Pat Ryan

What we have here is a bait-and-switch

Rule No. 1 of politics is look after yourself. Thus the mayor of Boston and the governor of Massachusetts have to be ever-so-quietly tripping over themselves in a race to bring the execution hammer down, and hard, on Boston 2024. What we have here, friends, is a situation that is not good and is not going to get better. This space said so nearly two months ago in urging the relevant authorities to pull the bid. It’s actually worse now than then, and here’s why: Boston 2024 has devolved into a bait-and-switch, and if all involved would just step back and see it for what it is, and has become, they would be well-advised — for their own self-preservation — to kill it now.

Before it truly gets ugly.

This means — especially — the U.S. Olympic Committee, too.

What we have here, bottom line, is one of the most inexplicable failures in recent Olympic memory of due diligence.

Forget for a moment about being the mayor of Boston or governor of Massachusetts. If you were the mayor, governor or president of the chamber of commerce representing one of the nearly three dozen cities that got looked at and passed over in the course of this WTF process, wouldn’t you start wondering about matters such as “accountability” and “oversight”? To whom might you direct your concerns?

Further, who now should have a high level of confidence in the USOC to run a bid process? Considering: Chicago 2016? New York 2012? Now this for 2024?

The USOC 2024 process

The USOC embarked in February 2013 on a path designed to gauge interest in the 2024 Summer Games. It sent out letters to the mayors of 35 cities.

In June 2014, the USOC cut that list to four: Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington.

Last Dec. 16, the four cities made presentations behind closed doors to the USOC board of directors.

On Jan. 8, the board picked Boston.

Ultimately, San Francisco and DC were never going to be viable, each for different reasons. The contest, really, got down to LA and Boston.

Boston was chosen, purportedly because of the walkability of many of its venues centered around its collection of colleges and universities; the strength of its leadership team, featuring businessman John Fish; and its “athlete-focused vision” for the Games.

USOC chief executive Scott Blackmun, in a news release, when Boston was picked: the USOC “couldn’t be more excited about the strong partnership we’ve established with the leadership team in Boston,” primarily Fish and Mayor Marty Walsh.

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

But wait.

What about the vocal, local opposition?

In Los Angeles, poll numbers in favor of the Games ran to the high 70s. Those kinds of numbers are virtually unheard-of in a democracy.

At that closed-door meeting in December, Walsh either did — or did not — say there was no “real opposition” in Boston.

It simply could not be the case that there was no opposition.

Poll numbers in favor of the Games have consistently run about or under 50 percent, dropping as low as into the 30s. Opposition has been organized and loud. When asked if public funds would be used, opposition to the Games skyrockets.

How could the USOC have so failed to vet Boston appropriately?

The Boston situation

Since the day Boston was selected, the situation has gone from bad to worse.

There has been misstep after misstep — public relations, organizational, political.

Some have been widely publicized, including the blunder by Angela Ruggiero, the U.S. hockey star and now International Olympic Committee member, who on Monday told the Boston city council, “Right now, the USOC is going through a similar vetting process to make sure Boston is the right city. So there’s no guarantee Boston will be the city in September,” when the IOC requires a formal submission of bids.

Strike one: wasn’t that vetting — in other terms, that due diligence — supposed to have been done by January, when the USOC made its choice?

Strike two: “no guarantee”? Yikes.

Some missteps have not been picked up the mainstream press, which typically is not keyed in to the dynamics of the Olympic bid scene. For instance, the world alpine ski championships were held in Vail, Colorado, in February, the biggest Olympic sports event in the United States in years. The IOC president himself, Thomas Bach, showed up. Did Fish?

And you wonder why in IOC spheres they look at us in the United States and ask why we can’t get our stuff together in these bid races? To date, and this is being gentle, in international circles the talk is this Boston bid has not particularly advanced American chances in 2024. Beyond that, what has happened in the United States has emboldened the likes of Paris, Hamburg, Rome and others.

Back to the particulars of the Boston bid itself.

It’s one thing in an Olympic campaign for there to be tweaks to a bid. But what is now the Boston 2024 bid bears almost no resemblance to the “plan” that got selected in January.

It's worth asking now whether there was actually a “plan.”

