Doug Beal

Probst up for IOC membership

LAUSANNE, Switzerland -- It's nearly four years ago now that Chicago got thumped when the International Olympic Committee voted for the 2016 Summer Games host city. For the U.S. Olympic Committee, that was, indisputably, the low point.

It's worth bearing in mind all the time and miles in between then and now amid Tuesday's announcement by the International Olympic Committee of the nomination of nine new members, U.S. Olympic Committee board chair Larry Probst among them.

Probst's membership is for sure a milestone. Over time, it's likely to means more influence for the United States within the IOC, and as the USOC is considering bids for future Games -- in particular, as soon as 2024 -- that could be key.

At the same time, the United States still has a long, long way to go in becoming a power player in the IOC along the lines of, say, Switzerland, with five members.

For now, what Probst's membership marks is, simply, yet another step in the USOC's effort at quiet diplomacy.

He  -- and the other new members - will be sworn in at the end of the all-members assembly in September in Buenos Aires. They will not, repeat not, take part in the voting there.

At that September session, the IOC will elect a new president, replacing Jacques Rogge, who has been in office since 2001, as well as pick the site of the 2020 Summer Games. Madrid, Tokyo and Istanbul are in the race. All three bid cities are making presentations here Wednesday in Lausanne to the full IOC. All six presidential candidates are likewise making presentations Thursday.

Four new athlete members, meanwhile, are due to be sworn in Wednesday. They were elected in voting from the London Games and will be eligible to vote in September.

When the nine new members are brought on board, assuming no other changes, that will bring the IOC membership to 113, spokesman Mark Adams said Tuesday.

Notable among the nine -- only one is from Asia, Mikaela Maria Antonia Cojuangco-Jaworski of the Philippines.

The list includes famed long-distance runner Paul Tergat of Kenya and Athens 2004 high-jump champion Stefan Holm of Sweden.

It also features the head of the Russian national Olympic committee, Alexander Zhukov. The next Winter Olympics, in February, will be held in Sochi.

Russia will then have four members.

The U.S., too -- when Probst is sworn in, the Americans will count him, Anita DeFrantz, Jim Easton and Angela Ruggiero.

Even so, the U.S. has for years lacked significant political influence within the IOC.

DeFrantz has been a member since 1986. She served on the policy-making executive board from 1992 to 2001. She has since run for office unsuccessfully; she is standing this September again for the board.

Easton has in recent years played a markedly reduced role.

Ruggiero is widely seen as an up-and-comer. At the same time, as an athlete member, she is already three years through her fixed term of eight years.

Thus Probst's entry is widely seen as an important step in bringing back a measure of American influence.

"The U.S. is a very strong and important partner of the IOC," Adams said at a briefing Tuesday at the IOC's Lake Geneva headquarters, the Chateau de Vidy. "Larry's nomination is a sign of that and a sign of continuing cooperation with the USOC."

For his part, Probst said in a statement released by the USOC, “I am truly honored to be nominated for membership in the IOC, and extremely grateful for the potential opportunity to serve the Olympic Movement."

Last year, the USOC and IOC resolved a longstanding dispute over certain television and marketing revenues. Probst's nomination is a reflection of that ongoing USOC-IOC "cooperation." It is by no means a quid pro quo for the deal.

Probst becomes the first USOC president -- as the jargon goes -- as IOC member since Sandy Baldwin. That's 11 years ago.

Bill Hybl served as USOC president and IOC member for two years, 2000-01.

Before that, you have to go back to Bob Helmick. He stepped down in 1991.

Again, Probst's entry is important. But it's just one step. It must be reiterated that the USOC has to be thinking in terms of the long run in assessing the political calculus of a Games bid.


There are 35 Olympic sports, summer and winter. The United States has no presidents among any of those 35 federations. It has one -- just one -- secretary general from among any of the 35, Svein Romstad, who runs the luge federation from, of all places, Atlanta.

Last year, American Doug Beal ran for the presidency of the international volleyball federation. The convention and election were held in Anaheim, Calif. Even so, he did not win.

The United States does, in fact, boast some international sports federation presidents. But they are not Olympic sports. They are in sports such as softball, surfing and cheerleading.

Then again, the situation now is better -- way better -- than in October, 2009, when Chicago got rocked.

U.S. Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati was elected in April to a four-year term to the FIFA executive committee.

USA Basketball chief executive Jim Tooley is in line to become FIBA Americas president for 2014-18.

Max Cobb, the USA Biathlon president and chief executive, heads the International Biathlon Union's technical committee.

These things, simply, take time.

This is what Probst came to understand in Copenhagen in October, 2009.

Before that, he did not totally understand how demanding the USOC board chairman's job was. Nor did he grasp fully how much time and how much travel it was going to take.

The next January, Scott Blackmun came on board as the USOC's chief executive.

Together, they vowed to repair the USOC's standing in international relations.

They said, privately and publicly, that relationship-building took time and effort. They said they were in it for the long haul.

