Patrick Sandusky

On Mr. Trump and double standards: let's all chillax


Everybody: chillax.

And while you’re at it, the time has come for everybody — this means you, you and especially you — to start thinking, and hard, about why it is that there’s such an obvious, ridiculous and totally unfair double standard when it comes to evaluating American bids for events such as the Olympics and soccer’s World Cup.

In the aftermath of President Donald J. Trump’s executive order on Friday imposing travel restrictions on certain countries, you might have thought — especially reading Twitter and the mainstream media Kool-Aid — that the freaking sky was falling.

The Los Angeles 2024 Summer Games bid: imperiled if not dead.

The notion of an American bid for the 2026 soccer World Cup: wounded, maybe fatally.

These assertions betray a wild miscalculation if not a fundamental misunderstanding of what’s at issue.

Moreover: a fevered rush to judgment never serves anyone or anything.

Deep breath.

First things first: the International Olympic Committee vote on the 2024 race isn’t until September 13 in Lima, Peru. Paris and Budapest are also in the race. Eight months from now is an eternity.

To speculate now, in January, about what might happen in September because of what Mr. Trump did in January is pointless.

Let’s all remember that our French friends have their own national elections in the spring. If Marine le Pen wins, will there be similar freak-out? If François Fillon wins, will the French trade unions go berserk and the threat of trade union uprisings threaten a Paris 2024 candidacy? Look, will Mr. Fillon even stay in the race? He has said in recent days he would drop out if he were criminally investigated over allegations, much reported on in the French press, that his wife was paid for parliamentary work she did not do.

Let’s say Madame le Pen wins. Just for the hypothetical. Is that the reason to vote up or down on Paris?

Or Viktor Orban, the populist prime minister of Hungary. He has said, “We have to change and make Europe great again.” That verbiage sounds — vaguely familiar. Does that make him the devil? Is he the reason a Budapest bid ought to soar or go down in flames?

If not — why is Mr. Trump being held to a different, and entirely unfair, double standard?

Here are Mr. Trump's words from his January 20 inauguration:

"We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world -- but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first," and that is an unchallengeable truth.

He followed, "We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example for everyone to follow."

Let’s put the core of this right out there: you don’t have to like Mr. Trump. It does not matter whether you, you or especially you like the new president.

Repeat, and for emphasis: it does not matter.

Here is what matters:

Many of the members of the IOC like, or are inclined to like, Mr. Trump. Especially the IOC president, Thomas Bach. He likes Mr. Trump just fine.


While you are processing that, this:

Mr. Trump is the duly elected president of the United States. Advice: if he’s not your cup of tea, pour yourself a shot of bourbon or vodka or, if you prefer, pop a Xanax and proceed, quickly, through the five stages of grief and get to acceptance. Like, now.

Repeat: Donald J. Trump is the president of the United States. The American people elected him.

If you think Trump is the antichrist, you have a very short memory when it comes to Barack Obama in the international sports sphere, starting with that disaster of a show in Copenhagen in 2009 on behalf of Chicago’s 2016 Olympic bid followed by the delegations to Sochi 2014 led by gay athletes including the tennis star Billie Jean King and, in short order, the overreach of American executive power in the form of the FIFA indictments and an investigation by the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn of doping by Russian athletes, as if the United States would or should have any interest whatsoever in doping in Russia.

Imagine if the tables were turned and the Russian federal police and prosecutors launched a purportedly doping-related investigation there of American athletes on the grounds that, say, American high jumpers had violated Russian banking laws. That’s a laugh.

At any rate:

Do you like Vladimir Putin?

What about Xi Jinping?

Do you like the Russian system of government? What about the way they do things in China? Would you consider China, even as “open” as it is now, autocratic or not? For that matter, Russia?

Let’s have a little straw vote here: would you rather, all things considered, live in the United States, Russia or China?

The 2014 Winter Games went to Sochi, with Mr. Putin making a personal appearance before the voting members of the IOC at an assembly in Guatemala.

Beijing is the first city on Planet Earth that will play host to both the Summer Games, 2008, and the Winter Games, 2022.

So — pretty clear that being Mr. Putin or Mr. Xi is not a bid killer. Yet being Mr. Trump ought to be?

Let’s have another little vote.

