Terrence Burns

Appreciating genuine greatness when it -- she -- is right in front of us

Appreciating genuine greatness when it -- she -- is right in front of us

LONDON — It can be difficult sometimes, living as we do in the here and now, to appreciate the gift of genuine greatness when it — more accurately, she — is right in front of us.

There are so many demands on our attention, so many cries that so-and-so or such-and-such is the next big thing, the coming huge star. We whipsaw from this to that and back to this again, mesmerized, tantalized, titillated by the paparazzi-hounded, TMZ-stylized comings and goings of the larger-than-life, the outlandish, the can-you-top-this, the freak show at the club at 3 in the morning or maybe was it 4, dude, I forget.

When we say we want our kids to grow up and be someone like Allyson Felix.

Where is the joy?


LAUSANNE, Switzerland — To use a favorite saying of Thomas Bach's, the International Olympic Committee president, the IOC’s policy-making executive board and Bach himself did a great job -- over three days of meetings that wrapped up Thursday -- of talking the talk.

Amid corruption and doping scandals in, respectively, soccer and track and field, the IOC board and president talked up the import of maintaining — if not restoring — the credibility of international sport.

IOC president Thomas Bach at this week's executive board meetings // photo IOC

There was celebration of the one-year anniversary of the ratification of Bach’s would-be reform plan, the 40-point Agenda 2020. The executive board heard at length from one of the world's prominent business professors, Didier Cossin, based at the Swiss institution IMD; he talked for nearly two hours about best practices and good governance. Bach himself wrote a newspaper-style op-ed that, without once mentioning the soccer and track governing bodies FIFA and the IAAF, described campaigns against the three primary challenges confronting world sport: betting and match fixing, doping and, finally, bribery and other corruption.

The board in session // photo IOC

The executive board at this week's get-together // photo IOC

All this is, to be sure, excellent talk.

But it totally, completely and fundamentally misses the point about why the IOC is being lumped in — right or wrong, fair or not — with FIFA and the IAAF in the minds of many around our globe, and why world sport, and in particular the Olympic movement, is facing a perhaps unexpected but potentially unprecedented challenge.

For 57 years, British writer David Miller has been covering the Olympic movement. Just before Thursday's wrap-up news conference, the IOC handed out a release that in print ran to three pages; it broke little new ground, if any, amid a lengthy recitation of governance and doping matters. Miller: "It's like a notice from the water board about drainage."

To be blunt: where is the joy?

Increasingly, voters and taxpayers in western democracies have turned against the IOC. Alone in the world of sport, it boasts as its raison d'être a message of tolerance, pluralism and more. But the IOC is failing, time and again, at conveying the inspiration and joy inherent in and provoked by seeing humankind, together, gathered in a real-time reminder of what can connect — not divide — us.

The latest: Hamburg’s bid for the 2024 Summer Games shot down on the last Sunday in November in a referendum.

This comes after the turbulent 2022 Winter Games campaign, which saw Beijing elected over Almaty, Kazakhstan, the only two survivors, after six European entries pulled out: Oslo; Stockholm; Davos/St. Moritz; Krakow; Munich; Lviv.

Beijing! Where the authorities this week had to issue a red-alert smog warning, photos showing the famed Bird’s Nest barely visible in the grey air. This after assurances that the 2008 Summer Games were going to make major headway in solving China’s pollution problem.

The grim view through the smog this week of the iconic Bird's Nest at Beijing's Olympic Park // Getty Images

Four cities remain in the 2024 hunt: Los Angeles, Rome, Budapest and Paris, in the order in which they will present going forward, according to lots drawn Wednesday at the lakefront Chateau de Vidy, the IOC headquarters.

That is, assuming all four make it to the IOC vote in the summer of 2017. There are no guarantees.

The problem, to be clear, is fear of Games costs and wariness — if not more — with the IOC, and the perception, again right or wrong, fair or not, of the IOC members as elitists and the IOC itself at the head of a system that seems rife with misconduct.

The prompt may be the $51-billion figure associated with the 2014 Sochi Games. It might be the revelations of a culture of deep-seated corruption within FIFA. It is perhaps the spotlight on state-sponsored doping in Russia, with the seeming promise of yet more inquiry into the term of the immediate IAAF past president, Lamine Diack of Senegal, due to be made public in just weeks.

It’s time now for the IOC, again referring to Bach’s dictum, to walk the walk.

It needs not only to recognize but to act upon this fundamental truth:

The conversation needs to move away from money.

It’s that simple and, at the same time, that complex.

The IOC is in business, sure. But it is not, repeat not, fundamentally a business. It is not pushing baby food, chocolate and more like Nestlé; headquartered just down Lake Geneva in Vevey, Switzerland. It is not a bank like UBS, based in Zurich and Basel.

Instead, the IOC is in the business of promoting a set of values — friendship, respect, excellence, all of which add up to hope and dreams — and a universal ideal, the notion of a better world through sport.

What is missing right now, and has been, as evidenced by the 2022 pull-outs and the 2024 Hamburg defeat amid the promotion and implementation of the Agenda 2020 plan, is any real and sustained focus from the IOC in its communication on the basics:

Friendship. Excellence. Respect. Hope and dreams.

For any who might doubt, Bach is super-smart and -sophisticated. He is good at both broad scope and detail. He is an accomplished public speaker, and in English, a second language.

In his op-ed, he closed this way:

“As Nelson Mandela said: ‘Sport has the power to change the world.’ Yes, these are difficult times for sport. But yes, it is also an opportunity to renew the trust in this power of sport to change the world for the better.”

How? Not once in his opinion piece did the words “values” come up. Nor, in that context, supposedly at the heart of everything the IOC does, did “respect,” “friendship,” “excellence,” “hope” or “dreams.”

Thursday's three-page news release? Same. Not a mention in the relevant context.

You wonder why there’s a disconnect?

As the longtime Olympic bid strategist Terrence Burns outlined in a post Wednesday to his blog:

“Not enough people in Hamburg were sufficiently inspired by the Olympic brand.”

He continued:

“To me, the Olympic brand is and has always been about hope. The stated vision of the Olympic movement is ‘building a better world through sport.’ I’ll buy that. But what is the emotional payoff? What is the IOC’s singularly unique promise that no other brand can deliver?

