Hillary Clinton

Straight talk from SoCal on 2024: it's LA's time


Dear friends around the world,

Hi from Los Angeles! It has been raining a lot here this winter, which is cool, because we need the water. That drought and everything. We got lucky Thursday morning. It was cool but dry — well, actually cold for us, about 56 degrees Fahrenheit, puffy down jacket weather unless you were dancing — as the local bid committee held a mellow, only-in-California sunrise party at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to mark the coming of the third and final phase of the International Olympic Committee’s campaign for the 2024 Olympics.

They lit the Coliseum cauldron, just like Rafer Johnson did in 1984. This being 2017 and a 2024 thing, there was electronic dance music along with before-dawn fitness, a little sunrise volleyball and, 'cuz this is SoCal, some ginger shots to promote your most excellent vibe and good health. Yo, dude. All good.

Daybreaking in red, white and blue style

Peace and love and the Olympics, people

So along with the mellow, everyone, this third and final phase marks an occasion, and here we have to shift gears, for some serious straight talk. Sure, the scene Thursday at the Coliseum was crunchy groovy and for sure Santa Monica can be, like, zany, and Venice, like, wacky, but, you know, we can be dead serious here, too.

And the time is now to be straight-up.

First, the disclaimer: I have lived in Los Angeles since the end of 1992. If you want to think this column amounts to nothing but a homer talking, go right ahead — there’s likely nothing I can say or do to change your mind and, honestly, I’m not even going to try because that kind of thing gets tiresome. To be abundantly clear: I have no connection, zero, with the LA24 bid committee. We have a normal professional relationship. That’s it.

Here is the truth: I have covered every Olympic bid campaign since 1999. It is crystal clear what is at stake. That is why I was the first journalist, in March 2015, to say that the U.S. Olympic Committee had made an inexplicably bad initial choice for 2024 in Boston and needed, as soon as possible, to get back to LA. Which, later in the year, it did.

So what is at stake?

The Olympic movement, meaning in particular the International Olympic Committee, is at a critical inflection point.

Over the past 20 years, Games costs have become not just gigantic but obscene. In turn, the number of countries — in particular western democracies — willing to spend millions on the chance to win an Olympics has all but evaporated. 

Bottom line: the IOC is facing a grave credibility problem.

This credibility problem makes for a serious threat to the vitality if not the relevance of the movement.

This 2024 race thus offers the IOC a chance to re-calibrate.

The only — again, the only — way the IOC can emerge a winner, however, is if it goes to LA.

At prior moments in its history, in 1984 and 1932, the IOC has faced similar turning points. At these junctures, it also went to Los Angeles. Now, again, for 2024 it must come once more to California.

One more thing, please: this column will take a few minutes to read. No way around it. That's the way straight talk sometimes has to be.

We get that maybe you don't understand us Americans

Even way out here in California, watching the sun set drop each day into the blue Pacific, we get that you maybe don’t understand us Americans.

We get that here in the United States we are surrounded by oceans and just two other countries and our time zones are far away from pretty much everyone else’s and soccer is really not even much of a thing. We even call it soccer, not football. Football is something entirely different here, and we have a super big game, more or less an unofficial national holiday, coming up Sunday.

We get that the way we measure distance and temperature and all that — it’s different (if you’re wondering: 56 degrees F is 13 degrees C, more or less).

We get that you love our movies and our music and especially our money, like when NBC pays $7.65 billion for the U.S. rights to televise the Olympic Games from 2020 through 2032.

Remember, I said this was going to be really straight-up.

In that spirit, we get that sometimes you don’t really like us very much. We’re Americans and for some reason we like ice in our drinks, like a lot of ice, and for many if not most of you that’s just weird.

We get all that.

In the spirit of gentle and constructive suggestion: you, wherever you are, just have to like us enough right now to give Los Angeles the 2024 Summer Games.

For that matter, the very thing that a lot of you have (in some cases defiantly) held against us for many years — that our governments, local, state and federal, are not underwriting the LA bid — is, in fact, this bid’s strongest asset. That’s because we are American and we do it differently here.

We even get that our new president is like no one you have maybe ever seen before on the world stage. A lot of us didn’t vote for him, especially in California. Mrs. Clinton won the state by 61-33 percent.

We, too, get that Donald Trump is different. You don’t have to like him, either, though to be honest, you might, because he and Vladimir Putin over in Russia seem to get along just fine, and most of you members seem to get along just fine with Mr. Putin’s Olympic vision.

At any rate, Mr. Trump is the president of the United States. And behind the scenes, President Trump has already made it very well known that he wants Los Angeles to win.

This 2024 race, at its core, is — and always has been, from Day One — a referendum on the United States.

Not per se on President Trump.

Again, you have to like us just enough to get to yes. Because, as ever, we will save your bacon.

You may not like hearing or reading that. But, again, it's straight-up time.

Revisiting history, or why the IOC's bacon is in the deep fryer

Here is why the IOC’s bacon is shriveling in the deep fryer, and apologies for the lengthy recitation, but this is the context that makes plain why it must — repeat, must — be LA for 2024:

Athens 2004:

After-Games cost estimates ran to $11 to $15 billion. Security costs for the first post-9/11 Summer Games ran up the numbers significantly. The years since have been punctuated by pictures of the Olympic venues in sorrowful disrepair.

Beijing 2008:

$40 billion, all-in. Nobody really knows. Accounting transparency is not a thing in China, at least for international consumption.

London 2012:

Roughly $15 billion, including infrastructure costs.

Sochi 2014:

A reported $51 billion.

$51 billion?! This is what you get when, like the children of Israel in the Exodus story who built the cities of Pithom and Ramses for the Egyptian Pharaoh, you build two cities literally from the ground up. For the 2014 Winter Games, the Russians built Adler (the ice venues, a few miles away from Sochi itself) and, up in the mountains, Krasnaya Polyana (ski, snowboard, biathlon), from scratch.

Add in some roads, rail lines, electricity, sewage, water and whatever else figures in to the cost of doing business in Russia and there you have it, the reported $51 billion.

Rio 2016:

In December, nearly four months after the closing ceremony in Brazil, the IOC floated a new tagline for South America’s first Olympics: “the most imperfect perfect Games.”

Ha! Here is perhaps a more direct insight, courtesy of Bill the Cat, one of the main characters in “Bloom County,” which in 1987 won Berkeley Breathed the Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning. Bill pretty much says one thing, and one thing only, in reviewing the many obviously perplexing developments in our crazy world:


A brief Rio review: did the thousands of us in attendance endure Zika or water poisoning or get mugged in the streets? Largely, no.

Then again, that’s a pretty low bar.

The IOC expects in the coming weeks to release figures showing that the Rio operational budget would come in close to the originally estimated figure, $2.9 billion.

So what?

That number, even if accurate, is both misleading and irrelevant.

When Brazil bid for the Games in 2009, it presented an all-in budget to the IOC of $14.4 billion — operations and infrastructure.

When the Games were awarded to Rio, the Brazilian economy was going great guns. By 2016, the economy had tanked. The government said it would backstop the project. Problem: the government ran out of money.

The final Rio number remains fuzzy. A reasonable estimate: maybe $20 billion.

Tokyo 2020:

Scary budget! Scary like one of those bad black-and-white Godzilla movies from back in the day!

Tokyo won the Games in 2013 promising an all-in budget of roughly $7.8 billion.

Last September, a local review panel said drastic changes had to be made or the whole thing might cost, ah, $30 billion. That would be roughly four times as much as $7.8 billion.

In December, the IOC said it could not, would not accept a revised budget of $20 billion.

Beijing 2022:

See $40 billion, above, and an appreciation of the accounting skills of our Chinese friends, who must, after winning the Games in 2015, build a high-speed rail line from the capital, where the air pollution could choke a duck, up to the mountains two hours away, where there is barely snow but they are nonetheless going to hold the alpine events there because, well, because.

At any rate, the Chinese — having learned from their Russian friends — are not going to count the costs of the railway in their Olympic accounting. Which both in the official records as well as media such as this will, you know, keep reporting of the costs down.

This brings us, naturally enough, to 2024.

But wait.

In December 2014, the IOC passed a 40-point series of purported reforms championed by Thomas Bach, the German elected president the year before, a good number of the 40 aimed at the bid process. The package goes by the name “Agenda 2020.”

The Agenda 2020 vote came amid the 2022 Winter Games bid campaign. That 2022 campaign made it abundantly clear how flawed, if not irretrievably broken, the bid process stands.

Six would-be bid cities in Europe dropped out of the 2022 campaign, five put off to varying degrees by the $51 billion figure associated with the 2014 Sochi Winter Games: Oslo, Munich, Stockholm, Davos/St. Moritz and Krakow, Poland. A sixth, Lviv, Ukraine, fell out because of war.

That left Beijing and Almaty, Kazakhstan. The members went for Beijing.

The 2024 race formally began in September 2015, with five cities: Paris, Los Angeles, Rome, Budapest and Hamburg, Germany. In a conference call as it launched, Bach said he looked forward to the race, calling it a “very, very strong and fascinating one.”

But wait.

On the very day it began, in this space, I offered these words:

“Would anyone be surprised, really, if as soon as six months from now, this 2024 race is already down to three?

“Or, when it comes to legitimate contenders, practically speaking, two?”

November 2015: Hamburg drops out. Residents vote against hosting the Games.

September/October 2016: Rome, after weeks of dithering, drops out, too, the mayor saying the city has other priorities.

February 2017: in Budapest the locals are gathering increasing numbers of signatures for a referendum as well, so many signatures that the bid is delaying what would have been Friday’s start of its international promotional strategy. It’s unclear when — if — any promotional activity will begin.

That leaves, then, practically speaking, two: Paris and LA.

LA and Paris are both fine cities. But any reasonable observer can see that the Olympic bid process needs a fix.

"Casablanca," Bogart and Bergman are swell but we're taking 2024

All of us will always have Paris.

But Paris is not what the Olympic space needs right now.

What it needs — what Bach needs, what the IOC needs — is for Agenda 2020 to be more than just so much more than lip-service if not outright BS.

Remember: straight up.

As much as this 2024 race is a referendum on the United States, it is almost as much a referendum on Bach, and his ability to deliver on his vision.

Make no mistake: that is why he made a trip last year to California, and in particular to Silicon Valley. He knows all too well that young people are immersed in their phones and screens and the IOC needs to figure out how to merge that world with sport to keep the Olympic Games relevant with the world’s teens and 20-somethings.