That is a huge, indeed fundamental if not unforgivable, part of the problem as it is now.

Instead of walkability, now there is discussion — purportedly spurred by the IOC’s Agenda 2020 would-be reform platform — of having events anywhere and everywhere. All over New England. Chicago, maybe. What about New York?

That’s not fair and that’s not right to the other three dozen cities who started out in this process; it’s especially not fair and not right to LA and, as well, to San Francisco and DC.

To use a distinctly American expression: that’s shifting the goal line once the game starts. Putting it another way — that’s not the American way to play ball.

Again, how could the USOC have made such a fundamental miscalculation?

As for Fish — he is apparently being relegated to the sidelines.

Rich Davey was not part of the bid team that presented to the USOC. Now he is the Boston 2024 chief executive.

Rich Davey, now the Boston 2024 CEO // Getty Images

Steve Pagliuca, said to be in line to be Boston 2024 chairman // Getty Images

Steve Pagliuca, the Bain Capital executive and co-owner of the Boston Celtics, was not part of the bid team. Now he is purportedly in line to become chairman of the Boston bid.

Again, you make a deal with a guy — Fish — and then five months later he seemingly has been told, thanks, dude, see you, and yet you expect everyone else from around the country who took part in the "process" to shrug and carry on as if it’s business as usual? Again, not right and not fair.

If from the get-go the USOC was determined to avoid a repeat of the New York 2012 and Chicago 2016 defeats, there’s this — bid leader Dan Doctoroff from the start was an integral part of the New York effort, bid chief Pat Ryan the same for Chicago. You can’t pin the New York or Chicago losses on either of them. Indeed, Doctoroff since March has been a member of the USOC board of directors; in 2010, the USOC gave Ryan a major award for his efforts on behalf of Chicago 2016.

Big picture:

The Boston “plan” has changed. Leadership has changed. If you think you’re buying an apple and five months later, it’s a lemon, what have you got? What word, or words, would you use to describe that situation?

The referendum conundrum

All this, and we still haven’t gotten to the most unfortunate part of this entire Boston 2024 deal.

The referendum.

No way, absolutely no way, can you expect to make this all about a referendum in November 2016 that aims toward an IOC vote the next summer for the 2024 winner.

Most likely, the referendum would pass. Fifty percent plus one is probably a no-brainer in a blue state with a Democratic candidate running for president of the United States.

Who cares?

It needs to pass by 70 percent. That’s the number the IOC wants to see to feel welcomed.

The fatal flaws here are multiple.

One, 70 percent amounts to very, very tricky math in a democratic (small-d) environment that’s not named “Los Angeles” and doesn’t enjoy the warm memories of the 1984 Olympics.

Two, if the USOC opts to stick with Boston, it guarantees all of us 14 months, from September 2015 until November 2016, of intensified, galvanized, polarized opposition to the bid. The USOC is going to be trying to run two campaigns simultaneously — one aimed at winning the referendum, the other aimed at wooing IOC members. Opponents, who have made plain they understand social media, are going to prove relentless.

If the referendum passes — be sure the opposition is hardly going to give up.

Does this sound like a winning recipe for inviting the IOC to town?

Three, Walsh has been all over the map with this. The day after Boston was chosen, he said, no referendum. Two weeks later, his office issued a statement saying he was “not in support of a referendum,” but adding, “Should the public decide to collect signatures for a referendum, that is a right of the people that the mayor fully supports.”

In March, Fish announced there would be a statewide referendum, saying the mayor along with Gov. Charlie Baker and the USOC were on board.

Now the USOC has committed itself to a strategy that is wholly dependent on the due diligence it should have rightfully done before making its choice.

Which, obviously, it could have avoided altogether by picking Los Angeles.

Disclaimer: I live in Los Angeles. This has nothing to do with what comes next.

You wonder why the USOC didn’t go the easy route — especially when the headlines this week are all about the new $250-million, privately financed, 22,000-seat soccer stadium that’s going to go up in LA at the site of the old Sports Arena, just steps away from the Coliseum, which is where the 1932 and 1984 track and field events (and ceremonies) were held, and where 2024 would have been staged, too.

That is, literally, walkability.