“Again, I think it is hope. Hope inspires human beings to dream with no limitations.

“Hope is the emotional output of the Olympic brand. The Games, and more importantly the athletes, give us hope that something better resides deep inside of us and, if only for 17 days every four years, we are capable of undeniable grace. Nothing other than perhaps theology offers humankind a similar promise through the demonstration of human achievement.

“I am under no illusion that the IOC will suddenly revisit its core values in favor of the word ‘hope.’ What I am suggesting is that by ignoring the concept of hope, we are missing something powerful that is needed right now.”

To be clear, the IOC also cannot and should not adopt the position that it is above the discussion of the funds needed to stage a 21st-century Olympics.

It can and should do a better job of explaining the basic difference between an operating budget on the one hand and, on the other, whatever costs are associated with construction or infrastructure. The latter traditionally is the source of significant cost overrun.

That explanation is simply not that difficult.

According to figures made public Wednesday, the Tokyo 2020 plan is now credited with $2.9 billion in venue-related cost savings, purportedly due to Agenda 2020. It's worth asking: why were the members were so gung-ho for Tokyo in the first instance when, by contrast, rival Madrid’s entire capital budget for 2020 totaled $1.9 billion?

The Rio 2016 budget is now under intense pressure, organizers looking to cut some $530 million from the operating budget of roughly $1.9 billion, about 30 percent. Brazil is confronting a slew of challenges: financial (the country is in its worst recession in 80 years), political (president Dilma Rousseff is facing impeachment proceedings) and more (a kickback scandal centered on the energy giant Petrobas).

Bach said Thursday, referring to Rio 2016, "We are sure history will talk ... like history talks about Barcelona '92 in this respect," one of the greatest of Summer Games. At the same time, he said about Rio, "We know the situation there is not easy."

To paraphrase David Byrne and the Talking Heads: how did we get here?

This question is hardly unreasonable.

Nor -- let's be clear -- is any financially related inquiry in and around the Games.

The problem, big picture, is that the money discussion has all but hijacked any other discussion — in particular, the good the movement can and does do and the benefits that can come with staging an edition of the Olympics.

When Boston went out earlier this year, it was all because, purportedly, the mayor didn’t want to sign the host city contract, citing the worry of cost overruns. This after a vocal “no” campaign from locals worried about, again, the risk and reward of the “value proposition” that might or might not have been a Boston 2024 Games.

Los Angeles has since replaced Boston as the U.S. Olympic Committee’s candidate; in Southern California, the locals remember the glow of the 1984 Games, and polling indicates huge support for 2024.

For emphasis: this is by no means a USOC, or an American, problem.

It’s way bigger than that. 

After Boston went out, the American television show NewsHour on PBS, the public television channel, hosted a debate between vocal Games critic Andrew Zimbalist and George Hirthler. Zimbalist is a Smith College professor. Hirthler is a longtime Olympic bid strategist, an unapologetic idealist for the movement and the author of a forthcoming novel on the life and times of the French Baron Pierre de Coubertin, widely acknowledged as the founder of the modern movement.

Zimbalist, left, and Hirthler, right, on PBS NewsHour // screenshot


“There’s a better story, and it’s the story of the Olympic movement and its value to our world. You never hear about it in the economic financial risk stories of the opponents of the Games.

“Right now the Olympic movement is at work in 200 countries around the world, 365 days a year instilling the values of excellence, friendship and respect — respect for opponents, other cultures, differences — in young children, millions of young children around the world. In our world, we need a positive force like that at work around the world.

“They invest — the Olympic movement invests $1-billion every year in the development of sport around the world. That money flows directly from the sponsorships and broadcast rights that are sold for the cities that are hosting the games. So the IOC draws money from these host cities in order to develop sport globally. I’d like to know what the value of the development of sport, giving kids a chance to choose sport everywhere — what’s the value of that economic development?”

Zimbalist, in response:

“Look, the Olympic movement is a good thing. Olympic values is a good thing. Nobody is contesting that.

“The issue that we were talking about is whether it makes economic sense for cities to host the Olympic Games, whether it pays off for them to do that.”

How hard would it be for the IOC to gin up a road show featuring the president, Games executive director Christophe Dubi, some IOC members (to show doubters that, indeed, they can be supremely normal) and, most important, key athletes?

Who wouldn’t want to be listened to and feel inspired by the likes of — just riffing here — Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, whoever in whatever country?

Is there anyone who doesn’t like a Bud Greenspan movie? Bring the popcorn and the tissues.

In an email exchange this week, Hirthler said, “You can't win the economic argument because the opposition isn't rational -- you have to make the argument about why our world needs the Olympic movement -- why the Games hold more hope and promise for humanity than any other international institution.

“And that has everything to do with the grass-roots work of the IOC and global sport, which is the foundation of Coubertin's vision of uniting all humanity in friendship and peace through sport.”

In Lausanne: pics, so it really happened


Not even 48 hours in, and the Los Angeles 2024 bid already has it all over Boston after meetings Thursday in Switzerland with the International Olympic Committee. Compare and contrast: Earlier this year, the world alpine ski championships were staged in Vail, Colorado, the biggest Olympic sports event in the United States in years. The IOC president himself, Thomas Bach, showed up. Did the then-Boston 2024 bid chief, John Fish? No. When Steve Paglicua replaced Fish, he thereafter flew fairly quickly to Switzerland. Did he get a meeting with Bach? No. A photo op with the IOC president? Nope.

On Thursday,  LA mayor Eric Garcetti and U.S. Olympic Committee board chairman Larry Probst met for about a half hour with the IOC president. Where? In Bach’s private office at IOC headquarters along Lake Geneva, a campus known as the Cheateu de Vidy.

After that, the mayor, Probst, USOC chief executive Scott Blackmun and LA24 bid chairman Casey Wasserman met for another half-hour with senior IOC officials: Olympic Games executive director Christophe Dubi; director general Christophe de Kepper; and the head of bid city relations, Jacqueline Barrett.

“Any campaign is about relationships,” Garcetti said in a teleconference with reporters following the Lausanne get-togethers, and perhaps in no sphere is that emphatically more true than in the Olympic bid game.

Photo op? Here you go.