This is why, right now, out of the 40 points in Agenda 2024, there’s one — one — that so far has proven meaningful, and that's the launch of the Olympic Channel. This is why there's urgency in linking the 2024 campaign to Agenda 2020.

Back to Paris for the purpose of getting the sentiment out of the way, and quickly.

Paris played host to the 1924 Games; 2024 would be 100 years later.

The IOC, though, is not in the anniversary business. Ask Athens. It sought 1996 after 1896. Those Games went to Atlanta.

The thing about Paris, and sentiment: I lived there for a summer and have been privileged since to visit several times. I have gone for early morning runs down the Champs-Élysées, looping across the Seine and around the Eiffel Tower. Memories. I get it. Totally.

Typically, a major factor in these IOC bid campaigns is where the members’ spouses would like to be for 17 days. There’s a cogent argument to be made that, you know, you could find worse places to be for nearly three weeks than Paris.

But maybe not when the entire nation of France has been under a “state of emergency” since 2015 and anxieties are high at even the most senior levels of government over the risk of another terror attack. Or when one of the attacks was directed at the national stadium in suburban Saint Denis that would be the emotional center of a 2024 Games.

To be truthful, security matters, and it may matter a lot in deciding 2024, but the IOC must itself confront an issue more under its own control.

Take a moment, please, to re-read those dollar figures: $51 billion for Sochi 2014, $40 billion for Beijing 2008, probably $20 million for Rio 2016, an advertised $7-plus billion for Tokyo 2020 already up to maybe $30 billion with the IOC insisting that $20 billion just won’t do.

Take another look at all the cities that have dropped out for 2022 and 2024.

This is why, all around the world, the IOC has a huge or, if you prefer, bigly credibility problem.

Bids want to say, we can do the job for x. Seven years later, reality check: the cost is x-plus-plus-plus and in western democracies there’s taxpayer freak-out, and understandably and appropriately.

LA 2024 is the turnkey solution to the IOC’s credibility problem.

Emotion and math equal LA24

That LA24 is the turnkey answer is so obvious. That solution is rooted in both emotion and logic. Or, if you prefer, emotion and math.


The LA24 budget calls for $5.3 billion of revenue and costs, with a $491.9 million contingency stash.

With the exception of a slalom canoe venue (no big deal), everything is built. The bid gets the use of an about-to-be-built, privately funded $3-billion stadium for the NFL’s Rams and Chargers. Southern California is — Olympics or no — in the midst of a massive public transit upgrade, with $88 billion in ongoing public transit investment as well as a $14 billion modernization of LAX (thank the lord) in addition to $120 billion in funding that LA County voters (me among them) approved in November.

Read that last bit again: $120 billion in transit funding that’s happening without reference to the Olympics. 

The Paris 2024 people say, ”95 percent of our venues will be existing or temporary facilities.”

Indeed, as Table 22, “Venue Funding and Development,” in Part 2 of its Candidature File delivered last October to the IOC makes clear, the Paris 24 bid calls for just three new items to be built.

The catch is that these three items are, with the exception of what would be the Olympic Stadium itself — standing, as noted above — pretty much the most expensive things there could possibly be:

A new athletes’ village. A new media village. And a new aquatics palace, for swimming, synchro and diving.

Just to take the last of those three:

With all due respect to friends at the international swim federation, which goes by the acronym FINA, a new structure for swim sports, even if not really a "palace," is gonna cost a ton of money and be about the most unsustainable venue you might ever want to build.

There are two events in which you draw sustainable numbers of people (that is, say, 15,000 or more)  to watch swimming: the U.S. Olympic Trials and the Games. OK, maybe three: perhaps the evening finals of the FINA world championships, and then if someone like Michael Phelps is on the blocks.

Get back to me if the U.S. Trials are going to be in Paris in 2024.

This elemental math is why USA Swimming has, for its last three Trials, plunked a temporary pool in an already-built basketball arena in Omaha, Nebraska.

This is why FINA, at its last worlds, in 2015 in Kazan, Russia, plunked a temporary pool inside a soccer — er, football — stadium.

This is why the LA24 plan is to plunk a temporary pool on a baseball field at the University of Southern California.

This is why the LA24 bid abandoned its initial plan to build a new (would have cost $1-billion) athletes’ village in downtown LA in favor of (already there) dorms at UCLA.

Our French friends might say, OK, but the government guarantees the costs, and we promise to keep them down.

Of course.

They say the Paris 2024 infrastructure budget would be 3 billion euros, about $3.2 billion USD at current exchange rates.

Of that 3 billion euros, they say, the national government would pony up 1 billion; the city of Paris, 145 million; the Paris regional government another 145 million; the region of Seine-Saint Denis 135 million. That totals 1.425 billion euros.

The remaining funds — easy math, 1.575 billion euros — is, according to Paris 2024, “already secured and guaranteed by various other public authorities and institutions.”

For purposes of discussion, let’s take our French friends at their word.

Here, though, is the lesson from prior Games that are not the model of Los Angeles 1984 — that is, that are not privately run and that depend in part or, more likely, in significant measure on government dollars, as a Paris 2024 Games would, and this is why the IOC needs Los Angeles now and not Paris.

As London 2012 and Rio 2016 proved and Tokyo 2020 is proving again, if the government is a democracy and not a more authoritative if not autocratic institution — think China or Russia — commitments change. 

It may be worthy of an academic or journalistic panel in these early days of 2017 to have a discussion about what is a “fact” and what makes for the “truth,” but it is a damn fact and that is the straight-up truth: commitments change.

That is what the past 20 years have proven, and unequivocally.

The consequence of that fact and that truth is the follow-on taxpayer freak-out.

There is the equation.

That equation needs to be broken.

That's what a private-sector bid like Los Angeles — in 2024 just as in 1984 — does. 

In LA, 2024, 1984, math is math.

What does that mean?

It means, simply, the math is certain. There is no other option because there is no government money. For taxpayers, that means there is no risk of having to siphon off monies that would otherwise be designated for, say, some social service.

Thus: no freak-out.

The LA24 plan says $5.3 billion. It will be $5.3 billion.

Actually, costs probably won’t even reach $5.3 billion. They probably will total less. And the “fact” is, which the bid committee can’t say for political reasons but this space can because it’s patently obvious: the Summer Games haven’t been in the United States since 1996 in Atlanta, which means pent-up sponsor demand. That means all involved are virtually certain to make tons of money.

IOC friends, to reiterate: all involved are likely to make money instead of reading bitter news reports about overruns and deficits.

Again, even if you might be inclined not to like us Americans all that much, everyone can get behind certainty and surplus.

Relevance is good

Which brings us to the next element:

Along with certainty and surplus, you also get everything that makes California, the world's sixth-largest economy, so relevant. The IOC’s No. 1 objective is to be relevant with young people. What, especially, do they like? Tech and media. That’s why the IOC launched the Channel. California means tech and media like nowhere else. Here, then, is the opportunity to combine tech and media with sport. So obvious.

Hollywood. Facebook. Apple. Snapchat. Google. Twitter.

These companies and industries, genuinely, want to get involved. Why? An Olympics in Los Angeles in 2024 would not only be prestigious, interesting and unusual. It’s a vehicle though which these companies could reach literally billions of people. In Olympic speak — they could grow not just the IOC brand but, as well, the individual sports themselves that make up the Olympic Games.

Straight up: it's not just the companies and industries of California but the people of LA who would like to have you. Like nine of 10 say, yay for the Olympics! In a democracy, those numbers are all but unheard-of. 

More, and IOC friends: you really do want to be on Mr. Trump's good side. Because if you turn down Los Angeles after dinging Chicago for 2016 and New York — Mr. Trump’s kind of town — for 2012, it really might not go so well for you. This means you and the IOC itself.

Just something to think about.

While you wonder why we like ice so much. We're different. Different doesn't need to be better or worse. Just different. 

By 2024, it will have been 28 years since Atlanta, 40 since the last time you were at the Coliseum like the daybreakers were at sunrise on Thursday.

Straight up: it’s time to come to California. Dude, kind of a no-brainer, really.

Land of hope and dreams -- believe it


At his show Sunday in Perth, Australia, with the E Street Band, Bruce Springsteen sought to honor the Women’s Marches Saturday back home in the States. Here are his remarks, in their entirety:

“The E Street Band is glad to be here in Western Australia. But we're a long way from home, and our hearts and spirits are with the hundreds of thousands of women and men that marched yesterday in every city in America and in Melbourne who rallied against hate and division and in support of tolerance, inclusion, reproductive rights, civil rights, racial justice, LGBTQ rights, the environment, wage equality, gender equality, healthcare and immigrant rights. We stand with you. We are the new American resistance.”

It's the last bit in particular that hits the wrong note. 

Look, I have been a huge Springsteen fan for more than 40 years. I have happily been to more than three dozen of his shows, in North America and in Europe. I listen, maybe obsessively, to E Street channel on Sirius XM satellite radio.

It’s easy to understand that Springsteen is giving voice to the fear and anger many, many like-minded people feel right now, as Donald Trump takes over the U.S. presidency. No retreat, baby, no surrender. Sure. 

Moreover, President Obama recently awarded Springsteen the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and it turns out, according to the Springsteen website Backstreets, Bruce without publicity played a January 12 acoustic show at the White House for more than 200 White House staffers in the East Room, a thank-you for their service.

Springsteen also has been remarkably outspoken about Mr. Trump over the past few months, in a September interview with Rolling Stone calling Mr. Trump a “moron” and declaring the United States in “crisis,” which is hardly the case. You want crisis? Check out the west African republic of The Gambia. Washington just executed yet another peaceful transition of power.

You want hate and division? Pretty confident that nickel in your pocket features Thomas Jefferson, the third president. He’s one of the greats, right? Up on Mount Rushmore. In the Declaration of Independence, he wrote “all men are created equal.” He kept slaves, believed blacks were “racially inferior” and is now assumed to have had several children with one of his slaves, Sally Hemings.

Of course it can be problematic to judge behavior in the 18th and 19th centuries by 21st-century standards. Even so, there can be no debate that slavery is and was flat-out wrong and having sex with a slave is just — all the more horrifying.

Deep breath, everyone, before we go off about anything and everything with Mr. Trump.

Campaign rhetoric is rhetoric. Hillary Clinton appeared at the inauguration. If she can show that measure of class and respect, maybe we can all take a lesson and, as well, a deep breath.

As Mr. Obama said in his final news conference as president: “… At my core, I think we’re going to be OK.”

