” One of the 40 planks of Agenda 2020 affirms what’s called Principle 6 of the Olympic movement, which calls for non-discrimination of all sorts.

South Africa. If they win the 2022 Commonwealth Games there, 2024, too?

Doha is often mentioned as a 2024 possibility. The economy is not an issue in Qatar. But there are all kinds of machinations about whether or not Qatar will or won’t bid, or should or shouldn’t. Stay tuned.

At this very early stage — and it needs to be stressed that at the end of 2014 for a vote that won’t be taken until 2017, it is almost comically early in the 2024 race — you see the dominoes potentially lining up.

There is intense interest — again, intense interest — within some of the highest levels of the Olympic movement in seeing a 2024 Games in the U.S.

That was the message Larry Probst, the USOC chairman, put it as plainly as he could — he’s not in the business of giving anything away, nor should he be — in a teleconference Tuesday with reporters.

He said that “all across the board,” from IOC members and leadership, there is encouragement for the Americans, who have spent the past five years — since the debacle that was the Chicago 2016 vote in October 2009 in Copenhagen — promoting humility and repairing relationships in the Olympic sphere.

Or, as Scott Blackmun, the USOC’s chief executive put it, “It is a really good time for us to throw our hat into the ring again.”

So which of the four cities will it be?

“It’s a four-way tie,” Blackmun said on the teleconference, being politically correct, which for now is totally appropriate.

The truth-serum answer: it’s the one that not just can, but will, win.

Which one will that be?

This is where it’s appropriate to ask hard questions, to not hold on to even the slightest bit of romance about what you might think about the cities. Olympic bidding is not for the faint of heart or the naive.

It’s one thing to be able to hang the Olympic rings on bridges or across buildings for postcard-pretty pictures. It’s quite another to actually get stuff done. Little stuff. Big stuff. What do recent events in the cities suggest about that?

It is essential, moreover, to have a team, and in particular charismatic figures, around whom a bid can be built. These are lessons from the Chicago 2016 and New York 2012 bids, and from the winning London 2012 and Rio 2016 teams, too, and this is another reason why the USOC sought Tuesday to buy time.

Another: you can bet that per Agenda 2020 the key watchwords now are sustainability and legacy. Probst, again, responding to a question on that teleconference: “Existing venues are a plus, for sure.”

For now, the USOC is — as it should — playing it cool.

No need to get out in front of the game when, legitimately, time is on the USOC’s side.

This, too, from Probst, and this is yet another lesson from Chicago 2016 and New York 2012, which were bids that were mostly about Chicago and New York. “We want to think about this,” meaning the 2024 city, whichever one it turns out to be, “as America’s bid,” and there you heard first the inkling of a probable bid slogan, “not just that particular city.

“And hopefully we can energize the country, and get the country to engage with the Olympic movement, inspire youth to get involved with sport. So not only do we hope that there are benefits for the individual city but we hope that it will have a positive impact on the country as well.”