LA mayor Eric Garcetti, IOC president Thomas Bach, USOC board chair Larry Probst // photo LA24

Bid chair Casey Wasserman, Probst, Bach, Garcetti on the Chateau de Vidy grounds // photo LA24

IOC director general Christophe de Kepper, Olympic Games executive director Christophe Dubi, Wasserman, Bach, Probst, USOC chief executive Scott Blackmun, IOC head of bid city relations Jacqueline Barrett // photo LA24

There are hardly any guarantees in an Olympic bid race, this one starting formally on September 15, ending in the summer of 2017 with an IOC vote in Lima, Peru. That said, it’s clear, too, that the Olympic side not only wants but welcomes the LA effort.

After Boston withdrew in late July, Bach made it explicitly clear that the IOC expected a United States bid.

Blackmun said on that teleconference, referring to Boston, “Admittedly this was not a direct route we took to getting here,” meaning to LA24. At the same time, he stressed, “We could not be more pleased.”

“Boston made a decision that was probably right for Boston,” Garcetti said. “Los Angeles made a right decision for Los Angeles.”

Before its formal late July withdrawal, it had been clear for months within the Olympic world that Boston was a dead horse. It also had been plain that once Boston went away there would be one week of bad publicity, as the focus turned elsewhere, meaning LA. That is exactly what happened.

Asked if there were any concerns Thursday that LA might be considered a second choice, Garcetti said, “Quite the opposite,” adding, “They universally expressed excitement and enthusiasm about Los Angeles. It was not a backward-looking conversation at all.”

Which should be exactly the IOC’s response — because it offers the chance to prove that Agenda 2020, Bach’s would-be reform plan, is more than just words.

One of the changes Agenda 2020 has brought about is what’s called an “invitation phase” in the bid process; in practice, it affords a national Olympic committee the chance to explore one option and then, if it doesn’t play out, switch to a better one.

Also expected to be in the 2024 race, the first to fully test the Agenda 2020 reforms: Paris, Rome, Budapest and Hamburg, Germany. On Wednesday, the French Olympic Committee kick-started its messaging with a campaign called #JeReveDesJeux. That means, “I dream of the Games.” The plan in France is to sell wristbands with that slogan to help finance the Paris campaign.

In a fascinating turn, a look at the IOC’s consultants list, another new facet in the spirit of transparency owing to Agenda 2020, shows that Hamburg has already hired the services of seven — seven! — consultants. Paris: six, including UK-based Mike Lee, whose winning track record includes Rio 2016. Rome: four. The USOC has retained four, all well-known and -respected in the Olympic bid world: Americans Doug Arnot, George Hirthler and Terrence Burns, and UK-based Jon Tibbs.

Budapest: none.

As for what was actually said in Thursday’s meetings? Not much tremendously substantive, really.

Not that anyone should have expected anything fabulous, Probst saying on that teleconference that discussions were intentionally broad, “kept at a really high level.”

Does that matter?


Once more, this was mostly — if not primarily — an exercise in relationship-building and in validation of process, in particular for the USOC and IOC.

In a statement, Probst said, “I would also like to thank the Olympic movement for its patience, as this has been a very important decision for the future of the movement in the United States. The LA 2024 bid enjoys the full support of the USOC -- our athletes, national, state and regional leaders -- and the Los Angeles city council and residents," with a poll showing 81 percent local support for the Games. "Our bid to bring the Games back to the U.S. for the first time in more than a quarter century begins right here, right now."

“This is a new LA,” Blackmun said on the teleconference, reflecting the enormous change in the city and in Southern California since 1984, and that surely and appropriately will be a key messaging point going forward.

The mayor said the idea was to start making the point that — again, completely consistent with one of the drivers of Agenda 2020 — that “we show that exciting Games and sustainability are not mutually exclusive.”

For his part, Bach said in a statement provided to Associated Press by the IOC, "Los Angeles is a very welcome addition to a strong field of competitors.  We have been informed that LA 2024 has already embraced the Olympic Agenda 2020 reforms by making use of many existing facilities and the legacy of the Olympic Games 1984.  Their vision is for the Olympic Games to serve as a catalyst in the development plan for the city."

As was pointed out Tuesday in the news conference on Santa Monica Beach where the mayor, Wasserman and others, including the 1980s and ‘90s swim star Janet Evans, helped launch LA24, 85 percent of the venues for the 2024 Games are already on the ground or are in planning regardless of an Olympics, 80 percent of them new since the 1984 Summer Games.

The operating budget stands at $4.1 billion; because of the way Olympic revenue streams work, including the IOC contribution, sponsorship and ticketing, an LA24 Games would very likely make a considerable surplus.

Also in the budgets, separately: $1.7 billion in non-operating costs — meaning construction, renovation and infrastructure such as planned Olympic Village. A huge chunk of that is expected to be paid for with private funds, including $925 million from a to-be-named developer on the village project.

“First and foremost,” Garcetti said, “my responsibility is to my city through its infrastructure and fiscal health. I would never do anything to endanger that.”

Garcetti, in that teleconference, also said that a central touchpoint Thursday was highlighting the notion that LA 24 is “a bid Los Angeles wants to do, the United States wants to do,” adding “clearly you can do that best in a face-to-face meeting.”

The point about this being not just an LA bid but an American one is — and will become even more so going forward — key.

On Wednesday, President Obama’s press secretary, Josh Earnest, told reporters aboard Air Force One en route to Dillingham, Alaska, that “obviously the president and the First Lady are very enthusiastic and strongly supportive of the bid put forward by the city of Los Angeles.”

In an Olympic bid context, it is always entirely and thoroughly appropriate for the head of government or state to offer such support.

But the comments also underscore a key U.S. challenge in the Olympic bid arena.

Again, relationships: since he took office in 2013, Bach has met with roughly 100 national leaders. Obama? No. And there is no indication a meeting is on either party’s agenda. Within the IOC, the president and First Lady are mostly remembered for the way they handled their trip to Copenhagen in support of Chicago’s 2016 campaign; Chicago got bounced in the first round.

Of course, a new U.S. president will have been in office for about eight months by the time the IOC votes in Lima in 2017.