Springsteen, if you really want to get to it, is trying to have it both ways. In that September Rolling Stone piece, he said, "I think you have a limited amount of impact as an entertainer, performer or musician,” adding, “… I haven’t really lost faith in what I consider to be the small amount of impact that somebody in rock music might be able to have. I don’t think people go to musicians for their political points of view.” Yet Sunday in Perth it was, “We are the new American resistance.”

Ladies and gentlemen, this is not the 1930s or 1940s. People are not being rounded up and being sent to internment or concentration camps. Perth is not Vichy France. Neither is Perth Amboy, New Jersey. Nowhere in the United States is. We don’t need a “new American resistance.”

We need — see the example of Hillary Clinton, as hurtful as it must have been for her — to look for common ground.

We need to recognize, as Bruce Springsteen makes plain in so many of his songs, that we are all in this together.

Bad Scooter is all alone, you know, until the change is made uptown and the Big Man joins the band. Only then do they bust the city in half.  


One of the perils of the moment: there is way too much disagreement in far too many forums that is laced with entirely too much vitriol and rancor. We need way more disagreement with respect. This column is intended to mark disagreement but in every regard with respect. We are all in this together.

What does any or all of this have to do with the Olympics or international sport? What are these words doing in this space?

There are, in our fragile world, three universal languages: music, sport and math.

Math, especially higher math, is elegant, according to those who understand it.

Maybe in another lifetime.

So it’s music and sport.

There’s a great argument to be made, amid the populist movements in our world that have produced Brexit and the election of Mr. Trump, that — now more than ever — the world needs the message of the Olympics.

If you’re so inclined, it needs the Games more than ever as soon as possible in the United States, perhaps both as rejoinder and affirmation.

The International Olympic Committee, a few years back, used a great tagline that sums it all up: celebrate humanity.

Indeed, that’s what the Games — with all their flaws, like each of us — are about, and that’s why the opening and closing ceremony of an Olympics always sounds with music.

That music speaks to who we are at a particular moment:

The Russian Police Choir performing a rousing version at the opening ceremony in 2014 in Sochi of Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky.” The Australian band Midnight Oil rocking out “Beds Are Burning” at the closing ceremony of the Sydney 2000 Games. Lionel Richie in that awesome sequined jacket-and-shirt combo at the closing ceremony of the 1984 Los Angeles Games, doing “All Night Long.”

The basic principle that the Olympic movement celebrates is simultaneously simple and yet incredibly profound.

It’s the very thing that Springsteen probably learned in high school in New Jersey in the ‘60s and for sure I learned at Northmont High School in rural Ohio, near Dayton, in the ‘70s: each and every person deserves to be treated with dignity, respect, civility, decency and tolerance and, as much as possible, every interaction with everyone you meet should be marked by humility and humanity.

And good manners.

Really, this is not that difficult.

If we all did this, instead of assuming the worst about each other or worrying that the sky is going to fall or that campaign rhetoric inevitably translates into destructive action, maybe we could do a lot better at talking with instead of at each other.

Like Bruce Springsteen says in many of his songs.

From 2007, and “Long Walk Home”:

“Here everybody has a neighbor

Everybody has a friend

Everybody has a reason to begin again

“My father said, ‘Son, we’re lucky in this town,

It’s a beautiful place to be born.

It just wraps its arms around you

Nobody crowds you and nobody goes it alone

“Your flag flyin’ over the courthouse

Means certain things are set in stone

Who we are and what we’ll do and what we won’t.”

One of Springsteen’s criticisms of Mr. Trump, as Springsteen also told Rolling Stone in September, is that “Trump’s thing is simple answers to very complex problems.”

Yet sometimes deriving simplicity from complexity is indeed just the thing. Maybe the one math lesson that sticks with everyone from high school: e = mc2.

The Springsteen catalogue runs to more than 300 songs. Arguably, the essence of it all springs from just two:

In “Born to Run,” from 1975, Springsteen asks the question that’s central to all of our lives: “I want to know if love is wild, babe I want to know if love is real.” Then: “Oh, can you show me.”

With love, we can all make our way. Together. Through fields where sunlight streams, as Springsteen sings in “Land of Hope and Dreams,” a song that dates to 1999 and was re-worked in 2012.

In this song, everyone is welcome to get on the train: saints, sinners, losers, winners, whores, gamblers, lost souls, the broken-hearted, thieves, sweet souls departed, fools and kings alike. Everyone. Just get on board. You don’t need no ticket.

On this train, dreams will not be thwarted. Faith will be rewarded. And, people, bells of freedom. they will ring.

More of that, please.

From and on behalf of each and every one of us.

The disconnect between Mr. Obama's actions, and his beautiful words


The 44th president of the United States ends his term this week, succeeded by the 45th, and in a ceremony Monday at the White House honoring Major League Baseball's 2016 World Series champions, the Chicago Cubs, Barack Obama proved his usual eloquent self in describing sport’s distinct role in American — indeed, global — society.

What’s now up to history to judge when it comes to sport is the demonstrable disconnect between Mr. Obama’s eloquence and his actions. Arguably no president in American history, none all the way back to George Washington, has been as disruptive as Mr. Obama.

Particularly in the sphere of international sport.

There can be no question, none whatsoever, that Mr. Obama talks a good game. On Monday, for instance, in the august East Room of the White House, jammed with dignitaries and Cubs fans alike, many in jerseys and caps, the president was funny, captivating, moving and profound, all of it, in a 20-minute address.

Referring to his campaign slogan in 2008 and the Cubs’ World Series drought, which would ultimately extend to 108 years before the Cubs last fall defeated the Cleveland Indians in seven games, Mr. Obama said Monday: “… Even I was not crazy enough to suggest that during these eight years we would see the Cubs win the World Series.  But I did say that there's never been anything false about hope.  

Everyone laughed and applauded as he added, “Hope — the audacity of hope.”

The president, a longtime fan of the Chicago White Sox, the 2005 World Series champs from the city's South Side, went on to say:

“All you had to know about this team was encapsulated in that one moment in Game 5,” meaning the World Series, “down three games to one, do or die, in front of the home fans when [the catcher] David Ross and [the pitcher] Jon Lester turned to each other and said, “I love you, man."  And he said, "I love you, too.”  It was sort of like an Obama-Biden moment,” a reference to the vice president, Joseph Biden, Jr.  

Later, referring to the Cubs’ victory parade: “Two days later, millions of people -- the largest gathering of Americans that I know of in Chicago. And for a moment, our hometown becomes the very definition of joy.”

And, finally:

“So just to wrap up, today is, I think, our last official event — isn’t it? — at the White House under my presidency. And it also happens to be a day that we celebrate one of the great Americans of all time, Martin Luther King, Jr. And later, as soon as we're done here, Michelle and I are going to go over and do a service project, which is what we do every year to honor Dr. King. And it is worth remembering — because sometimes people wonder, well, why are you spending time on sports, there's other stuff going on — that throughout our history, sports has had this power to bring us together, even when the country is divided. Sports has changed attitudes and culture in ways that seem subtle but that ultimately made us think differently about ourselves and who we were. It is a game and it is celebration, but there's a direct line between Jackie Robinson,” the first African-American major league baseball player with the Brooklyn Dodgers, in 1947, “and me standing here. There's a direct line between people loving Ernie Banks,” the Cubs star from 1953-71, “and the city being able to come together and work together in one spirit.  

“I was in my hometown of Chicago on Tuesday, for my farewell address, and I said, ‘Sometimes it's not enough just to change the laws, you’ve got to change hearts.’ And sports has a way, sometimes, of changing hearts in a way that politics or business doesn’t. And sometimes it's just a matter of us being able to escape and relax from the difficulties of our days, but sometimes it also speaks to something better in us. And when you see this group of folks of different shades and different backgrounds, and coming from different communities and neighborhoods all across the country, and then playing as one team and playing the right way, and celebrating each other and being joyous in that, that tells us a little something about what America is and what America can be.

“So it is entirely appropriate that we celebrate the Cubs today, here in this White House, on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday because it helps direct us in terms of what this country has been and what it can be in the future."

These are, genuinely, lovely and moving sentiments. Thank you, Mr. President.

Did Mr. Obama’s administration prove true to those sentiments?

During most of his two terms, it can be argued, Mr. Obama — or by way of extension, deputies in his executive branch — used sports to project the full power and authority of the United States, both by way of action and, in the case of the president himself, omission. The government ranged far afield in projecting distinctly American notions of equality and morality in sports, some of the very values Mr. Obama said Monday "America can be," though it remains far from clear the roughly 200 other nations in the world can or should be like the United States, or want to be. The U.S. government pushed its views of the law in the anti-doping arena. And, of course, though there had been no cry to do so, the U.S. government saw fit to deputize itself to police international soccer.

Was this all triggered by the International Olympic Committee’s emphatic rejection of Mr. Obama in 2009?

Recently having been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, the president went to Copenhagen that October to lobby for Chicago, his hometown, then bidding for the 2016 Summer Games. Chicago failed to make it out of the first round, fourth of four, losing to Rio. Madrid and Tokyo were also in the race.

"Other than people who like to cheer, 'We're No. 4! We're No. 4!' I don't know how this is anything but really embarrassing," Republican strategist Rich Galen told CNN at the time, adding that Obama's failed pitch would “probably be the joke on Capitol Hill for weeks to come.”

Had Mr. Obama ever before suffered a defeat, indeed a rejection, so intense and so personal? Was it that Mr. Obama was himself stung? Or was it his longtime, and protective, aide, Valerie Jarrett? Or both? Or others in the president's close circle as well?

Seven-plus years ago, the president played off Chicago’s Olympic loss. He said it was “always a worthwhile endeavor to promote and boost the United States.”

His real feelings may have emerged in an interview published this past October in New York magazine:

“So we fly out there. Subsequently, I think we’ve learned that [the] IOC’s decisions are similar to FIFA’s decisions: a little bit cooked. We didn’t even make the first cut, despite the fact that, by all the objective metrics, the American bid was the best.”

As anyone who has spent the better part of a lifetime in politics can attest, “objective metrics” often mean nothing. Same for just four hours around the IOC, which is how long Mr. Obama was on the ground in Copenhagen that October morning. How could the president of the United States not have known that?

And what has been the fallout since?