Would you rather, all things considered, live in Russia, Qatar or the United States?

Soccer’s World Cup will be in Russia in 2018.

And in Qatar in 2022.

Back to the news — because the president, who campaigned on a promise to implement immigration reform, took a first step in so doing, the United States is suddenly a pariah?

That logic does not hold.

To be clear: the order suspends entry of all refugees to the United State for 120 days, bars Syrian refugees indefinitely and blocks entry into the country for 90 days for citizens of seven predominantly Muslim nations: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

This is why maybe just pausing before hitting that “send” button can sometimes be helpful, even for someone as thoughtful and well-intentioned as Mr. Peterkin, who is an IOC member from the Caribbean island of St. Lucia.

As the Washington Post reported Saturday, “Officials tried to reassure travelers and their families, pointing out that green-card holders in the United States will not be affected and noting that [homeland security officials are] allowed to grant waivers to those individuals and others deemed to not pose a security threat.”

The story adds, noting that details were for sure still being worked out and waivers would be “evaluated on a case-by-case basis,” and quoting an unnamed official, “If you’ve been living in the United States for 15 years and you own a business and your family is here, will you be granted a waiver? I’m assuming yes, but we are working that out.”

Wait — amid the tweets and corresponding rip jobs of the president of the United States, who was elected first and foremost to secure the safety and well-being of the people, and moved Friday to implement an initial, temporary strategy that he and his advisors deemed appropriate, this:

Where are the similarly heated complaints or observations about — just to pick one — France?

France has been under a “state of emergency” since the attacks in Paris in November 2015 that killed 130 people. Last month, the French parliament last month extended that state of emergency through July 2017, the interior minister warning ahead of the parliamentary vote that the country faced an “extremely high” risk of another attack.

Why not the same — or worse — outrage about a “state of emergency” now lasting almost two full years? In a western democracy?

Beyond which:

What does any of this, in theory, have to do with sport?

Answer: zero.

For those of you who would prefer to be idealists: isn’t the whole notion of the Olympics that sport can bring the world together, at least for 17 days?

“We are working closely with the administration to understand the new rules and how we best navigate them as it pertains to visiting athletes,” U.S. Olympic Committee spokesman Patrick Sandusky said Saturday. “We know they are supportive of the Olympic movement, and our bid, and believe we will have a good working relationship with them to ensure our success in hosting and attending events.”

Would you know that from reading, for instance, the New York Times?

In a story published Saturday, the Times’ Jere Longman, an excellent newsman and a longtime colleague, quotes the historian David Wallechinsky, also a longtime colleague, as saying that Mr. Trump is perceived in Olympic circles as “anti-Muslim, anti-woman and anti-Latino.”

Wallechinsky then goes on to say of the president’s executive order, “This is worse. I would consider it a blow to the Los Angeles bid — not fatal but a blow.”

Oh — as if Mr. Putin, who has waged a war in Chechnya, is considered pro-Muslim?

Or Qatar or China, just to pick two, are havens for women’s rights?

Admittedly the United States is imperfect. Any country is. But which country has maybe, just maybe, made more progress in advancing the rights of women in the workplace and other spheres — China, Russia, Qatar or the United States?

As far as the IOC goes:

Right now the United States has three IOC members. There’s Larry Probst. And then there are Anita DeFrantz and Angela Ruggiero, and she is the current chair of the athlete’s commission.

France, two members, both men: Guy Drut. Tony Estanguet.

Hungary: two men. Pal Schmitt. Daniel Gyurta.

Would it maybe have been relevant, journalistically speaking, if Longman had mentioned that Wallechinsky, who is assuredly one of the world’s foremost Olympic historians, is also a noted compiler of published lists such as “world’s worst dictators”? Maybe an informed guess how Wallechinsky views the new president?

Beyond which:

Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin had a phone call on Saturday — initiated by Mr. Putin, according to the White House. The call lasted for an hour. Mr. Trump also spoke Saturday with leaders of Australia, France, Germany and Japan.

Where was the major diplomatic blowback? Hello?

Just to name one: did the prime minister of the United Kingdom criticize Mr. Trump? Uh, no.