In the more near-term: it matters for LA24, and significantly, that the U.S. government might actually step up big-time in connection with the Assn. of National Olympic Committee meetings to be held in Washington in October, and ensure that the delegates from more than 200 national Olympic committees — dozens will be IOC members — get through customs and border with not just ease but grace.

If you want to win the Olympic bid game, you have to understand the rules.

Like going to see the IOC president.

And the symbolism of the pictures — especially when you do, or don’t, get them.

Don’t be fooled, the pics can be tremendously telling. As the young people in their teens and 20s that the IOC is so keen to reach is always saying: "Pics, or it didn’t happen.”

As the mayor, Wasserman, Probst and Blackmun, head home, pics in hand, they know full well that two years is a long time.

But this, too: it has been a great two days for LA24. The launch probably could not have gone any better.

In a statement, Garcetti said, "It was an honor to meet with President Bach to discuss our initial bid. The Olympics are part of LA’s DNA – and we appreciate the opportunity to share our Olympic passion with the IOC and strengthen a movement that seeks to unite the world in friendship and peace through sport. After visiting the IOC headquarters, we are fully aware of, and ready for, the hard work ahead of us."

Just so, and to be clear, this caution: at the end of the day, this 2024 campaign will end up being about whether the IOC members want the Games back in the United States, or not.

In this dynamic, LA is not just LA. It’s way more. It’s LA representing the United States of America.

“I think it is time for America to bring the Olympics back home,” Garcetti said, adding, “The United States loves the Olympics, and the Olympics loves the United States.”

Now we will get to see — with a world-class bid that is, in theory, everything the IOC could want to fulfill Agenda 2020 — if that is, indeed, true.

2022: a renewed call for a time-out


Sometimes you’re right. Sometimes you’re damn right.

Or, you know, timing is everything.

On Tuesday, in this space, it was observed that Oslo 2022 Winter Games bid found itself in a hugely precarious place, and that the International Olympic Committee ought to take a six-month pause in the 2022 bid process. On Wednesday, the Norwegian government rejected the bid amid financing concerns, meaning the candidature almost certainly is dead.

An Oslo withdrawal would leave just two cities in the 2022 race: Beijing and Almaty.

The root cause of Norwegian concerns is the $51 billion associated with the Sochi 2014 Games. Whether that sum is real or not, it’s what everyone believes those Games cost, and so it is, practically speaking, real.

Australia's Steven Bradbury, the last man standing, wins the 1000-meter short track event at the 2002 Winter Games // photo Getty Images

In a statement that was unusually strong for the IOC, which usually deals in diplomatic nuance and politesse, the Games' new executive director, Christophe Dubi, late Wednesday described Norway's decision to withdraw as a "missed opportunity." He said senior politicians there were not properly briefed on the bid process and so made their call based on "half-truths and factual inaccuracies."

Fascinatingly, the question has to be asked: was that Dubi statement his own, or was that his name on a statement issued by someone in the IOC executive bureau even higher up?

That $51 billion is the figure that, in practice, also scared off 2022 bids from Munich, Stockholm, Krakow and Lviv.

Now what?

There are two ways to look at the situation.

One, the sky is falling.

Or — this is a big opportunity for the Olympic movement. Perhaps, in a weird way, an Oslo exit will have done the IOC a huge favor — by forcing Olympic leadership to focus, immediately and with clarity, on the issues at hand.

To be clear, this was never about the Winter Games.

This was always, always, always about the IOC.

This is, and let’s be plain about this, too, unprecedented.

To go from seven cities to two? Unheard-of.

And — it’s no fun to say but it’s true as well — neither of the two left standing appears to be ready for prime time, or anyone’s favorite.

This 2022 race has now devolved into the candidate city version of the men’s 1000-meter short-track speedskating event at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games. That’s the one where almost everyone crashed in a last-corner pile-up and the last guy standing, Steven Bradbury of Australia, who was a good 30 meters behind, minding his own business, coasted through the carnage to an unexpected and surprising gold medal.

Because Beijing and Almaty have made it this far  -- they're the choices?

Beyond which: how are these two candidates likely to measure up to the renewed emphasis on the anti-discrimination provision in the Olympic Charter?

No one anywhere in the world can argue that this is a logical way of going about awarding what is supposed to be one of the world’s grand prizes.

Indeed, the IOC prides itself on best practices.

Moreover, IOC president Thomas Bach prides himself on doing the right thing, and doing the right thing the right way, and for the right reasons.

The IOC has come so far since 1978. And yet, here it is, evoking memories of the scenario when Los Angeles and Teheran were the only contenders for the 1984 Summer Games.

Not good.

So, as this space made clear Tuesday, let’s call a halt to the insanity.

This is — to be abundantly obvious — an extraordinary situation. Extraordinary situations call for extraordinary measures.

“This calls for something other than the standard response,” Terrence Burns, longtime bid strategist and bid branding expert. “When the world changes, you take a hard look at your standard operating procedure and adjust accordingly.”

Bach is moving the IOC toward an all-members vote in Monaco in early December on a potentially far-reaching reform plan he has dubbed “Agenda 2020.”

Does the president have the authority to declare now, in October, that the 2022 race needs to be put on pause while things get sorted out?

For sure, and here’s why.

To begin, the entire 2022 process should have been postponed from the start while Agenda 2020 was worked out. That’s why, for instance, the U.S. Olympic Commitee has taken a wait-and-see approach toward any 2024 bid — to see what’s going to be what as things go forward after Monaco.

Next, longtime Olympic observers will recall the late 1990s scandal connected to Salt Lake City’s winning bid for 2002. That prompted the IOC, among other things, to hold “extraordinary” sessions. It’s easy enough for the president now to hold “extraordinary” executive board meetings and do what needs to be done.

Why does it need to be done?

As the IOC said in Monday’s news release — and this is the thing it’s going to take time to communicate around the world — it has $880 million in money to give away, in partnership, with some city somewhere to make the 2022 Games a success.

That money will go toward the 2022 Games city’s operating budget.

Not for capital costs such as a new metro line, or a new airport, or all the things that get associated with an Olympics and that run up the “cost” of a Games.

No — just the operating budget of the Games.

Meanwhile, that $880 million is what you might delicately call OPM — “other people’s money.” It’s broadcast, marketing and other funds described in the Host City contract.