Who's involved with this new stadium? Magic Johnson, the Lakers icon and -- let's remember -- Dream Team 1992 Barcelona Games star. He's now a big-time LA businessman, among other things. Also: Mia Hamm, probably the best-known American female soccer player in history, with three Olympic medals, two gold.


Would there be a referendum now in LA? Who knows?

But so much stuff is getting done now in LA: that new MLS soccer stadium, the imminent arrival of at least one and probably two NFL teams, a $6 billion fundraising campaign at USC (already at $4 billion), even the New York Times touting Los Angeles as hipster central. Plus the biggest secret in LA: $40-billion in voter-approved transit investment to be rolled out over the next 20 years, adding 102 miles of rail, not road, and almost 100 new stations. Also, a 73-story hotel and office building going up downtown that will be the tallest building west of the Mississippi — directed by the very same gentleman, Y.H. Cho, who is in charge of the 2018 Winter Games in South Korea.

Plus the mayor, Eric Garcetti, is a political rock star.

Oh, and the weather.

Really. You just wonder.

The awkward position the USOC has perhaps put itself in now is ensuring that the only — the one and only — place in the entire United States that is guaranteed, absolutely guaranteed, to win a referendum big on the Olympics is Salt Lake City.

You want the Games in this country sometime soon-ish? Salt Lake City 2026. There you go.

The problem there is that the Winter Games simply are not the Summer Games. The Winter Games are great. But the Summer Games are the franchise.

To be clear about one thing: throughout these past several months, the USOC has not, repeat not, been in contact with LA. They have been in the business of giving Boston a chance.

But that time is now at a close.

The USOC’s board meeting is in late June in the Bay Area. For all concerned, it should be clear by then, if not before — like, now — that this charade of a Boston bid be put down.

Suggestions and alternatives

With all that in mind, here are some suggestions:

— The USOC has said the January vote for Boston was unanimous. Not really. The endorsement of Boston, when all was said and done, may have been unanimous. The vote was not. In the interests of transparency, make public the vote: who on the board as it was then constituted voted for Boston and who for LA. Make everyone available to explain why.

— Dump Boston 2024, at the latest by the June board meeting. Sooner, if possible. Back to rule No. 1 of politics: there are a lot of really smart people in a lot of interesting offices across the United States (and IOC headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, and beyond) who have yet to take a close look at this turmoil and who, if they did, would assuredly wonder how and why this got to where it is.

And some alternatives:

— Admit Boston was a mistake. Be humble. They like it around Lausanne and elsewhere when Americans admit to humility. Endure one bad week, PR-wise. Commit to LA for 2024 and 2028, too, because 2024, given the beating the American brand has already taken these past five months, might already be a loss-leader.

— Or simply pull out entirely of 2024. Remember, always: Paris lost by just four votes for 2012 to London, and the IOC likes repeat bidders. In contrast to the American way, the French are going about their 2024 process by building community and political support slowly but surely, cobbling together the needed coalition.

— Salt Lake 2026. After the fiasco that is the 2022 race, it could be a slam-dunk winner. Even after the biggest corruption scandal in Olympic history, the IOC just might be all-too-tempted 24 years later to come back to Utah. That, friends, is called irony.

A most excellent first year

The U.S. Olympic Committee's announcement Tuesday of the addition of five genuinely impressive new directors to its board caps a remarkable year. All five would seem to be incredibly constructive additions. They promise to bring not only breadth, depth, institutional experience and even ingenuity to the board. The newcomers include the likes of Robbie Bach, the former president of Microsoft's entertainment and devices division, as well as Dave Ogrean, who over 30 years has seemingly seen and done it all in American Olympic circles and is now executive director of USA Hockey.

That the USOC, which for most of its own 32-year history has been wracked by dissension and dysfunction, could identify and recruit five all-stars for its board is testament to -- hold on here, this is gotcha kind of stuff -- process and structure.

Don't be bored. Process and structure are the product of leadership.

And, in the persons of Larry Probst, the USOC chairman, and Scott Blackmun, the chief executive, the USOC can be said to have real leadership.

It's a year, more or less, since Blackmun took over the job -- that is, since Probst hired him.



Before the USOC board convenes Thursday in Redwood City, Calif., for the meeting at which the five new members will be formally approved, it's worth taking a moment to review the year that was.