Sure, the president of France did. But who cares? He’s about as popular in France as an “I’m with Her” button would be a White House staff meeting, and everybody knows it.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed Saturday to meet with Mr. Trump during a visit to Washington on Feb. 10. The next Summer Games are in Tokyo, in 2020. So interesting.

Mr. Putin and Mr. Bach have — since the November election —already spoken by phone. Mr. Bach, since taking office in September 2013, has met with more than 100 heads of government of state — but did not meet with Mr. Obama. Odds are good that Mr. Trump will meet, and probably sooner than later, with Mr. Bach.

Mr. Bach is, of course, on good terms with Mr. Putin.

Mr. Bach knows full well that the Olympic movement needs the United States right now. That’s why he made a trip to California last year, to Silicon Valley. The movement needs the creativity of California to reach the youth audience that keeps the Olympics relevant and material. What is the IOC’s major initiative right now? The Olympic Channel. Who produces more influential content than anyone anywhere? California — Hollywood, Snapchat, Google, Facebook, Apple.

Mr. Bach knows, too, that with recent budget headaches — Rio, Sochi, London, Beijing — the IOC has to take a very, very considered look at a Los Angeles Games for 2024, where everything is mostly built, the city has a two-time legacy of producing big-time and inventive Games, the locals want the Olympics and absent colossal and unpredictable disaster the Games will make everyone involved, as Sean Penn’s character said in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, beaucoup dollares.

Mr. Bach knows, too, that this is LA’s time. Bid leader Casey Wasserman scared up $35 million to fund a 2024 bid. He can’t go back to those donors if the IOC turns LA down for ’24 and say, let’s try again. Won’t happen.

Beyond which:

Let’s say you’re Mr. Trump. Let’s say the IOC turns LA down the way it did Chicago for 2016 and New York for 2012.

It would state the obvious to note that the new president has shown he is plainly willing to play hardball.

Repeatedly, too, he has expressed interest in the tax scheme.

It is not hard to figure out, not difficult indeed, that if the IOC shoots down LA for 2024, there might well be an inclination at the White House to say, OK, let’s take a very hard look, right now, at the tax status of all the IOC’s American-based top-tier sponsors.

Everybody: chillax.

Olympic boycotts do not work

The Honorable Lindsey Graham Republican, South Carolina

United States Senate

290 Russell Senate Office Building

Washington, D.C. 20510-4001


Dear Sen. Graham:

Please allow me to start with a joke. I guess the 2024 Summer Games won't be in Charleston, South Carolina!

Now, sir, seriously:

Olympic boycotts only harm athletes. Please read your history books. Thank you.

Senator, you are flat-out wrong in suggesting in an interview with The Hill newspaper that the United States boycott the Sochi Olympics, which begin next Feb. 7 in southwestern Russia.

Your remarks show a profound misunderstanding in suggesting there is, or possibly could be, a connection between the Olympics and exerting any sort of political or diplomatic leverage on the Russian government in resolving the matter involving Edward Snowden, the former intelligence contractor on the run from the U.S. authorities.

Moreover, your remarks -- like a stone cast upon a pond -- may yet have a ripple effect in ways you did not intend. That's because, though you told NBC you "love" the Olympics it is a fair question how much you genuinely know, sir, about the actual Olympic movement -- not just the pageantry of the Games, what you see on television every two years, but its import and reach throughout our world, and the unique American role in it.

For if you did the idea of a boycott would never have passed your lips.

In the first place, it is somewhat amazing that you -- a Republican who served as co-chair of Arizona Sen. John McCain's 2008 presidential bid -- would reach back in history to an idea backed by a Democratic president, Jimmy Carter.

Even Sen. McCain knows an Olympic boycott does not make for sound policy. He told The Hill in that same story, “There’s many things we can do, but I think the experience of canceling the Olympics the last time around wasn’t very good."

Why isn't it sound policy? Because punishing hard-working, dedicated athletes -- who have nothing to do with global politics or diplomacy -- is not the means to any end. What did the 1980 Moscow boycott bring about? The retaliation of a 1984 boycott at the Los Angeles Games by the Soviets and some of their allies. And nothing more.

The irony of the 1980 boycott, of course, sparked by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, is that it is now the United States military that finds itself in Afghanistan. What -- should the Russians tell the American team not to come to Sochi in February? That wouldn't be very peaceable, would it?