For emphasis — not one taxpayer dime.

But lots of sponsor dollars.

So they have a huge vested interest in making sure this gets done right.

Which means the IOC president should, too.

But not just to please sponsors.

That’s not this president’s way, nor should it be.

Frankly speaking, $880 million should cover somewhere near half, maybe more, of a prudent 2022 Games city’s running costs. Not only that, organizers pretty much ought to come away with a surplus.

With $880 million on offer, cities around the world ought to be lining up for 2022. Really.

As a for instance — and only a for instance — there is no way the state of Colorado is going to build a bobsled run. Too much money and too many environmental concerns — also, the United States simply does not need a third run (there’s one in Lake Placid, New York, and another in Park City, Utah).

But what if, given the Agenda 2020 emphasis on sustainability and legacy, the U.S. Olympic Committee was interested in putting forth a 2022 bid from Denver with the understanding that the sliding sports would be in Utah?

What if the USOC were to go quietly to the IOC and say, you know, we will make you a double deal: '22 in Denver/Salt Lake with the understanding that you would not penalize us for a '24 bid in, say, Los Angeles because we are saving your bacon right now from a very serious situation. But it's cool. This double-down is going to produce billions -- literally, billions -- of dollars in sponsorships for you and for us and for everyone in the movement to share. Which, like we said a moment ago, would be pretty cool. After we are done with this '22/'24 bonanza, we can go about promoting the values all over the world together -- see you in, say, Cape Town in '28!

Or what about ice sports in Montreal with ski and sliding sports in Lake Placid? Right now the rules say you can’t go across two nations. Again, extraordinary times call for re-thinking. What if?

Meanwhile — would the USOC in any way be interested in 2022 when all signs are it’s poised for a 2024 Summer bid it might well win?

Would other countries be interested, once the IOC makes clear that there’s $880 million up for grabs?

Too many questions. The answers take time.

That’s what the IOC — frankly, what everyone — needs right now.

It’s a long time right now until 2022. Time to take time. Time to get this right.

Big problem: no Munich 2022

What is wrong with this picture? Vienna: no.

Rome: no.

Munich: no.

Even Switzerland, home of the International Olympic Committee: no.

The IOC has a huge disconnect on its hands. At issue, right or wrong, fair or not, may well be the IOC itself. Now: will the IOC recognize this disconnect, and be willing to do something about it?

In the afterglow of arguably the greatest Summer Games ever, London's 2012 Olympics, taxpayers in western Europe -- the IOC's base -- have now shot down three separate Games bids before they even got started, the latest Munich's presumptive 2022 Winter Games campaign, killed Sunday by Bavarian voters.

This past March, voters in Austria rejected a Vienna 2028 plan. Innsbruck just put on the 2012 Winter Youth Games; it staged the 1976 and 1964 Winter Games. And Salzburg bid for the 2014 and 2010 Winter Games.

Just days before the Vienna balloting, Swiss voters in the canton that is home to the ski resorts of St. Moritz and Davos rejected a 2022 bid proposal. St. Moritz staged the Winter Games in 1928 and 1948.

In February 2012, meanwhile, the then-prime minister of Italy, Mario Monti, called off Rome's 2020 bid, though it was already well underway. Rome put on the 1960 Summer Games.

Monti pulled Rome out because of uncertain costs associated with the project.

That's always an issue. Environmental concerns are a factor, too. But now there seems to be something more at work,  the reputation of the IOC itself.

Munich had bid for 2018, won by Pyeonchang, South Korea. Since then, of course Thomas Bach, who played a key role in the 2018 bid, has become the IOC president, and a 2022 Munich bid would have been the presumptive favorite, Munich seeking to become the first city to stage the Summer (1972) and Winter Games.

The mountain resort of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, about an hour south of Munich, where some of the 2022 events would have been staged, played host to the 1936 Winter Games.

The bid needed to win elections in four communities were the Games would have been held. Instead, the campaign lost in all four, some badly.

Here is the money quote from Sunday's vote, from Ludwig Hartmann, a Greens Party lawmaker and a leader of the movement, called "NOlympia," that led the opposition to Munich 2022: "The vote is not a signal against the sport but against the non-transparency and the greed for profit of the IOC."

If you are tempted to dismiss the Greens as a fringe party, fine. But when a leading German newspaper like Süddeutschen Zeitung, the day before the vote, runs a column that compares the IOC to both the mafia and the "North Korean regime" -- if you are the IOC, you've got issues.

Fifteen years after the Salt Lake City scandal shook the IOC to its core, the organization has -- this is the truth -- undergone significant reforms. Juan Antonio Samaranch lived to see those reforms effected. Jacques Rogge carried them out.

After having written about the IOC full-time since nearly the day the scandal erupted, it is clearly the case that the overwhelming majority of those who are members now believe -- and wholeheartedly -- in its mission. They give outrageously of their time. Their commitment is profound, indeed.

And yet -- how is it that the image of the IOC can conjure such comparisons? A crime syndicate? A rogue state?

"We proved long ago, when I was with Meridian, the IOC's marketing agency, that consumers around the world love the Games and the Olympic brand. That is irrefutable," Atlanta-based Terrence Burns, now the managing director at Teneo Sports, said.

"We also conducted research about the IOC itself -- as an organization. The results of that were not so glowing …

"The IOC has an image problem -- fair or unfair, real or imagined -- it does not matter."

Just last weekend, Bach chaired a "summit" at IOC headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, with more than a dozen senior Olympic officials from around the world. Afterward, the IOC issued a statement in which the new president's agenda, ratified by those in attendance, was made crystal-clear.

The statement identified the "main topics of interest and concern" confronting the movement as these: the campaigns against doping and match-fixing, regulation of the sports calendar, autonomy of the sports movement and, finally, governance issues.

What's missing from that list is elemental. It's what Sunday's rejection by Bavarian voters underscores, and this is way beyond any potential reflection of the vote on Bach, because this is about way more than one individual.

The entire Olympic enterprise is hugely expensive. It depends on cities and countries wanting in.

In our world now, there will always be emerging countries with lots of money -- and the corollary, some measure of risk, possibly significant -- ready and willing to stand up and say, we want the Games.