And if you allow again for a slight elasticity in the calendar, there's a powerfully symbolic way to show how far things have come, and there's an easy way to explain how and why things have indeed come so far.

Scene one: It's Copenhagen, October 2009. Chicago has just gotten booted in the first round of voting for the 2016 Summer Games despite the personal plea to the International Olympic Committee by the president of the United States of America.

Scene two: The 21 Club in New York, earlier this month. The USOC awards its first Simon Award -- named for William E. Simon, a former USOC president -- to Dan Doctoroff, the head of the New York 2012 bid, and to Pat Ryan, head of the Chicago 2016 bid. Eminently deserved, and the delightful thing is that both would accept.

That, in large measure, is because of the current USOC leadership.

And here is the secret to that leadership:

Probst is not -- repeat, not -- an all-seeing, all-knowing, Oz-like chairman. He hired Blackmun to run the USOC and, in fact, Blackmun runs it.

That is, Probst and the board set policy. Day-to-day, Blackmun runs the place.

Because Probst allows him to act as a chief executive, Blackmun actually can get things get done. And what he has gotten done is truly impressive.

Here is a partial list of Blackmun's accomplishments this year. Again, this is not -- repeat, not -- an A-to-Z list of every accomplishment:

-- Major sponsor deals with Proctor & Gamble and BMW, and in this economic climate.

-- Repairing and recasting of relationships with national governing body officials.

-- Splitting sport performance into its two logical subsets, facilities and high-performance.

-- Driving long-term strategic vision. It's all there in the board minutes, which are posted online.

-- That the board minutes are online is evidence of the open, accessible and transparent culture the USOC is trying to foster. In the same way that Probst empowers Blackmun, Blackmun lets communications chief Pat Sandusky do his thing.

-- Repairing and reframing of the key relationship with NBC. Blackmun and Probst have forged a solid working relationship with NBC Universal Sports & Olympics chairman Dick Ebersol, who had been a strident USOC critic in late 2009 but appeared at the USOC assembly in September, 2010, to offer praise. Blackmun also has worked with NBC to jointly sell the banking category,  an unprecedented marketing partnership.

-- $18 million deal with the IOC for so-called "Games costs" that sets the table for negotiation and potential resolution of longstanding dispute over marketing and broadcasting revenue splits.

-- Low-key, JFK-esque "ask not what the movement can do for you but what you can do for the movement" approach to the IOC and, for that matter, to international relations.

Nearly once a month Probst or Blackmun has been traveling abroad, or both for that matter, and not just for the Olympic version of a drive-by. Probst hung out at the Assn. of National Olympic Committee meetings in Acapulco in October for a week. Blackmun -- despite having shoulder surgery immediately beforehand -- was there nearly as long.

For anyone's first year on the job, that list makes for a pretty good record of accomplishment.

At the USOC -- it's nothing short of a culture change, and downright historic.

And it's only the first year.

Oh, and by the way -- the U.S. team won a record 37 medals at the Vancouver Olympics this past February.

Bring on 2011.

Chicago 2016 - can a loss be a win?

CHICAGO -- Destyne Butler Jr. is a young boxer. As the intriguing new movie chronicling Chicago's unsuccessful bid for the 2016 Summer Games opens, the camera catches Destyne banging away in the gym and then saying, "It's all going to pay off in the long run, and I know I can make it." Maybe, in its way, that's the Chicago 2024 motto, too. Or Chicago 2028. Or Chicago 2032.

Not that anything like that, and for sure not a most unlikely 2020 bid, is the main point of the film.

It nonetheless remains an unavoidable subtext, and the documentary's recap of the 2016 race can't help but look ahead to what might be someday, with new takes from Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley and bid chief Pat Ryan, along with some logical thinking from U.S. Olympic Committee chief executive Scott Blackmun.

Indeed, Ryan says at one point, "I believe Chicago should bid again."

But, again, that's not the central point. Instead, it's this: Can a loss nonetheless be a win?

No one likes losing, and losing was particularly difficult in the case of Chicago 2016 because it was indisputably the most complete Olympic bid ever put forward by the United States. It featured a great technical plan based along the city's lakefront enhanced by unprecedented business and political support.