Predictably, senator, your comments sparked outrage and disbelief Wednesday in Russia.

"America is in an extremely uncomfortable situation because of its surveillance of citizens of the whole world and this has undermined its reputation as the 'beacon of democracy,'" Sen. Ruslan Gattarov, chairman of the committee on information society in the Federation Council, told the wire service Ria Novosti.

He added, "In the international arena, when the United States can't use its army and navy to strike at a country directly, it starts issuing political statements that belittle itself."

One of Russia's three International Olympic Committee members, Shamil Tarpischev, told the R-Sport news agency that your remarks were "absolutely devoid of understanding of the sports movement as a whole."

Tarpischev, you should know, is close to Russian president Vladimir Putin. Tarpischev went on to say, "In reality, there is nothing to this apart from tabloid chatter and an effort to attract attention and show off. Sports encompasses the world itself.

"It is obvious that the senator is not a sportsman himself. In reality, he merely wants to aggravate this situation for some interests of his own."

What those interests might be remains entirely unclear. At the same time, the interests of the U.S. Olympic Committee, and American athletes, are entirely transparent -- and, senator, it's worth asking whether you considered any or all of them before you went public.

The USOC is in the midst of trying to line up support for a bid, probably for 2024. Your comments may well be dismissed by some in the international arena -- who better understand American politics -- as just one voice among 100 in the U.S. Senate. But others may not understand and you may have set back the USOC's efforts amid its three year-long effort to repair and rebuild relationships.

Meanwhile, the odds of the United States boycotting the 2014 Sochi Games are, absent something extraordinary between now and Feb. 7, minute.

When the hundreds of young men and women representing Team USA walk out on the evening of Feb. 7 into the opening ceremony, wouldn't you, senator, want them to receive a warm reception? If you "love" the Olympics, how do you believe your remarks helped advance that?

One final thought:

The security situation in the region is already tense -- earlier this month, a Chechen warlord urged militants to disrupt the Games, which he described as "satanic dances on the bones of our ancestors" -- and American athletes typically draw extra attention at any Olympics, all the more so since 9/11. The Boston Marathon bombing may or may not also figure into the Sochi security scenario. Why rile things up further, senator?

The last words here, senator, go to Patrick Sandusky, the USOC's chief communications officer. He issued a statement Wednesday that said, echoing the sentiments in this space, "Olympic boycotts do not work," adding, "Our boycott of the 1980 Olympic Games did not contribute to a successful resolution of the underlying conflict. It did, however, deprive hundreds of American athletes, all [of] whom had completely dedicated themselves to representing our nation at the Olympic Games, of the opportunity of a lifetime.

"It also deprived millions of Americans of the opportunity to take pride in the achievements of our athletes, and in their dedication and commitment, at a time when we needed it most."

Just, sir, as we do now.



San Diego likes to call itself "America's Finest City." The nature of is location means it is geographically and culturally isolated from the rest of the civilized world. To the west, there's the ocean. To the east, desert. To the north, the U.S. Marine base at Camp Pendleton provides a buffer between the sprawl of Orange County and Los Angeles. To the south, there's literally a fence between San Diego and Tijuana.

The weather in San Diego is almost perfect. The thinking -- sometimes not so much.

All that isolation can lead to a bad case, in hindsight, of -- seriously?

The U.S. Olympic Committee on Tuesday finally delivered the dose of common sense to San Diego Mayor Bob Filner that some junior staffer in the mayor's office should have brought -- and maybe even did bring -- long ago.

San Diego and Tijuana can not bid as one for the 2024 Summer Games. The International Olympic Committee charter simply does not allow for two countries to jointly host Summer Games.

"There's no opportunity for them to bid together," USOC spokesman Patrick Sandusky said.

There never was any such opportunity. They absolutely knew this in San Diego, or should have. How? Because a few years back, the possibility of a San Diego-Tijuana 2016 bid came up, and was tossed out for the very same reason.

Look, even the most cursory Google search turns up this:

In 2011, the IOC president, Jacques Rogge, was asked about the notion of North Korea co-hosting the Winter Games with South Korea. This was when the South Korean city of Pyeongchang was in the midst of bidding for the 2018 Winter Games.