Is a trend that produces mostly such countries for any given bid cycle in the best interest of the Olympic movement?

If the perception of the IOC in developed nations makes for a bid disincentive, or worse, isn't it thoroughly obvious that the IOC should be doing something about that? Some basic brand management? Some fundamental story-telling about what the IOC itself does?

Munich's defeat, for instance, could well mean no German bid for many years to come. Berlin, which played host to a tremendously successful 2009 world track and field championships, was thought by many to be a viable Summer Games contender.

Michael Vesper, director general of the German Olympic Sports Confederation, which goes by the acronym DOSB, said the rejection of Munich 2022 "clearly means that another Olympic bid in Germany won't be possible for a long time."

Burns, the former president and founder of Helios Partners, served on the winning Beijing 2008, Vancouver 2010, Sochi 2014 and Pyeongchang 2018 bids. He also managed golf's entry to the Olympic program and wrestling's return, and said of the IOC:

"This is an organization that does incredible good in the world, every day on every continent around the world, and no one knows about it. The IOC, for its own reasons, has mistakenly chosen to let the Games themselves be the arbiter of its image. In the consumers' minds, the Games do not equal the IOC in terms of appeal and affection. They are two different things."

The deadline for entering for 2022 is Thursday. Already declared: Oslo; Lviv, Ukraine; Beijing/Zhangjiakou; Almaty, Kazakhstan; and a joint bid from Krakow, Poland, and the nearby mountains of Slovakia. Stockholm is still thinking about it. The IOC will pick the 2022 site in 2015.

The 2018 race produced only three candidates: Pyeongchang, Munich and Annecy, France.

Some will review the early list of 2022 contenders and see a welcome uptick in the number of bids.

Reality check: the IOC is heading to Sochi for 2014 and Rio de Janeiro for 2016, and just awarded Tokyo 2020 with more than one member making it clear amid the 2020 vote, "No more experiments."

Look at the 2022 list again, and Oslo would appear to be your early front-runner. Norway has staged two Winter Games before, in Oslo in 1952 and Lillehammer in 1994. It has a huge offshore oil sector and so it likely can afford the Games, the Oslo 2022 budget already pegged at $5 billion.

But -- what kind of front-runner?

In September, only 55 percent of Oslo voters supported the bid in a city-wide referendum.

To be candid, 55 percent is not a happy welcome mat. Then again, that's better than pre-vote polls had suggested: a survey in the Norwegian daily Aftenposten had put support at 38 percent with 47 percent saying they would vote no, the remaining 15 percent undecided.

"I think that what just happened in Munich," Burns said, "was not a rejection of the idea of hosting the Winter Games, it was a rejection of the IOC itself. That's troubling to me personally because as an insider I have seen what goes on behind the curtain for almost 20 years, and I can tell you the IOC works hard, very hard, on behalf of sport. But no one knows about it.

"Think about it this way:

"Munich, or Rome, had an opportunity to truly make a powerful, positive statement to the world about sport and humanity, frankly on their own terms given the IOC's relatively hands-off approach -- e.g., Sochi -- and they took a pass. How many great cities can the IOC afford to 'take a pass'?

"Isn't it of value to the IOC to have a Munich or a Rome hosting the Games instead of somewhere you've never heard of? There is a mutually beneficial brand transition that takes place and London is a great example -- both the IOC and London greatly benefitted from each other's brand. But London bid for the Games [starting] in 2003 and won in 2005. Would they bid today? Could they?"


USOC's smart play: staying out of 2020

DAEGU, South Korea -- The president of the International Olympic Committee, Jacques Rogge, said here Friday, "Obviously we would love to have had a bid emanating from the United States for 2020," and, sure, no doubt about that. At the same time, the United States Olympic Committee unequivocally did the right thing by announcing earlier this week it would not be bidding. An American bid could not have won. If no one else is willing to be so blunt in saying so -- it says so here. Not now, no way, no how. Moreover, it's not clear when. Maybe 2022. Or maybe not. It's too soon to know.

You can believe there were a variety of interests urging the Americans to jump in to the 2020 campaign. Larry Probst, the USOC chairman, and Scott Blackmun, the USOC chief executive, deserve credit for having resolve enough to just say no. That's leadership.

Right now the IOC, and for that matter international sport, is in the midst of what the South Koreans, prompted by the first-rate American strategist Terrence Burns, cleverly termed the "new horizons" era. That slogan encapsulated Pyeongchang's winning bid for the 2018 Winter Games. That same sort of expansionist thinking won Sochi the 2014 Winter Games and Rio de Janeiro the 2016 Summer Games -- and, as well, brought Russia and Qatar the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

Friday brought yet another "new horizons" twist -- one that makes Probst and Blackmun look even smarter.

After meeting all afternoon here at the Inter Burgo hotel behind closed doors, the IOC's policy-making executive board gave Doha the green light to launch an autumn bid for the 2020 Games, when it would be cooler in Qatar.

Later Friday, the Qatar Olympic Committee announced they were in the race. The formal entry deadline is Sept. 1.

Istanbul, Madrid, Tokyo and Rome have announced they're in, too.

There's no question, of course, that the United States has the facilities and resources to stage an Olympic Games. As Seb Coe, the leader of the London 2012 bid and now its organizing committee, has famously put it, that's the "how." What's now missing is the "why" -- the story of why the IOC would vote to send the Games back to the United States.

Until that "why" comes along, there's an incredibly strong argument to be made that it's best for the United States to remain a loyal, faithful and devoted Olympic partner but graciously permit others to shoulder the burden of staging the Games.  It currently costs $100 million, or more, to bid successfully, and in the United States, where all that money has to be privately raised, there has to be a return on that investment.

See New York 2012 and Chicago 2016.

Let's be perfectly clear. At least 20 years will have gone by from the last time the United States had the privilege of staging the Games until the next time, whenever that is; the last time was of course in Salt Lake City, in 2002. But it's not that the USOC, and the United States of America, haven't sought the Games. To the contrary.

Indeed, the next time a bid committee goes to the White House to ask the president of the United States for his (or her) personal involvement in the campaign -- again, it gets back to return on investment.

It is indisputably true that the IOC and USOC find themselves locked in a complex dispute over revenue-sharing over broadcasting and marketing shares. Solving that is a prerequisite for the launch of any American bid. It wasn't going to be solved by Sept. 1, and that's why the USOC was for sure out for 2020.