President Obama made a personal appeal as part of Chicago's presentation to the International Olympic Committee last Oct. 2 in Copenhagen. Yet Chicago got bounced in the first round, with only 18 votes, Rio de Janeiro winning in a landslide. "Shocked. I really was. Never anticipated it," Ryan says of the first-round exit.

It would be easy, of course, to make a documentary about a winning Olympic bid. The 44-minute Chicago film, produced by Mark Mitten, written and directed by Mitten and Jim Schmidt and due to air Saturday on Chicago's NBC affiliate, the one-year anniversary of the 2016 vote, is believed to be one of the very few on a losing campaign. It might even be a first -- insiders from losing bids generally not eager to re-visit that sort of thing on film. (Disclosure: I was among those interviewed for the movie. No idea if I made the final cut.)

The documentary -- here's a clip -- skirts the many controversies involving the IOC's complex relationship with the USOC that are widely believed to have played a key role in sinking Chicago's aspirations.

It's not that Mitten and Schmidt don't know about the controversies. Mitten was the bid's chief brand officer; he and Schmidt, a principal at Downtown Partners Chicago, worked on all the bid's campaign films. Some critics may thus declare the film, entitled Making Big Plans: The Story of Chicago's Olympic Dream, guilty of omission.

At the same time, it's not clear that much -- if anything -- would be gained by rehashing those conflicts, in particular the USOC's plan to launch its own television network. The USOC made that announcement in the summer of 2009 over ferocious IOC objections; ultimately, the USOC abandoned the project.

Besides, the film's focus is elsewhere:

"Chicago didn’t lose," Ryan says. "Rio won.  But Chicago won in so many ways."

If some will be tempted to say that's self-serving or just so much rationalization, consider:

The Chicago bid generated undeniable civic spirit; it positioned Chicago on the world stage; it also produced significant partnerships and real-world job and other benefits.

One example: The 2016 Fund for Chicago Neighborhoods, for example, used $2 million left over from the bid to attract $18 million in federal matching funds for job-training programs in South Side neighborhoods. Some 2,200 people stand to benefit.

Another: The bid branded Chicago, previously known around the world perhaps for Al Capone or Michael Jordan, in ways that arguably nothing else could. "We put Chicago on the global map, with all the publicity and all the competition -- it was worth it," Daley says.

If one day there is another Chicago bid, it will be under the direction of another mayor. Daley recently announced plans to leave office.

Ryan has made clear, too, that while he would be happy to advise and support another bid, someone else will be in charge.

As things stand now, there are only three cities in the United States that can legitimately aim to mount and then win a Summer Games bid: Los Angeles, New York and Chicago. The USOC has made it abundantly plain that no American bid will even be considered until a longstanding dispute with the IOC over the USOC's shares of broadcasting and marketing revenues is resolved.

There's no timetable for getting that done. So any bid talk  has to be considered hypothetical.

"If and when we do want to reconsider a bid, we are definitely going to want to be in a dialogue with the people of Chicago – a combination of the great leadership that they were able to put together, the great plan," Blackmun, who has been chief executive since January and played no part in the 2009 campaign, says in the movie, adding, "I think we definitely want to revisit that with Chicago at some point in the future."

Again, and for emphasis: Blackmun was not endorsing Chicago and he was not slyly suggesting the Americans are up to something for 2020. He was speaking in the hypothetical.

The film does, however, give voice to the obvious question:

"Should we bid again?" asks Scott Myers, the executive director of World Sport Chicago, another legacy of the bid, its youth sport-oriented organization.

"I think we should bid again," Bill Scherr, World Sport Chicago's president, answers.

"Chicago should bid again," Phil Enquist, an architect and key 2016 Games planner, says.

Lori Healey, the Chicago 2016 president, says, "Never say never, right?"

Ryan says the bid team "put our bid plan in a time capsule and it's there to be taken out by a future mayor and business community and community leaders. And it will be very timely because what was great about our bid was the physical beauty and lakefront and parks of the city, and that’s not going away.

"So when there is another bid, it will cost far less than our bid cost. And it could be eight years, 12 years, 16 years."

He also says, "The Olympic bid -- it was a great, great thing for Chicago," adding, "Some day Chicago will host the Olympics."