— 2010, 2012, 2014, 2016: Olympics, Winter and Summer. Four editions of the Olympics during Mr. Obama's two terms, four opportunities to make an appearance, two — in Canada in 2010, the United Kingdom in 2012 — in countries as close and friendly to American interests as they might get, hockey rivalries or words like “trunk” and “boot” aside. Mr. Obama shows in none of the four. (Michelle Obama went to London.) Compare: President Bush attended the 2002 Salt Lake and 2008 Beijing Games. President Clinton made the 1996 Atlanta and Hillary Clinton the 1994 Lillehammer Games.

— September 2013: Thomas Bach is elected IOC president. Since, Mr. Bach has met more than 100 heads of government and state. But not Mr. Obama. In October 2015, Mr. Bach and most everyone in senior Olympic leadership traveled to Washington for a conference. Mr. Obama did not deem it worthy of his time. Late in the event, Mr. Biden — clearly pressured to show up on behalf of the administration — made a seven-minute cameo.

— February 2014: Mr. Obama, in response to a Russian anti-gay propaganda law, decides to try to stick it to his friends in the Kremlin by sending to the Sochi Games U.S. delegations for the opening and closing ceremonies that include a number of gay athletes, including the tennis star Billie Jean King. Why a tennis star, even one as superlative as Ms. King, ought to be featured at a Winter Games event is yet to be explained.

Mr. Bach said in opening the Sochi Olympics, in a shot at Mr. Obama, “Have the courage to address your disagreements in a peaceful, direct political dialogue and not on the back of the athletes.”

— 2015, FIFA indictments. This is not to say that there wasn’t wrongdoing on multiple levels in and around the international soccer scene. The relevant question for history is otherwise. Outside the World Cup, soccer is far from baseball, basketball and especially football in the United States. And by far the majority of those accused have not been American citizens. The Justice Department, when it brings an explosive case such as this, does so to score political points as much to make a case in court. So: why so important for the FBI, IRS and the Attorney General of the United States herself to make this a federal matter?

— May 2016: federal prosecutors in Brooklyn, from the U.S. Attorney’s office serving what’s called the Eastern District of New York, have opened an investigation into allegations of doping by top Russian athletes, the New York Times reports. For those keeping score at home: Loretta Lynch, the attorney general, used to head that Brooklyn office. For those further keeping score: this is the same Justice Department that brought cases sparked by allegations of doping against the likes of baseball stars Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds, couldn’t seal the deal, but now believes considerable taxpayer resource is well spent pursuing Russians?

President-elect Donald Trump, meanwhile, has already spoken by phone with Mr. Bach, expressing support for the Los Angeles bid for the 2024 Games. Paris and Budapest are also in the race. The IOC will pick the 2024 site in September at an assembly in Lima, Peru.

Mr. Trump takes office on Friday. For sure, he has a range of priorities to pick from. If he decides that one of them is making new friends, and fast, in international sports, he could make it plain to his pick for attorney general, the current U.S. senator Jeff Sessions, the Republican from Alabama, that the Brooklyn investigation ought to be dropped, and fast.

Like, why is the United States government interested in doping by Russian athletes?

Especially an administration directed by Mr. Trump, who has shown little to less than zero interest in pursuing allegations the Russians might have played an active role in pre-election hacking?

Mr. Trump wasn’t at the White House Monday. Not his moment. But in the Ricketts family, which owns the Cubs, here nonetheless was a little slice of America as it is right now: Todd Ricketts, Mr. Trump's pick for deputy commerce secretary, stood to one side of Mr. Obama while on the other stood Mr. Ricketts' sister, Laura, who during the campaign raised significant funds for Mrs. Clinton.

This past summer, as he was heading off to vacation at Martha’s Vineyard, the remote Cape Cod locale, Mr. Obama, with a nod to Mr. Trump, had this to say as the Rio Games were just about to get underway:

“In a season of intense politics, let’s cherish this opportunity to come together around one flag.”


“In a time of challenge around the world, let’s appreciate the peaceful competition and sportsmanship we’ll see, the hugs and high-fives and the empathy and understanding between rivals who know we share a common humanity.”

Beautiful words. But — just that. Just words.

The Olympics and President-elect Donald J. Trump


A Romanian friend and I were talking the other day about the campaign for the 2024 Summer Olympics.

If Paris wins, he said, it will be a thoroughly French Olympics. But if it's Los Angeles — that, he said, would be an international Games with the potential to prove truly transformational for the Olympic movement in the 21st century.

Maybe Tuesday’s election of Donald J. Trump has changed everything.

Or maybe — actually, probably — it has changed nothing.

Take a deep breath. Things tend to work out.

Are there any guarantees? No. Promises? No. But that’s not the way life is. And, again, things tend to work out.

Voting in Venice Beach. This is California // Getty Images

The president and president-elect Thursday at the White House // Getty Images

Did Trump say all kinds of rude, belittling and worse things during the campaign? Absolutely. Since his election, has he struck a more conciliatory, encompassing tone? For sure. On Thursday at the White House, he met with President Barack Obama, the president saying, “I want to emphasize to you, Mr. President-elect, that we are now going to want to do everything we can to help you succeed because if you succeed, then the country succeeds.”

The last time this sort of weirdness settled over a significant portion of the United States if not beyond, it was January 1981, and Ronald Reagan, a former movie star, was being inaugurated. We all lived through that. Indeed, Reagan was president during the 1984 Summer Games in LA, which all but saved the movement. How much did he personally have to do with those Games? Very little.

If you stop and pause for just a moment, it’s actually quite possible a Trump presidency could be good for the Los Angeles 2024 bid. The committee issued a statement Wednesday that congratulated the president-elect, noted the bid’s “strong bipartisan support at the local, state and federal level” and said it was looking forward to working with Trump to “deliver a ‘new games for a new era.’ “

OK, good PR move. Even so, the Olympics, and particularly the bid process, is all about connections. Here’s what that statement didn’t — couldn’t — say:

Angela Ruggiero, the U.S. women’s ice hockey star, is now chair of the International Olympic Committee’s athletes’ commission. She is also a former contestant on “The Apprentice,” the TV show that Trump starred in for years. Trump was so impressed with her that, afterward, he offered her a job.

So — now the IOC has a direct conduit to the president-elect of the United States. What more do you want?

Angela Ruggiero, center in black dress, at "Apprentice" cast party // Getty Images

IOC president Thomas Bach on Wednesday offered a brief statement to Associated Press that said, “Let me congratulate President-elect Trump on his victory and wish him all the best for his term in office for all the people of the United States and of the world.”

Would it have been “better” for the American 2024 effort if Hillary Clinton had prevailed in the electoral college as well as the popular vote?

To be sure, she was, in Olympic circles, something of a known quantity. She led the U.S. delegation to the 1994 Lillehammer Games. She and President Bill Clinton led the American side in Atlanta in 1996. When the 2012 Games campaign was going on, Hillary Clinton, then a senator from New York, traveled to the IOC session in Singapore to lobby for New York.

No disrespect intended whatsoever to Mrs. Clinton but New York got crushed and Atlanta is hardly remembered fondly in many senior Olympic circles.

At any rate, there’s little question that California wanted Hillary. The state went for Mrs. Clinton by roughly 2-1, 61 to 33 percent. The U.S. Olympic Committee turned to LA for 2024 for a variety of reasons — one of which is precisely that California is different, about as far away from Washington, D.C., another potential 2024 candidate, as possible. Far away -- literally and figuratively.

Reflecting on Trump’s election, Stanford political science professor Bruce Cain told the New York Times, referring to California, “We will go back into the mode that we were in during the Bush administration,” meaning George W. Bush, “which is we were the kind of the rebel state.”

We got through the Bush years, too, it should be pointed out. The American experiment did not collapse in on itself. For what it's worth, Bush is a huge proponent of the Olympics, traveling to Beijing in 2008 to watch Michael Phelps and the rest of the U.S. team after opening the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City.

At any rate, who is the former governor of California? Arnold Schwarzenegger. We all lived through that, too.

Who is replacing Trump as host of the successor show “The Celebrity Apprentice,” his debut set for January 2017, just a few days before Trump is due to be inaugurated as president? Schwarzenegger.

People, the world turns in mysterious ways.

Here are some factors that remain immutable:

-- The United States is not Russia nor China, where the strong hand of the national government plays a key Olympic role.

— As the IOC well knows, western governments have a rude habit of change in the seven years between the time a city wins the Games and the opening ceremony. See, for instance, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Greece, Japan and others, including South Korea, site of the 2018 Winter Games, where hundreds of thousands are expected this weekend in the streets in protest against the current president.

And, for that matter, the United States.

Who knows whether Trump would even still be president in 2024?

— The recent demise of the Rome 2024 bid proves emphatically that the mayor — who killed off that bid despite national government and Olympic committee support — is more important in the Olympic bid process than anyone at the national level.

LA mayor Eric Garcetti is a rock star. Indeed, with Clinton’s defeat, a loss that simultaneously made plain how few young Democratic stars there are, Garcetti is uniquely positioned to assume an even more prominent profile.

What tends to win Olympic votes is connection and relationship. The USOC chairman, Larry Probst, and chief executive, Scott Blackmun, along with Ruggiero and longtime IOC member Anita DeFrantz have spent the past several years seeking just that. Along with, now, Garcetti and LA 24 bid leader Casey Wasserman.

For all this, if you were the bid committees in Paris and Budapest, the two remaining 2024 candidates, you might well be feeling suddenly frisky at the prospect of a Trump presidency.

To be super-American about this, and quote Lee Corso, the former American college football coach turned ESPN television personality: not so fast, my friend.

One way to interpret Tuesday’s result is that it makes for a rebuke of multiculturalism and globalization — the very things purportedly at the core of the Olympic soul. If that’s the way the IOC ends up looking at it, that’s going to be very tough for the LA effort. Or, simply put, if the members want to punish the United States for its choice of president -- see Bush 43 -- that's going to be tough, too.

Perhaps, though — “drain the swamp” and all that — it’s more a rejection of Washington and its elites, and by extension global elites. Look, there is no bunch more perceived as a bunch of global elites more than the IOC, a point proven repeatedly in recent months and years with western European rejection of bids in — deep breath — Munich, Hamburg, Stockholm, Oslo, Krakow, St. Moritz, Vienna and, now, Rome.

This is a matter about which the IOC ought to be paying rapt attention. Its increasingly urgent mandate: to remain relevant in our obviously changing world.

So American voters just elected a rhetoric-spewing avowed nationalist?

This bears all the signals of the second act in a global three-act play.

Act One: Brexit. To put an Olympic spin on it, the British vote to leave the European Union came in the aftermath of what many consider the finest Summer Games in recent memory, in London in 2012.