The two sides are currently negotiating; eventually, the matter will be solved. It's a contract dispute. Such disputes inevitably get solved.

That just sets the stage, though, for the real work.

Far too many people seem to have a grossly unrealistic expectation about the bid process, particularly in the United States, fueled perhaps by Atlanta's win for the 1996 Games.

That win, though, happened at a very different time in both American and Olympic history, when the United States was riding the boom of the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles. Those days are long gone.

What Probst and Blackmun understand is that the USOC now is in the relationship business.

That is the real work.

The two most intriguing U.S.-centric bid-related news bits this week were not so much that the USOC opted out of 2020 -- the signals had been there for a long while -- but that Probst and Blackmun last week traveled to Peru, Brazil, Argentina and Chile, and that here this week Bob Hersh, the American delegate, was not only re-elected to one of the four IAAF vice-presidential positions but received the most votes among all the candidates.

First, the South American swing:

It is vital that the USOC play a key role in the western hemisphere. If you can't help lead in your own neighborhood, how can you lead anywhere else?

It's why Probst, in a statement released by the USOC, said it had placed a "high priority on being a trusted partner" in the Americas. Blackmun -- who, by the way, is also due into Daegu next week -- called the South American trip an "opportunity to learn from some of the smartest people in the Olympic movement and continue to build genuine relationships."

Hersh, meanwhile, offers a solid example of how Americans ought to -- no, must -- go about re-building their international relations effort.

Hersh has been active in track and field circles throughout his life. He was manager of his high school (Midwood High, Brooklyn) and college (Columbia) track teams; after law school (Harvard), he became an official at track meets; then he got involved with the body that pre-dated USA Track & Field. For chronological purposes, that takes us to the 1970s. He was elected to his first IAAF post, a technical position, in 1984.

That was 27 years ago.

Hersh has steadily worked his way up since, saying in an interview Friday, a couple days after receiving 175 votes for vice-president, "Work is the key word," adding a moment later, "The way you progress in most organizations is by doing work that is recognized. And it is work. No question about it. A lot of work. I am pleased, as anyone would be, when things come of it."

Dale Neuberger is a key figure in swimming. Svein Romstad is secretary-general of the luge federation. Max Cobb is a rising figure in biathlon.

Here, in addition to Hersh, three other Americans were also elected to IAAF posts, including David Katz, who led the voting to remain on the federation's technical committee in balloting that saw 12 elected from a field of 28.

The United States needs more such worker bees, and in considerably more federations. That's how networks get built. Over time, such networks build influence.

Again, give Probst and Blackmun credit. Rather than being rushed into a decision for 2020, they took their time.

"We respect and we understand the position of the United States Olympic Committee," Rogge also said here Friday, "and we hope there will be good bids in the future beyond 2020."

There's no rush.

Pyeongchang 2018: the secret is now out

DURBAN, South Africa -- Nearly 30 years ago, I spent a year backpacking around the world by myself. I idled away nearly six weeks of the trip in India, a lot of that down in the southwestern corner of the country, in Goa, where the ocean lapped up gently on the sandy white beaches and for one American dollar you could buy a beer and a huge grilled fish, and for less than that you could rent a room and you didn't have a care in the whole wide world. It was a huge secret.

Not for long, of course. Now Goa is built up with luxury hotels. The same way Negril Beach in Jamaica got built up. And Koh Samui in Thailand. And all the world's secret spots.

Pyeongchang is next.

In selecting Pyeongchang to play host to the 2018 Winter Games, the International Olympic Committee on Wednesday shouted out to the world the secret that is now a little Korean resort. Over the next seven years, it's going to blossom into a much, much, much bigger resort -- the hub of an Asian winter-sports explosion.

Too bad if you didn't already hold real-estate rights in and around Pyeongchang's Alpensia resort. It works for ski resorts just the way it does for beach gems. To see Alpensia in 2011 -- to tour it as the members of the IOC's evaluation commission did this past February -- is to provide a modern twist on the early days of, say, Whistler Mountain, where the ski events of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games were held.

There are perfectly fine ski lifts in the area. There's an upscale hotel, the Intercontinental, and a Holiday Inn. There's a water park, a superb golf course layout and a concert hall.

And there's a lot yet to be left to the imagination.

Indeed, there's a compelling argument to be made that Pyeongchang benefitted during this 2018 bid cycle in the same way that Chicago got the shaft during the 2016 cycle, and for precisely the same reason -- because the IOC forbids bid-city visits by the IOC members.

If the members had gotten to visit Chicago, they would have seen what a lakefront jewel it is. If they had gone to see Pyeongchang -- or, for that matter, Sochi, site of the 2014 Winter Games where everything had to be built from scratch -- how many members would have been willing to take that leap of faith?

The Alpensia complex cost $1.4 billion, constructed over the past 10 years on what used to be potato fields; it was completed in October, 2009. Seven of the 13 sports venues are now built.

Credit for that has to start with Jin Sun Kim, the former governor of Gangwon, the province where Pyeongchang is located, for 2018 a special bid ambassador. Kim led the two prior bids; despite two narrow defeats, he refused to yield. He almost came to tears Wednesday in urging the IOC to vote for Pyeongchang; again, his faith, dedication and steadfastness must be recognized.

This time, the bid was led by Yang Ho Cho, the head of Korean Air. He performed superbly. "We did what we wanted to do," he said simply and elegantly just moments after leading Wednesday's presentation to the IOC.

How well did he lead this bid? The answer is in the landslide of a first-round victory: 63 votes for Pyeongchang, 25 for Munich, seven for Annecy. The argument can be made that over the past two decades no city has won an IOC election so compellingly or convincingly.

A key issue for this 2018 bid was whether multiple -- and potentially competing constituencies -- in Korea could be kept not just in check but in sufficient harmony, everyone pulling toward the common goal. Korea may be, as the saying goes, the land of morning calm; the joke in bid circles was that it was the land of evening meetings.

In addition to the presidency and other layers of government, there was -- in no particular order -- Samsung, along with other powerful business interests and, of course, the Korean Olympic Committee.