Maybe. It's like Destyne Butler Jr. also says: "I want to make history."

'Beyond Sport,' and the right thing to do

CHICAGO -- Far too often it is said overseas that the primary interest -- indeed, perhaps the only interest -- in the United States in the Olympic movement is money. That is, making as much money as possible off the Olympics.

The rest? The Olympic spirit and all that? Commitment to the values that underpin the Olympic ideal? Attention to the idea that sport can cut across social and political differences and move the world forward, bit by bit?

Those who would hold fast to the idea that it's only a dash for cash here in the States ought to have been part of the crowd Wednesday at the opening of what was called the 2010 "Beyond Sport" summit.

"Fellow agents of positive social change," Jordan's Prince Feisal Al Hussein, an International Olympic Committee member and the founder of an initiative called "Generations for Peace," said in beginning a speech that focused on "how we can get sport to effect great and lasting social change."

It's not treacly and it's not saccharine to say such things.  Just the opposite. Talking about such values and such goals -- and then doing something about it -- is what makes it all real.

That said, the point here Wednesday was not that world peace suddenly broke out. Of course not.

The point is that there are efforts underway to recognize the distinct role that sport, and the Olympic movement in particular, can play in effecting change.

"This is what the 'Beyond Sport' summit is all about -- getting the world to listen," the prince said from the lectern.

World Sport Chicago, the group created to promote the legacy of Chicago's unsuccessful 2016 bid, played a key role in organizing the event here, which runs through Thursday.

Again: Chicago is not now in the bid game. If Chicago ever again launches an Olympic bid, it will be many years down the line. Yet here were World Sport Chicago and the United States Olympic Committee, stepping up -- with no expectation of immediate pay-off from the IOC, maybe no bid-related pay-off ever.

It was just the right thing to do.

"We think it's important for Chicago, and for the United States, to host these international sports conferences and events," Bill Scherr, the president of World Sport Chicago, said in an interview, adding, "We think it connects us."

Scott Blackmun, the chief executive of the USOC, took part in the very first panel discussion on the agenda, an examination of "legacy delivery."

"Yes, we're doing a lot. No, we're not doing enough," Caryl Stern, the president and chief executive of UNICEF USA, said as part of that panel.

Added Tim Leiweke, the chief executive of AEG Worldwide, "We have to do more," noting that sports and music are "the only two entities that break through."

"A generation ago, this conference wouldn't happen," Blackmun said, noting the power of the stories of Olympic athletes to inspire not just young people but influence-makers on Capitol Hill.

Just last Saturday, at the conclusion of the USOC's annual assembly in Colorado Springs, Colo., Blackmun, asked about the way he and USOC board chairman Larry Probst have this year quietly but pointedly emphasized a commitment to relationship-building with international sports officials, said, "I think the 90-degree right turn is for us to be more engaged and become more active participants.

"That," he said, "means showing up."

Like at events such as Beyond Sport.

Among other provocative discussions on the schedule here:

What good can sports celebrities do -- what's possible and what's not?

How can sport provide opportunities for girls' and women's education?

Can sports programs help reduce youth violence? How?

"There could be no greater legacy to Chicago's Olympic bid than to commit to Chicago's young people… [and to explore] how sport can play a crucial role in the urban environment," Nick Keller, the founder of Beyond Sport, said Wednesday from the lectern.

Again, the point is not that answers were fully divined in the great ballroom of the Palmer House in Chicago's Loop.

It's the pursuit of those answers.

That is, the affirmation of some of the key values that animate the Olympic spirit between editions of the Games, among them "courage, boldness, tenacity, humanity," Keller said in asserting, "We want you to be moved … to forge the next set of connections … to use sport to address the next set of the world's great challenges."

"We all believe sport can bring youth away from and into very important things, away from crime, away from violence, and into academics, into sport, into character development," Pat Ryan, the head of the Chicago 2016 bid and chairman of World Sport Chicago, said in his address.

"Archimedes once said, 'Give me a place to stand, and I will move the earth,' " Prince Feisal said a moment or two later.

It was the "prerogative" of those in the room to do so, he said, then paused and corrected himself: "No, it's our duty."