Rogge's answer:

"The IOC awards the Games to one city in one country. As far as spreading venues between the two countries, that's something we do not consider.

"We're not going to change the Olympic Charter because otherwise you complicate the organization."

Filner is reportedly "undaunted."

"The true spirit of the Olympics embodies my conviction that we should vigorously pursue the dream of having two countries host the Olympics in the greatest bi-national region of the world," Associated Press quoted the mayor as saying upon being told that a San Diego-Tijuana bid would be dead on arrival.

"Rules and bylaws can be changed."

Mr. Mayor, please. You should be daunted. In this instance, rules and bylaws are not going to be changed, and especially not for the United States of America -- not after Chicago got booted in the first round for 2016, and after an in-person appearance by President Obama, and New York in the second for 2012.

That is not the way the IOC works.

Nor is the IOC likely to look with favor on a bid from, say, Tulsa, Oklahoma.

AP quoted a Tulsa city councilwoman, Karen Gilbert, as describing the prospect of Tulsa bidding for the Games as a "good kind of crazy."


"It's going out there and saying, 'We want the big stuff," Gilbert said. "It doesn't hurt to shoot for the stars, you know?"

Absolutely not, Ms. Gilbert.

But here's the deal:

The USOC, as it has made plain from the start, is going to put forward a 2024 bid under one condition.

The USOC is in for 2024 if, and only if, it believes it can win.

To be gentle, because there's no point in knocking the star-shooting-for nice folks, Tulsa can not win. So there's no point in perpetuating what would otherwise be a charade.

The Summer Games are the IOC's primary franchise. Tulsa is Oklahoma's second-largest city. The Games are well beyond the scope of a city Tulsa's size.

It has 13,000 hotel rooms; the USOC demands more than 40,000. The city would have to finance and build a suitable stadium. And so on.

The USOC is going to take its sweet time this year going through the list of potential American candidates. Why? Because it can. There's no rush. The 2020 election -- Istanbul, Madrid, Tokyo -- isn't until September, and the variables involved in assessing 2024 may shift depending on how that 2020 race plays out.

It's likely, however, that in the end -- just as in the beginning -- there will be three likely choices: San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles. And of those three, probably only two: San Francisco and New York.

The challenge for LA, which has played host to the 1932 and 1984 Games, is obvious -- why No. 3?

Never say never for other possibilities. Philadelphia, for instance, has a track stadium. Dallas has an array of facilities and tons of money.

But, again, if the USOC gets in, it's in to win. Tony Bennett left his heart in San Francisco. Stanford set a new record in 2012 in college fund-raising, becoming the first school to raise more than $1 billion in one year. The IOC is forever looking to appeal to young people and Silicon Valley is the tech capital of the world. You walk down the street in Palo Alto and you literally run into billionaires.

And -- you can't run a joint San Diego-Tijuana cross-border bid.

Some things are just super-obvious.


USOC's "stewardship": how you do it

It's a fact that the U.S. Olympic team won the overall medals count at both the 2012 London Games, with 104, and 2010 Vancouver Games, with 37. There is no federal sports ministry in the United States. Unlike virtually every other country in the world, the U.S. Olympic team is on its own. Congress set it up that way, in 1978. It said the USOC would have to raise all its own money. Then the USOC figures how to best dole it out.

A USOC report made public Tuesday underscores the keys to the Vancouver and London success: revenues and program spending are up, direct support to athletes increasingly significant and administrative expenses accounted for a mere eight percent of the budget.

The document, entitled "Stewardship Report," compiles a series of facts and figures available in other USOC materials -- say, for instance, multiple years of USOC tax filings -- and neatly wraps them into a colorful 24-page brochure.

U.S. diver David Boudia celebrates his gold-medal platform win in London // photo Getty Images

As USOC spokesman Patrick Sandusky said, "It's a way for us to continue to tell our story."

There's humility in calling it a "Stewardship Report," of course. That theme is consistent with the leadership of chief executive Scott Blackmun and board chairman Larry Probst, who have stressed the so-called Olympic values and organizational goals over any cult of personality.

In its graphs and bar charts, all markedly filled with upward trends, the report also highlights the stability and international outreach efforts that Blackmun and Probst have brought to the USOC, including the resolution last year of a longstanding revenue dispute with the International Olympic Committee over certain television and marketing rights.