Two: Trump.

Three: next year’s presidential election in France. Would anyone be surprised if the third domino fell, with the candidacy of Marine Le Pen?

Her tweet Tuesday, even before all the votes had been counted stateside:


Translation: “Congratulations to the new U.S. president Donald Trump and to the free American people.”

As for Hungary:

This past summer, Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán said, referring to Trump, that the ideas of the “upstanding American presidential candidate” and his opposition to “democracy export” could also apply in Europe. Orbán, who has ordered fences built at the Hungarian border in a bid to stop migrants, also said in July, “I am not Donald Trump’s campaigner,” adding, “I myself could not have drawn up better what Europe needs.”

Amid the Trump victory, here was Orbán on Facebook:

Then, speaking Thursday at a European conference, he echoed, “We are two days after the big bang and still alive. What a wonderful world. This also shows that democracy is creative and innovative.”

In even more-important news within the Olympic bubble, the government is due Jan. 1 to take over much of the authority of the Hungarian Olympic Committee. The IOC has long frowned on such intrusions in what it likes to call “autonomy,” meaning appropriate independence from government.

France is not Hungary. But with the French Olympic committee comes a big dose of French government. That's the way things are.

That’s the farthest thing from an issue in the United States. By 1978 law, Congress maintains USOC oversight. But the USOC must run and fund itself.

If all this makes anyone squirm about the rise of “populism” if not nationalism, if there is suddenly a tinge of forlorn regret for the Obama years, let’s have — once more — an Olympic reality check.

Copenhagen, 2009. The president is the new winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. He comes to Denmark to lobby for his hometown, Chicago, in the race for the 2016 Games. Chicago gets kicked to the curb in the first round, with fewer votes even than New York got four years before.

“… I think we’ve learned,” the president said in an interview published last month in New York magazine, “that [the] IOC’s decisions are similar to FIFA’s decisions: a little bit cooked. We didn’t even make the first cut, despite the fact that, by all the objective metrics, the American bid was the best.”

Coincidence or not: since then, it’s Obama’s Justice Department that has gone after FIFA and has opened a criminal investigation into allegations of state-sponsored Russian doping. Coincidence or not: Loretta Lynch, the former head of Justice’s Eastern District of New York, the office that is leading the charge, is now the attorney general of the United States. She reports to Obama.

It was Obama, recall, who opted to make a political statement in advance of the 2014 Sochi Games by sending a U.S. delegation that was to be headed by the tennis star Billie Jean King and two other athletes. King had to bow out of the opening ceremony delegation because of her mother’s death; she later made it to the closing ceremony.

In three years as IOC president, Bach has met with more than 100 heads of government and state. A notable exception: Obama.

Politicians come and go. That is a vivid lesson of Olympic history. The issue that matters is elemental: where is the best place for the Olympic movement to reimagine its future? That starts with 2024.

Ask your kids.

If you can get them away from their election chatter — and how it’s going to impact their lives, the very currency with the very audience the IOC is chasing — on Snapchat.

Snapchat — which of course is based in the hipster LA neighborhood of Venice Beach.

An open letter: the White House delegation to Rio


President Barack Obama

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20500

August 2, 2016

Dear Mr. President:

Coming up on three years ago, I wrote you an “open letter” critical of your decision to send to the Sochi 2014 Winter Games an official White House delegation that did not include yourself, the First Lady, the vice president nor, indeed, any member of your cabinet.

On Tuesday, the White House announced that Secretary of State John Kerry will head the White House delegation to the Rio 2016 Summer Games.

Mr. President, I cannot emphasize strongly enough how much I respect you personally as well as the office you hold. I voted for you twice. If I could, I would vote for you again this November. I believe history will treat you kindly — that, with time, you will come to be seen as what you truly are and have been, one of our greatest presidents in more than 200 years.

With all that said, sir:

Please permit me the opportunity to address you in another “open letter,” mindful that I am grateful to call home a country where I may give voice to criticisms and that, as well, any such criticisms relate solely to matters of policy. In no way are they personal.

Time shows how we all change over seven years: President Obama in 2009 addressing the IOC on behalf of Chicago's 2016 bid // Getty Images

The tennis star Billie Jean King at the Sochi 2014 men's ice-hockey bronze medal game //

The announcement that Secretary Kerry will lead the 2016 delegation underscores the futility and hypocrisy inherent in what the White House tried to do — with, at best, limited impact — in connection with the Sochi Games.

Can we — you, me, all of us — acknowledge now the truth of the matter?

That what the White House sought in 2014 was to leverage the spotlight of the Olympic Games to exploit the American position in dealing with the Russians, in particular Mr. Putin, while simultaneously expressing considered frustration, if not more, with the International Olympic Committee?

And to what purpose?

The record is plain.

In October 2009, you and the First Lady went to Copenhagen to lobby the IOC for Chicago’s 2016 Summer Games bid.

In retrospect, we can perhaps observe it might be all to the good that Chicago did not win. Imagine, Mr. President, the worldwide media uproar in anticipation of a 2016 Chicago Games over the murder rate in Chicago and, by extension, American gun-control policies. Not to mention the national embarrassment that is Mr. Trump, whom you appropriately described on Tuesday as “unfit” and “woefully unprepared” for the presidency.

At any rate, you went to Copenhagen — the first sitting president, ever, to lobby the IOC in such a fashion.

The members not only awarded the 2016 Games to Rio de Janeiro, they booted Chicago in the very first round. Tales still circulate within Olympic circles of the IOC members idling on buses while waiting for your security detail to give the all-good to come in to the convention hall.

Since then, the White House’s — by extension, the federal government’s — relationship with the global Olympic movement and, more broadly, international sport, has deteriorated to the point of dreadful, and that is being generous.

Maybe you have forgiven if not forgotten. But it’s something of an open secret that your trusted advisers may hardly have done so.

Who brought the indictments against FIFA? The U.S. Justice Department, headed by Ms. Loretta Lynch. Assuredly, the Attorney General wields considerable latitude in her prosecutorial choices. At the same time, who does the Attorney General report to? That would be you.

Before you named her Attorney General, Ms. Lynch served as U.S. Attorney in Brooklyn, for five years heading the office for the Eastern District of New York. This past May, it was the Eastern District that opened an inquiry into allegations of state-sponsored Russian doping — as if a Russian matter should, on some theory, be a matter for American law enforcement.

Imagine, sir, if the tables were turned. The American court system, indeed the federal courts with their limited jurisdiction, are filled with allegations of wrongdoing each and every day. Are the Russians weighing in to impart their view of justice on our behalf? Are they mounting a campaign to convince Americans and others around the world that, for instance, the death penalty, legal in several U.S. states, is illegal it not immoral?

Perhaps there is this: at least you didn’t try to stick it further to the Olympic scene by naming Ms. Lynch to the 2016 delegation. Just Secretary Kerry; the U.S. ambassador to Brazil; three other federal officials, and the swim legend Mark Spitz.

The disregard with which your administration views the Olympic scene could hardly have been more apparent when, last October, the Association of National Olympic Committees held its annual meeting in Washington, just blocks from the White House.

Since becoming the IOC president in 2013, Thomas Bach has met with more than 100 heads of government or state. But, notably, not you.

Indeed, at the Sochi opening ceremony, Mr. Bach, obviously if indirectly referring to you, said the Olympics should not be “used as a stage for political dissent or for trying to score points in internal or external political contests.”

Mr. Bach also said in opening the Sochi Games, “Have the courage to address your disagreements in a peaceful, direct political dialogue and not on the backs of the athletes.”

The IOC president, Thomas Bach, at the Sochi 2014 opening ceremony // Getty Images

Bach with Russian president Vladimir Putin at the Sochi Games

Vice president Biden at last October's ANOC meeting // Getty Images

At the ANOC event, no senior U.S. official had the courage to show until several days into the event when — your White House obviously alerted that this show of American defiance might not reflect well on a Los Angeles bid for the 2024 Summer Games — Vice President Biden appeared from behind the curtain.

Mr. Biden stayed for all of seven minutes.

As for LA, and its 2024 contest with Paris, Rome and Budapest: the heads of state or government of France, Italy and Hungary have all said they are coming to Rio for the Games opening ceremony.

But not you.

“It is absolutely normal that participating countries at major events such as the Olympic Games, being organized every four years, are represented by high-level state leaders,” the Hungarian release, issued Tuesday, said. “This is especially true for countries that have bid to host the Olympic Games.”

It’s in this full, indeed rich, context that one has to view the 2014 Sochi White House delegation — as one of a series, since that 2009 Chicago defeat, of provocations.

Perhaps it is the case that the dots don’t connect. But it plainly looks like they do. And we both know this truism: in politics, perception is as important than reality, if not more so.

To be honest, of course, in our popular culture, the Russians make for excellent villains. Think only of Ivan Drago in "Rocky IV," or the bad guys in James Bond movies, or even Boris and Natasha from “The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show.”

Mr. Putin, right or wrong, fair or not, plays the role for many of the arch-villain of our time.

How easy was it to tap into all that sentiment while amplifying a disregard for the Olympic scene?

The White House said in 2014 that your schedule simply didn’t allow you to travel to Sochi.

This, Mr. President, begs credulity.

The central issue was the controversy that you latched onto sparked by the Russian anti-gay propaganda law. A couple months before the Games, you remarked, “Nobody is more offended than me by some of the anti-gay and lesbian legislation that you’ve been seeing in Russia.”

For the opening ceremony, you named two openly gay athletes: Billie Jean King, the tennis star, and skating gold medalist Brian Boitano.

A tennis player — at the Winter Olympics?

For the closing, you threw a little more gas on the fire by naming Caitlin Cahow, winner of Olympic silver and bronze medals in ice hockey, another gay athlete, to the closing ceremony delegation.

You might remember that Ms. King ended up going to the closing ceremony; her mother passed away the day of the opening ceremony. Ms. Cahow took part in the opening ceremony.

You might recall, too, that in a commentary for CNN published a few weeks before the 2014 Games, Ms. King had said, in part:

“Is our nation making a statement on Russia’s anti-gay propaganda law by sending gay men and women to represent us in Sochi? Perhaps we are.”


The right answer to Ms. King’s rhetorical question: obviously.

In that same piece, she also said:

“… I hope these Olympics will be a watershed moment for the universal acceptance of all people.”

That for sure has not happened. We all have a long way to go. Yes, the U.S. Supreme Court has since made same-sex marriage the law of our land. But that has hardly triggered a rush in other countries to follow our lead.