Instead of sending staffers to meetings, Probst or Blackmun -- sometimes both -- started showing up.

Now, Probst and Blackmun serve on IOC committees. Probst is, as well, on the board of the Assn. of National Olympic Committees.

Blackmun, for that matter, is here in Lausanne for the second time in three weeks. He was here the first time for the ANOC assembly and is back now for an IOC marketing commission meeting.

It's active engagement. That's what it takes. That's what got Probst nominated Tuesday.

It's going to take more -- a lot more -- to win the United States an Olympic Games. Everyone should keep that in mind.

Doug Beal's FIVB presidential bid

In the late 1970s, when Doug Beal was named head coach of the first U.S. men's national volleyball team, he was the driving force for establishing a full-time, year-round training center. The first facilities were in -- of all places -- Dayton, Ohio. The idea was to gear up for the 1980 Moscow Summer Games. One of the first training sites was Roosevelt High School. A bunch of the players had day jobs unloading produce for local supermarkets. This was hard, physical work, and then the guys were expected to show up for practice at 7 at night.

One night they showed up at Roosevelt, and practiced for three hours as usual, and went to leave, only to find the building was all locked up. One of the guys had to break out through one of the screened-up windows on the second-story gym, drop down and then break back in through the front door of the high school to let everyone else out.

Times were a little different back then.

Doug Beal is now a candidate for the presidency of the international volleyball federation, which goes by the acronym FIVB. The election is due to take place September in Anaheim, Calif. -- the first democratic election in the history of the federation, which has been around since 1947.

Two others are in the race, FIVB announced in a release issued Monday: Dr. Ary Graça, president of the Brazilian Volleyball Federation and the South American Volleyball Confederation, and Chris Schacht, president of the Australian Volleyball Federation.

Currently, there are no -- zero -- U.S. presidents of international federations on the Olympic program. Don Porter is the president of the softball federation; softball was kicked out of the Olympics after the 2008 Beijing Games.

Beal has been president of USA Volleyball since 2005. A recurring knock on American candidates for high office in the Olympic movement is that they don't put in the time and work their way up.

In Beal's case, that's laughable. Volleyball in Dayton, Ohio, in the 1970s? For a Games the American men's squad ultimately didn't qualify for? And the U.S. Olympic team didn't even go to?

Here is a guy who has devoted his life to the sport -- as a player, coach and executive. Beal served in the 1980s and 1990s on FIVB coaches and organizing commissions; he now serves on the North American confederation, called NORCECA, as a vice-president; it was NORCECA a couple weeks ago that formally submitted his presidential candidacy letter to FIVB's Lausanne, Switzerland, headquarters.

A few Beal career highlights: As player: five-time All-American at Ohio State. As coach: U.S. men's volleyball team, gold medal, 1984 L.A. Games. As administrator: 2008 Games, Beijing, U.S. becomes first nation ever to win five medals covering all disciplines at an Olympic and Paralympic volleyball competition.

The FIVB election figures to test what Beal called one of his best attributes, "a sense of inclusiveness and collaboration and a connectiveness" -- and measure the U.S. Olympic Committee's, too. The USOC has, since Chicago's 2016 bid was sent off in the first round of International Olympic Committee voting in 2009, quietly been in the relationship-building and outreach business.

This particular forum is the FIVB, not the IOC. Even so, the USOC is behind Beal's candidacy and, as Scott Blackmun, the USOC's chief executive said, "There are so many different constituencies with the Olympic movement. You really need to be plugged in to all the  constituencies. And clearly the international federation world is one we're not plugged into at a level you'd expect from a nation with our sporting background."

In Beal's tenure, USA Volleyball has doubled membership to an all-time high; doubled operating revenue and professional staff; set strong fiscal standards; and implemented best-practices governance initiatives.

These are the sorts of things Beal said in a recent interview in his Colorado Springs office that he'd like to implement, if elected, at FIVB.

For most of its existence, the federation was run by Paul Libaud of France (1947-84) and Dr. Ruben Acosta of Mexico (1984-2008). Jizhong Wei of China has been in charge since and made it clear he would not stand for another term.

What FIVB ought to take up, Beal said, is a strategic plan; good governance; and a serious effort to enhance the "direct connection" between the federation itself and each of the some 220 federations, no matter how big or small.

"I think and I very much believe," he also said, "it is extremely important for the FIVB to have this real election … so that we can have, for the first time a real exchange of ideas -- maybe we even call it a debate -- about the future of the sport, the direction of the sport the federation.

"… We are very popular at the Olympic Games and we have pockets of popularity around the world. But we have this tremendous opportunity for growth and expansion from the commercial perspective, from the viewership perspective, from the television perspective.

"And we have these Olympics sitting out there four years from now in Rio, where volleyball could easily or could likely be he featured sport of the Games because of its incredible popularity there. We have this great window, this great popularity, available to the FIVB. I would really relish the opportunity to be in a leadership position to help us take advantage of that."