That has opened the door to a potential 2024 Summer or 2026 Winter Games bid from the United States, most likely 2024.

It must be noted that the USOC issued this report for its own reasons: it's essentially a one-stop document.

And though the USOC certainly did not intend to raise this question, it's only reasonable: one might wonder why, when there has been so much focus on the USOC from so many quarters over so many years, a considerable amount of that focus critical, some of that criticism on the mark but some of it fantastically misguided, other national Olympic committees aren't, in the interest of transparency, producing the same or a similar report?

Why nothing like it from, say, Germany? France? Britain? Better yet, Russia? Or China?

Indeed, why isn't it best-practice that every Olympic committee, or at least every national Olympic committee of consequence of the more than 200 worldwide, not only be obliged to produce such a report but also -- just like the USOC -- make it public?

In Olympic jargon, a four-year cycle is called a quadrennium, or quad. Over the 2009-12 quad, USOC revenues totaled $733 million, against expenditures of $675 million.

Administrative costs: $53 million, or eight percent.

Nearly $568 million, or 84 percent, went to U.S. athletes and national governing bodies through direct support and programming, according to the report.

Of that roughly $568 million, $218 million, or about 38 percent, was direct support -- meaning cash grants or benefits such as health insurance, medical services or tuition.

Another $274 million, about 48 percent, went for what the USOC calls "sport programming" -- high-performance support programs as well as funding for its Paralympic efforts and three training centers. Those centers are located in Colorado Springs, Colo.; Chula Vista, Calif.; and Lake Placid, N.Y.

The balance, $76 million, roughly 13 percent, was spent on programs such as international relations, communications and other initiatives.

The report notes that direct athlete funding nearly doubled over the 2009-12 quad, to $71.3 million, from the 2001-04 quad, when it was $38.2 million. Support to national governing bodies, which had been $144.7 million in the 2001-04 quad, dipped to $134.7 million in 05-08 but climbed back to $146.3 million in 09-12.

Obviously, this funding produced results in Vancouver and London. It also has drawn critics. Here's why:

The USOC now divides sports into three categories -- foundation, medal-opportunity and development.

"Foundation" sports are those such as track and field, swimming and skiing. These sports are defined as those with a tradition of winning multiple medals; they have a strong sports infrastructure and a development pipeline.

If you are an athlete in one of these sports, as the report notes, "direct support is strategically allocated to give the number of American athletes the opportunity to reach the podium."

In London, the swim team won 31 medals, the track team 29. In Vancouver, the ski team won 21 of the 37.

"Medal-opportunity" sports are those such as diving, archery and boxing. In London, all three came up big -- diving for sure, including David Boudia's platform gold, and even boxing, in which U.S. women won medals. In Sochi next February, biathlon has been targeted as a medal opportunity even though the U.S. has never won an Olympic medal in the sport; Tim Burke of Paul Smiths, N.Y., won a silver in the 20-kilometer individual event at the 2013 world championships.

Then there are the "development" sports, which for now include the likes of canoe/kayak, weightlifting and table tennis. As the report notes, sports "with strong track records and international success receive a higher proportion of the available funds (75 percent in the 2009-2012 quadrennium). The more that U.S. athletes earn medals, the more resources the USOC is able to generate."

Which of course begs the question: if you don't have the money to win in ping-pong, how are you supposed to win in ping-pong to beat the Chinese, so you can get more money from the USOC to win in ping-pong?

Switching gears, the report notes the obvious revenue point -- that broadcast rights make up the largest chunk, 37 percent, $272 million, of the $733 million.

Domestic sponsors and licensed merchandise come next, at $183 million, 25 percent.

Worldwide sponsors rank third, at $124 million, 17 percent, with everything else in single-digit percentages.

What's also abundantly clear is the largely untapped revenue stream that awaits the USOC, if it could ever figure out how -- major gifts account for a mere 4 percent, just $32 million.

A Sports Business Journal report Monday said the USOC plans to create a new foundation with the aim of raising $35 million in the coming years, Blackmun saying in the story he intends to spend half his time this year on the effort.

Building the foundation and identifying a potential 2024 bid city are his two top priorities, Blackmun also said in that story.