Ms. King also said in her piece:

“I have a saying that 98 percent of winning is showing up. So we will show up in Russia. We will support our athletes and cheer them as loudly as possible. And we will keep the equality conversation alive.”

When she got home from her White House-sanctioned Sochi-related activism, Ms. King, in an Associated Press feature, said she would like the IOC to add sexual orientation to the list of protections in its charter and to consider the issue when deciding host countries for future Olympics.

The IOC did add sexual orientation to its list of protections, as part of its Agenda 2020 “reforms” enacted in December 2014. But it would have done so regardless of Ms. King. Or anyone from the United States.

As for the second point: not so much. The IOC competition for the 2022 Winter Games got down to Kazakhstan and China. Neither can boast about its human-rights record. In 2015, the IOC went for Beijing.

And if it were the “equality conversation” that was the true impetus for the composition of the Sochi delegation, Mr. President, that imperative would hold even more validity in connection with Rio and 2016.

As the New York Times reported on July 5, Brazil is arguably the world’s deadliest place for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people.

Over the past four-plus years, the newspaper reported, citing Grupo Gay de Bahia, an advocacy group, nearly 1,600 people have died in hate-motivated attacks. That means a gay or transgender person is killed almost daily in Brazil.

The Times story quotes the advocacy group’s manager as saying that the numbers represent “only the tip of the iceberg of violence and bloodshed,” since police here often, as the paper reported, “omit anti-gay animus when compiling homicide reports.” An Amnesty International Brazil official, the paper further reported, said, “Homophobic violence has hit crisis levels, and it’s getting worse.”

So much outrage over a Russian propaganda law in the run-up to Sochi 2014 but, in comparison, comparative silence in these weeks and months before Rio 2016 about horrific violence in Brazil?

Mr. President, you proved eloquent, as usual, in decrying the June massacre that took 49 lives at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Yet nothing about the slow, steady and awful rate of homicides in Brazil?

The Olympics are assuredly imperfect. But there is no other institution in our fragile world that offers the very notion you have spent much of your time in office promoting — we are all better when we stand, in peace, together.

With that in mind, please allow me to close with an unsolicited suggestion.

Next year, at an assembly in Lima, Peru, the IOC will decide the 2024 Summer Games site.

By then, you will be out of office. We can all hope that Ms. Clinton — an avid public supporter of the Olympic notion — is your successor. At any rate, if you were to appear in Lima, and once again address the IOC on behalf of an American candidate city, it might be therapeutic all around.

It also could be awesome.

You could even start by saying something like, “Sorry about that last time. I for sure didn’t mean to make you sit around for a few minutes just on my account.” Take it from there, sir. There’s a powerful argument that the world needs what Los Angeles, what California and what our great country can — in service and humility — offer.

As you have proven repeatedly, such humility, as well as considered doses of humor and empathy, can often achieve great things, particularly in the pursuit of pluralism and tolerance. Being strident rarely gets us anywhere.

Thank you, sir, for your attention and consideration. And for your years of leadership. Godspeed.


Alan Abrahamson

3 Wire Sports

Los Angeles, California

Trump: the peril and limit of the 'moron' vote


In the spirit of Chris Rock at the Oscars on Sunday night, let’s get right to it, the elephant in the room. In this case, the room is decorated with the five Olympic rings and the elephant — ever-so-figuratively, given that he is running for the Republican presidential nomination — is Mr. Donald Trump. Straight talk: if Mr. Trump were to win the general presidential election in November, it’s difficult to draw up a scenario in which that would play well for Los Angeles’ bid for the 2024 Summer Games.

Donald Trump at a campaign rally Monday in Valdosta, Georgia // Getty Images

In the 2024 Olympic campaign, Los Angeles would seem, right now, to have a lot going for it. LA has all the ready advantage of being the center of all that is SoCal, plus the huge boost of not having to build hardly anything to get ready for a Games, plus the full attention of the International Olympic Committee's focus on technology and innovation -- California being home to Facebook, Google, Apple, Twitter, Snapchat, Disney and more. Look, if California were a nation, it would boast the world's eighth-largest GDP. And, of course, ridiculously great weather.

All IOC elections are unpredictable. Just the same, LA stands at least a reasonable chance of convincing the IOC to bring the Summer Games back to the United States for the first time since 1996 and Atlanta.

And then there's Mr. Trump.

It is the case that, over the years, Mr. Trump has been linked with elements of the Olympic scene, in particular New York’s bid for the 2012 Games. At the same time, his political rhetoric, and in particular over the past several months, has — this is being gracious — hardly been in keeping with the Olympic values.

The Olympic movement is about building bridges between people. Mr. Trump talks about walls.

At its best, the Olympic movement promotes dialogue, understanding and a more peaceful world. On the campaign trail, Mr. Trump is often about — again, being generous — intolerance.

Here is a prediction:

By September 2017, when the IOC picks its 2024 winner, Hillary Clinton will have been the U.S. president for about eight months. Mrs. Clinton has long shown significant support for the Olympics — as First Lady through the 1990s and then, in 2005, via in-person support as New York senator at the IOC vote at which London won out for 2012. Significantly, Mrs. Clinton has longstanding ties with LA24 bid leader Casey Wasserman and mayor Eric Garcetti.

Los Angeles is vying with three other cities for the 2024 Games: Paris, Rome and Budapest.

Be assured that Mr. Trump is already the subject of much discussion in Olympic circles. Bet that his name comes up many times over at the three-day IOC’s policy-making executive board meeting starting Tuesday in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Bet, too, that Mr. Trump’s political ascent puts the U.S. Olympic Committee and the LA24 people in a delicate position. On the one hand, it’s presidential politics — what is the USOC or LA24 to do? (Answer to rhetorical question: nothing.) On the other, it’s American politics, which carries a disproportionate weight, the U.S. president nominally being leader of the free world, and all that.

Keep in mind, always, that the IOC is European-dominated. Thanks to a round-up published Monday in the New York Times, we can be perfectly clear that Mr. Trump "elicits shock and biting satire" in any number of European nations, including Germany (Der Spiegel front cover, “Madness: America’s agitator”), Britain (580,000 sign petition seeking to ban him from the country), France (Liberation: “Trump, From Nightmare to Reality”) and Spain (letter from imaginary 16th-century king to Trump advising him to “consider bringing back the Inquisition”).

Jean-Marie Le Pen, the 87-year-old founder of the far-right French National Front, who as recently as last year referred to the Holocaust as a “detail” in the history of World War II, had this to say Saturday on Twitter:


Translation: “If I were American, I would vote for Donald Trump … but may God protect him!”

Mr. Trump has a “budding bromance” with Russian president Vladimir Putin, according to that same article in the Times, citing — among others — favorable comments on RT, the Kremlin-funded broadcaster.

For those who might be unfamiliar, Mr. Putin is by any measure one of the most important figures in the Olympic and international sports scene. That’s what happens when 1. you are the president of Russia, 2. you spearhead the spending of a reported $51 billion to organize the 2014 Winter Games and 3. you are in line to stage the 2018 soccer World Cup.

It’s no secret President Obama is not a significant personality in the Olympic world. After campaigning in person in 2009 at the IOC vote in Copenhagen at which Chicago, the president’s home town, went out first, Rio ultimately prevailing, the president seemingly has had enough of the IOC. Recall the politically charged delegation President Obama sought to send to Sochi? Featuring, among others, Billie Jean King (who ultimately made the closing ceremonies)?

Maybe that helps explain the Russian love for Trump. Then again, maybe the Kremlin ought to take a second look at Mr. Trump’s Facebook account. Here, from just after those Sochi Games, and does this express the foundational Olympic values — friendship, excellence, respect — or what?

Screenshot 2016-02-29 17.06.13

Who knows, of course, what a Trump presidency — perish the thought — might really mean for the Olympics? Mr. Trump, for those keeping track of his Olympic connections, ran with the Olympic torch in New York on June 19, 2004.

Donald Trump running a leg of the 2004 Athens flame relay in New York // Getty Images

As part of the New York bid, Mr. Trump appeared in a 2002 film that played at least a small role in the USOC decision to pick New York — over San Francisco — as the 2012 U.S. entrant. Later, as the New York campaign rolled along, he was photographed signing a balance beam.

He also opted last summer on Twitter to weigh in on Boston’s failed 2024 effort:


Heading into the Super Tuesday series of primary elections, Mr. Trump may well be in position to win the Republican nomination.

But the odds of him winning the general election are about as likely as that 9/11 tale he tells in which “thousands and thousands of people” — in New Jersey, with a “heavy Arab population” — “were cheering as that building,” referring to the World Trade Center tower, “was coming down.” That never happened.

About as likely as his plan for a wall to go up between Mexico and the United States, and Mexico paying for it — as if, former Mexican president Vicente Fox saying, “I’m not going to pay for that fucking wall,” and offering this about Trump, among other things, “I mean, he reminds me of Hitler.”

Speaking of references to fascists, here is Trump himself favorably retweeting a post — from, as it turned out, a parody account — that included a quote widely attributed to Mussolini.


In the end, the odds of Mr. Trump winning are about as likely as the real-ness of another urban legend he has related, about Muslim extremists being killed by a World War I-era general with bullets that had been dipped in pig’s blood. That never happened.

There are many, many reasons not to vote for Mr. Trump. On the campaign trail, he has revealed himself to be a racist, a bully, a misogynist, a serial liar, someone who throws insults at the handicapped and the Pope and decries the press — and much, much more.

None of this seems to have made a significant imprint in certain precincts of the American electorate, where anger and discontent are manifest.

If you went to public high school — guilty — you come to understand, maybe even just by looking around each morning in home room, the delight in the American system: when you turn 18, and if you register, you get to vote. As the former LA Times columnist T.J. Simers used to love to say, these people live among you.

Even so, for presidential voting purposes, these are the real questions: how many morons are out there, and how many of those morons will actually vote?

The Onion, the satirical news site, put it this way in a story posted Tuesday, a report on a made-up 36-year-old delivery driver from Youngstown, Ohio: " 'I'm Trump All the Way,' Says Man Who Will Die from Mishandling Fireworks Months Before Election."

As Bill James, the father of sabermetrics, the empirical analysis of baseball, put it in a recent blog post, referring to Trump’s status as reality-TV star for the last 20 years and expertise at attracting media attention:

“Trump gets a grossly disproportionate share of the attention, and thus a disproportion share of the idiot vote.”

James also wrote:

“I don’t think that Trump can win, frankly, because I don’t think there are enough morons to elect him. A certain percentage of the American public is just morons; that’s the way it is.”

During this primary season, as James makes clear, the other Republican candidates are playing right into Trump’s hands. What Trump is doing is winning a plurality of a Republican electorate divided multiple ways — that is, at least until after Tuesday, there are still five guys in the race, one of whom, Dr. Ben Carson, has a less-than-zero chance of winning.

This fractionality is essential to understanding what’s going on, as James outlines:

“When you divide the public in two and then divide the voters in one of those halves among five candidates or more, a candidate can win by dominating the moron vote because it only takes about one-seventh of the total population to take the ‘lead’ under those circumstances. But when you’re talking about needing 51 percent of the whole population, rather than needing 30 percent of half of the population, you run out of morons. I hope we will; I hope Trump will lose because I hope that he runs out of morons to vote for him.”

President Obama may not be a big hit in the Olympic world, but he — and President Reagan, too — understood better than almost anyone in the past several decades what a presidential election is about.

It’s not fear, Mr. Trump’s calling card.

It’s hope.

That is the essence of the Olympic spirit, too, and it’s why the election this season of Mrs. Clinton — for all her debate-worthy flaws — is so important.

"Despite what you hear, we don’t need to make America great again — America hasn’t stopped being great. But we do need to make America whole again," Mrs. Clinton said Saturday in South Carolina, mocking Trump's campaign slogan, as the website The Hill reported.

"Instead of building walls, we need to be tearing down barriers. We need to show, by everything we do, that we really are in this together.”

Ten deep (sort of, maybe) thoughts


Not everything that happens is itself worth a stand-alone column, even on the space-aplenty internet.

To that end, some recent news nuggets:

-- U.S. Olympic athletes send letter asking for other Russian sports to be investigated. Reaction: 1. There’s obviously a huge difference between state-sponsored or -sanctioned doping, and what has gone on, and for sure absolutely is going on, here. (If you think there are zero U.S. athletes engaged in the use of performance-enhancing substances, please send me a bank draft for a bridge in Brooklyn I would be delighted to sell you.) 2. The First Amendment says you can say almost anything you want. Have at it. 3. The risk, of course, is that such a letter — in the international sphere — appears completely, thoroughly sanctimonious. Lance Armstrong? Marion Jones? BALCO? Major League Baseball and the steroid era (probably the primary reason baseball is not back in the Olympic Games)? 4. With Los Angeles bidding for 2024, with every IOC member’s vote at issue, does it ever work for Americans to assume a position of such seeming moral superiority?

-- Premise: doping in Russia is bad and something has to be done. Not just in Russia. Everywhere. Reaction: 1. Obviously. 2. Seriously. 3. Now -- who's going to pay to put together a worldwide system that can really be way more effective? Let's start with $25-30 million, enough to more or less double the World Anti-Doping Agency's annual budget to the ballpark of $50-55 million. Where's that coming from? If you are an international sports federation, you don't have that kind of scratch. 4. Not even combined, the federations don't have it. 5. Governments? In virtually every country but the United States, funding for sport is a federal government function. 6. The IOC?

-- LA 2024 drops plans for an Olympic village near downtown, says if it’s picked that UCLA dorms would serve as athlete housing and USC would play host to a media village. Reaction: 1. This saves LA 2024 lots of money and removes an element of uncertainty from the bid file. 2. The biggest knock on LA is that it has played host twice to the Summer Games, in 1932 and 1984. In 1984, athletes stayed in the dorms at UCLA and USC. 3. Sure, the dorms at UCLA are better than you would find at universities in Europe. 4. The trick is convincing the European-dominated International Olympic Committee that 2024 is not a been-there, done-that. Going back to UCLA elevates that risk and is, frankly, going to require a major sales job. 5. The housing at USC is going to be really nice. Like, really excellent. The university is in the midst of a huge construction project that promises a thorough gentrification in its near-downtown neighborhood. But no one cares about the media. Clarification: none of the IOC members do, at least enough to swing a vote one way or the other.

UCLA dorm life // photo LA24

-- LA 2024 gets a $2 billion stadium for the NFL Rams (and maybe another team). For free. Also, pretty much all major venues, and all hotels, are in place. And there’s a multibillion dollar-transit plan in the works that’s going to happen regardless of the Olympics. Reaction: 1. Is any city anywhere better-suited for the Summer Games? 2. Is the IOC ready — finally? — to embrace the Americans again? 3. If IOC president Thomas Bach really wants Agenda 2020 to be relevant, here is a world city that, as he has put it, not only talks the talk but walks the walk. 4. This is the most-important host city election in the modern era, determining the course of future bids. If the IOC keeps rewarding stupidity and waste, you have to ask, seriously, about its direction.

The Rams might -- stress, might -- play temporarily at the Coliseum. This is an artist's rendering of the new Inglewood facility // HKS

-- A Danish survey, measuring and comparing national representation from 2013 to 2015 in international sport, declares the United States is far and away the most influential nation in the world. Reaction: 1. Is this a cosmic joke? 2. No U.S. Olympic bids for 2020 or 2022. Why? 3. Chicago 2016. 4. New York 2012. 5. That soccer World Cup bid for 2022? How'd that work out? 6. The United States is seriously lacking in top-level representation. Everyone in the Olympic world knows this. You've got the newly elected head of the International Tennis Federation, and one member of the IOC executive board -- and a handful of others who are, say, technical directors or even a secretary general. Because of the way IOC rules work, the chairman of the U.S. Olympic Committee board of directors, Larry Probst, is hugely unlikely to himself ever be on the IOC board. 7. The survey methodology: "The data behind the index consists of a total of 1673 positions across 120 international federations. Each position is weighed between 1 and 10 based on the level of sports political power. As an example, the president of the IOC scores 10, whereas a board member in a non-Olympic European federation receives the minimum score of 1." 8. There's an enormous difference between quantity of influence, which this survey purports to measure, and quality. To reiterate, see No. 3 and 4, which is why the USOC, with Probst and chief executive Scott Blackmun in particular, has spent the past six years rebuilding relationships internationally, including the resolution of a revenue-sharing deal with the IOC that had made it all but impossible for the U.S. to consider a bid.

-- Voters in Iowa due to caucus in the next few days, followed by balloting in New Hampshire, and we're off to the races. Reaction: 1. If you want the Olympic Games back in the United States in 2024, you want Hillary Clinton to win in November. 2. Say what? 3. Yep. 4. You really think that Donald Trump, who advocates walls and bans, is remotely on the same page as the Olympic spirit? 5. Hillary Clinton, when she was senator from New York, went to Singapore in 2005 to lobby for New York City’s 2012 bid. In 1996, President and Mrs. Clinton led the U.S. delegation to the Atlanta Games, and Bill Clinton formally opened those Olympics. In 1994, Hillary Clinton led the U.S. delegation to the Winter Games in Lillehammer, Norway. 6. Bill and Hillary Clinton have a longstanding relationship with LA 2024 bid chairman Casey Wasserman.

From February 1994: First Lady Hillary Clinton, right, and daughter Chelsea at the Lillehammer Games' opening ceremony // Getty Images

-- Five days in Cuba for the first Olympic sports event there since President Obama’s announcement of a new normal between the U.S. and the island nation. Reaction: 1. You can see how Havana was once lovely. 2. Now it’s just mostly crumbling. Dozens, hundreds, maybe thousands of concrete buildings are literally falling apart in the salt air. 3. You want potholes? You have maybe never seen roads so torn-up. It’s a wonder all those classic cars don’t fall into some of these potholes, which resemble nothing so much as sinkholes, never to plow forward again. 4. Big cars with fins are awesome. No seat belts — not so much. 5. My room at the Hotel Nacional was once the site of a mafia meeting. A plaque on the wall said so. 6. Frank Sinatra once stayed in the room next door. Another plaque. 7. If you get the chance, go to Havana now, before the flood of Americans — and all the corporate investment dollars — show up. It’s incredible in 2016 to go someplace and find no McDonald’s, no Starbucks, no Walmart. Not saying those brands are the zenith of American culture. But, you know, they're almost everywhere. Not Cuba. 8. It rained cats and dogs one night and seawater washed up nearly five blocks inland. Cuba is rich with potential but the infrastructure needs — the basics — are almost staggering: water, sewage, electricity, telephone, internet, roads, bridges and more. 9. U.S. mobile phones work pretty much everywhere in the world now. Not Cuba.

Not-uncommon Havana street scene

George Washington slept here? No, Frank Sinatra

Cuba's Alberto Juantorena // Getty Images

-- Alberto Juantorena, the track and field legend (gold medals, Montreal 1976, 400 and 800 meters), has for years now been a senior figure in Cuban sport. As of last August, he is also one of four vice presidents of track's international governing body, the IAAF, now headed by Sebastian Coe. (Historical footnote: it was Coe who, in 1979, broke Juantorena's world record in the 800, lowering it from 1:43.44 to 1:42.33. David Rudisha of Kenya now owns the record, 1:40.91, set at the London 2012 Games.) Two events in the next few weeks require Juantorena to pass through U.S. customs, one a meeting in Puerto Rico of what's called NACAC, an area track and field group, the other the indoor world championships in mid-March in Portland, Oregon. Juantorena has been granted one (1) visa by the U.S. authorities. That's good for one entry, not two. Reaction: 1. Someone in the U.S. government has to fix this. 2. And, like, immediately. 3. Juantorena or Antonio Castro, one of Fidel's sons, an activist in seeking the return of baseball to the Games, figure to be in the mix when the IOC gets around to naming a new member from Cuba. 4. Nothing will destroy the LA 2024 bid faster than word that it is difficult -- still, 14-plus years after 9/11 -- to get into the United States.

Nick Symmonds at last June's US championships in Eugene, Oregon // Getty Images

-- Run Gum, owned in part by U.S. 800-meter runner Nick Symmonds, files suit against the U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Track & Field, alleging an antitrust claim in connection with logo and uniform advertising rules at the U.S. Olympic Trials. Reaction: 1. Run Gum is a great product. The new cinnamon flavor is excellent. Recommendation: the gum is also great for people with migraines for whom caffeine is, as doctors like to say, medically indicated. Take it from someone who knows. 2. Why, though, the headache of a lawsuit? 3. The antitrust issues are nominally interesting but in the sphere of the Olympics the IOC's rules and, as well, the 1978 Ted Stevens Amateur Sports Act almost always control. 4. So why a lawsuit? You file lawsuits when a) you profoundly disagree about something, b) you negotiate but can't reach agreement and/or or c) maybe you're just looking for publicity. 5. USATF, under the direction of chief executive Max Siegel, has made tremendous efforts in recent months to not only reduce friction at all levels but to actively promote collegiality. The annual meeting in December was all but a love-fest. Last September, USATF and its athletes advisory council agreed on a revenue distribution plan that will deliver $9 million in cash to athletes over the coming five years. 6. It's all good to make a living at track and field. Every athlete should be able to do so. That's not the issue. 7. Again: it's why a lawsuit and what's the motive? Symmonds, asked about that Thursday, said with a laugh,"I think Nick Symmonds going on a date with Paris Hilton -- that's a publicity play," adding, "Engaging in litigation -- engaging in litigation with the people putting on the freaking Olympic Trials that I have to compete at -- all that pressure on my shoulders, why would I want to do that, unless I care about the sport?" 8. No question Symmonds cares about the sport. Even so, whatever disagreement you might have, you couldn't talk it out? It's January. The Trials run July 1-10. That's more or less six months away. 9. Symmonds, asked whether there had been an in-person meeting or extensive negotiation on the issue before the filing of the case, said, no. He said he had sought via email only to "engage in dialogue" with Siegel and with USOC marketing guy Chester Wheeler but that was "months ago." He asserted, "The goal is to level the playing field. Whether that's done through [pre-trial] resolution or ultimately to trial, I’m not sure. I just know it seems so unfair that only apparel manufacturers, only registered apparel manufacturers, are allowed to bid on that space. It just seems so grossly unfair. We are just trying to level the playing field." At the same time, he said, referring to litigation, "This option allows me to stay in Seattle and focus on training and and focus on making my third Olympic team, and allows lawyers to have that conversation for me. That's a conversation I don't have the time or energy or resources to have. I know my limitations. I'm not equipped to have that conversation." 9. It's intriguing that the case includes the same lawyers that pursued the O'Bannon antitrust matter against the NCAA. Because you're going for scorched-earth or because you're trying to reach a just result? 10. Symmonds likes to say that he is all for advancing athlete interests. Taking him at face value, because he assuredly has great passion about a great many things, it's also the case that lawsuits cost money. This particular lawsuit asks for triple damages and attorney's fees. As for damages -- who would that benefit? As for attorney's fees -- same question. In the meantime, the dollars it's going to take to defend this case -- whose pocket, ultimately, is that money going to come out of? Big-time lawyers don't come cheap. Try $600 an hour, and up. If you were on the USATF athletes' board, wouldn't you want to ask about that element -- in the guise of finding out who, ultimately, is being served?

-- Kuwait appeals court acquits Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahad al-Sabah of charges, overturning six-month jail sentence. The sheikh is a major powerbroker in Olympic and FIFA circles. Reaction: 1. What's going on in Kuwait, with various twists and turns, can all be tied to friction between Sheikh Ahmad and the Kuwaiti sports minister, Sheikh Salman al-Sabah. Sheikh Salman ran in 2014 for the presidency of the international shooting federation. He lost. 2. Never bet against Sheikh Ahmad.

Toronto out, is U.S. in for 2024?

The 24/7 Olympic news cycle is consumed right now, and understandably, with security issues for the forthcoming Winter Games in Sochi. Then, too, there are the construction woes over the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, where the International Olympic Committee president, Thomas Bach, is paying a visit this week. You had to be tuned in very, very carefully to hear the bolt that came Monday from Canada — even though it carries huge implications not just for the United States but for the race for the 2024 Summer Olympics.

Toronto will not bid for the 2024 Games, its chance of winning “next to none,” councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam told the city’s economic development committee.

Without Toronto in the race, the coast would now seem to be clear for a U.S. bid.

Meanwhile, in a development that absolutely should raise screaming alarms that ought to go viral at IOC headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, not even one person showed up Monday at Toronto City Hall to try to persuade the economic development committee to support a 2024 bid.

This from a city that is due to stage the 2015 Pan-American Games. Such a regional event typically is a precursor to an Olympic campaign.

Toronto bid for the 2008 Games, finishing second, behind Beijing. It tried for 1996 as well, coming in behind Atlanta and Athens.

Vancouver, of course, played host to the 2010 Winter Games. Calgary staged the 1988 Winter Games, Montreal the 1976 Summer Olympics.

The Toronto move Monday follows rejections last year by voters in Munich and St. Moritz, Switzerland, of 2022 Winter Games bids. In early 2012, Rome dropped out of bidding for the 2020 Summer Games. Common threads: financial worries and unfavorable perceptions of the IOC itself.

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford said a possible Olympic bid could end up costing $45 million. That figure would almost assuredly be low, given what Istanbul and Tokyo are believed to have spent on the 2020 campaign, won by Tokyo in September. Madrid, a third entry for 2020, spent far less.

The U.S. Olympic Committee is currently going through a roster of potential cities — San Francisco and Los Angeles are believed to be among leading possibilities — with an eye toward announcing later this year whether it is, in fact, going to jump in to the 2024 campaign.

Other possibilities that have been discussed for 2024: Paris; Rome; Doha, Qatar; and a South African candidate.

There are two schools of thought about an American entry for 2024.

— One, Bach and the IOC want the U.S. not only to bid but to win.

The rationale: it’s time.

The U.S. has not held a Summer Games since 1996. The U.S. provides significant financial underpinning to the movement, including but not limited to NBC’s $4.38 billion investment in televising the Games to an American audience through 2020. The USOC and IOC have had their differences over the years, including over certain revenue and marketing shares, but those differences have now been patched up.

USOC chairman Larry Probst, now an IOC member, and chief executive Scott Blackmun have for the past four years assiduously worked hard at the relationship business so key to winning IOC votes. Finally, Bach was elected IOC president last September, replacing Jacques Rogge of Belgium, who served 12 years; Bach understands the import of having a U.S. Games at the earliest opportunity.

— Two, Bach and the IOC for sure want the U.S. to bid. Any American city automatically would make the 2024 race better. But does the IOC really, truly want the Americans to win?

This is the gut question. This is what the USOC is trying to figure out. Because the USOC gets in on one condition only — it expects victory.

Nothing in life is certain. Olympic bid races are by definition unpredictable. But the USOC can not afford another debacle like New York 2012 or Chicago 2016.

Simply put, from an American perspective, for 2024 the U.S. must win.

And, for as much progress as Probst and Blackmun have made over the years, and for all the right signals that are being sent, it’s still a hugely difficult call and the environment is yet enormously layered and complex.

Here, for instance, is one constructive signal:

In 2015, the 204-member Assn. of National Olympic Committees, led by the influential Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahad al-Sabah of Kuwait, is due to hold its annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

Why Washington? Among other reasons, to prove to the three or four dozen IOC members expected to attend that entry in and out of the United States, and not just the United States but the capital itself, can be effected easily and graciously — always a stumbling block to any U.S. bid.

There is yet a ways to go. In recent weeks, two high-profile Olympic visitors have flown into the United States. Both, at very different airports, waited in long, long lines at passport control.

Any American bid, meanwhile, is bound to face an array of lingering issues.

The United States right now has about 450 people giving of their time and energy worldwide in the Olympic movement. Numbers-wise, that’s huge — maybe more than any other country anywhere. The challenge is that for all those numbers, for all that energy, the United States is still struggling to find influence that matters.

The U.S. now counts zero — repeat, zero — presidents of Olympics international sports federations.

On another front, the U.S. was recently awarded the international volleyball FIVB women’s Grand Prix in 2015, in Omaha, Nebraska. Next year, too, Houston will play host to the international weightlifting federation championships.

The USOC is working to attract more such events. But there’s sound reason there’s a perception the U.S. has not done its part in putting on such key championships. Outside of the Olympic Games in Los Angeles in 1984 and Atlanta in 1996, that Omaha Grand Prix will be the very first major FIVB event the United States has ever staged.

Another perception is that Olympic sport in the United States is an every-two-year kind-of deal — with the rest of the time Americans seeming to care mostly about the four professional sports leagues. In Europe, by contrast, you can see all manner of Olympic sports on TV seemingly every day of the week.

Then there is the political challenge.

Why, again, is that 2015 meeting in Washington?

Perhaps to show the rest of the world strong national support is, indeed, possible.

The American Olympic system is set up differently than everywhere else. Around the world, Olympic sport is largely run by — and funded by — each country's national government. In the United States, by formal act of Congress, the USOC must be self-supporting — not a dime from the federal government.

This has led some to believe there is little interest in Washington in Olympic sport. Compounding this perception in recent weeks: President Obama’s decision to send to Sochi a delegation that includes no senior political figures but does include Billie Jean King, in a pointed commentary obviously aimed at Russia’s law on gay “propaganda” purportedly designed to protect minors.

In the IOC, memories can run long. Every single vote counts.

Certainly, it is well-remembered that President Obama lobbied the IOC on behalf of Chicago’s 2016 bid. It is also remembered that his security detail kept the IOC members waiting.

The IOC will vote for the 2024 site in 2017. By then, President Obama will be out of office.

Just to play politics, Olympic and U.S. presidential, for a moment: When she was First Lady, Hillary Clinton, the presumed Democratic frontrunner for 2016, led the U.S. delegation to the 1994 Lillehammer Games. President and Mrs. Clinton led the U.S. delegation to the Atlanta Games in 1996.

The USOC — obviously — would never, ever bring up such a possibility. But anyone reading Time magazine this week — with the cover story, “Can Anyone Stop Hilary?” — can play simple deduction.

At any rate, the IOC, in a key part of the bid process, demands a financial guarantee. In virtually every other country, the national government steps up to provide that guarantee. In essence, that makes the bid — from wherever it is — a de facto national bid. The American system of federalism makes such a guarantee impossible.

A Los Angeles or San Francisco bid, as an example, would have to be guaranteed by the respective city and then, too, by the state of California — not by the federal government. Same goes for any city in any state.

That immediately positions the American candidate differently from the others in any Olympic bid campaign.

Chicago and New York sought different options to meet the guarantee.

The IOC was different then — voting in 2009 against Chicago (Rio won) and in 2005 away from New York (London won).

It is still three long years until 2017. Will it be different enough by then for an American city, whatever that city might be?

The hard part is trying to guess this year what the world is going to be like in 2017.

Truly, we don’t even know yet what it’s going to be like by February 23. That’s the day the Sochi Games come to an end. By then, we will all know then a good deal more about the world we live in.