The 2010 IOC vote was held in 2003, in Prague; Samsung flags and banners were all over central Prague, raising questions about whether the Korean business heavyweight -- and leading IOC sponsor -- had exerted undue influence. This time, Samsung's presence around and about Durban was extraordinarily muted.

Two rock stars stood front and center for the 2018 Pyeongchang team.

One the world knows well: 2010 figure skating champion Yuna Kim. She was brought onto the team late in the game, making her first appearance on stage in May in Lausanne, Switzerland, the IOC's base, before most of the members, at the so-called technical briefing. Nervous, she made a couple mistakes in her lines. The members ate it up, finding it endearing; after all, she is still just 20 years old.

On Wednesday, meanwhile, she was smooth and polished, declaring she was a "living legacy" of her nation's investment in sports.

The other star: Theresa Rah, the articulate and poised director of communication. A former television personality, she spoke Wednesday from the stage in both English and French. Over the two-year course of the bid run, she proved -- time and again -- a remarkable talent with a gift for directing traffic on and off camera.

Behind the scenes, any number of hands played key roles. But enormous credit has to go to Terrence Burns, the first-rate bid consultant from Helios Partners in Atlanta. He dreamed up the tagline "New Horizons," which captured the essence of the historical moment the IOC vote on Wednesday delivered. He wrote every word of all their presentations, including the one here. He trained the presenters, including the president of Korea, to deliver lines with verve. In English.

For Burns -- it marked his fourth Olympic win.

Mike Lee, the British consultant, continued an Olympic winning streak, too: London 2012, Rio 2016, rugby as an Olympic sport and now Pyeongchang.

By 2030, according to an Asian Development Bank Study, Asia will make up 43 percent of worldwide consumption. From 1990 to 2008, the middle class in Asia grew by 30 percent, and spent an average of an additional $1.7 trillion annually. No other region in the world came close, as the Koreans emphasized time and again these past several months.

When you combine that with the 90 percent approval rating the 2018 project garnered in opinion polling in Korea -- an absurdly high result in any poll -- the IOC had to take notice.

If it's not clear why the Koreans came up just short in 2010, it's manifestly evident why they came up shy for 2014 -- Vladimir Putin. He is among the most important figures in our time -- not just in global politics but, as well, in international sport.

This time around, there was no Putin with which to contend.

Plus, Rome wants to bid for 2020. Madrid, too. And the Swiss are exploring a 2022 bid. Translation: incentive for others in Europe to keep 2018 out of the Alps.

It all broke Korea's way.

Despite the usual professions for public consumption about how this was a close race -- behind the scenes, it had been clear for a long time that this was the way it was going down. Even the other bids knew it.

The members said so, too, just not for publication. In prior years, some European members acknowledged they were almost embarrassed to admit they might be supporting Pyeongchang. This time, several let it be known openly that they were with the Koreans and that was that.

The presentation Wednesday proved the icing on the cake. The Korean president, Myung Bak Lee, promised full support. The head of the Korean Olympic Committee, Y.S. Park, told a hilarious joke, apologizing to that noted newlywed and IOC member, Prince Albert, for making his serene highness sit through a Pyeongchang bid presentation for a third time. It broke up the room.

The prince said later, "It was even better the third time. Don't worry."

When the world shows up in Pyeongchang in February 2018, the area will for sure look very different than it does now. They're going to spend another $6.4 billion between now and then, $3.4 billion of that on a high-speed rail link between Pyeongchang and Seoul, to be completed in 2017.

It's why former Governor Kim welled up with emotion on stage Wednesday -- the notion that Pyeongchang, this little jewel, is for sure going to be a secret no more.

He said, "It has been 17 years since Pyeongchang first had the dream about the Olympics. We decided to realize the dream 12 years ago. We failed two times in the bidding. Now we are here for the third time. We have walked a thorny path to get here to this day.

"As I was explaining the whole thing to the IOC members, I did not even know I had tears in my eyes. I was filled with emotion. That's what I had been feeling -- not just me, but all of us."

Pyeongchang 2018's conductor: Yang Ho Cho

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea -- Nine years ago, Yang Ho Cho, who is the chairman and chief executive officer of Korean Air but who is really a regular guy, got five of his buddies together and they did one of those bucket-list things. They drove across the United States, Los Angeles to New York. Yang Ho Cho is not, after an extraordinary career in business, lacking for means. He could have arranged the trip so that he and the crew stayed at the most upscale of hotels and ate only the finest meals. Not the point. They wanted to feel the United States, to have a genuine experience, to talk along the way with real Americans.

They did have two big cars, a Lincoln and a Lexus, for all six guys and their bags. But for most of the trip they stayed at $30 per night Best Western motels. They ate with near-religious fervor at McDonald's for breakfast; at Kentucky Fried Chicken, Subway or (again) McDonald's for lunch; and, always, at a Chinese joint for dinner.

"No matter how small the town was," he said, laughing, remembering the adventure, "there was always a Chinese restaurant."

This third straight Korean bid for the Winter Olympic Games brings with it an almost-entirely new set of characters. Perhaps no one embodies that fact more than Yang Ho Cho, and that holds significant consequence should the International Olympic Committee chose Pyeongchang in its July 6 vote for 2018. Munich and Annecy, France, are also in the race.

The IOC's 2018 Evaluation Commission, after visiting Annecy last week, turned this week to Pyeongchang. It travels March 1-4 to Munich.

With the exception of a very few notable personalities, among them the former provincial governor here, Kim Jun Sun, the prior two Korean bids -- both unsuccessful, for the 2010 and 2014 Winter Games -- left a remarkably unremarkable impression. The image that lingers: packs of men, almost all men, dressed alike in dark suits, smoking a lot of cigarettes, speaking the Korean language almost exclusively, obviously giving off the impression of competence in their spheres but just as obviously not resolving to the IOC's satisfaction one of the most elemental questions any bid campaign presents:

Do I want to do business with these people?

In any enterprise, the wanting-to-do-business factor depends on the getting-to-know-you factor -- and all the more so in the Olympic sphere, where bids cost tens of millions of dollars and Games run to billions. The IOC has a franchise not only to extend but to protect.

The IOC thus moves with prudence and common sense.

So does Yang Ho Cho.

This is a man who oversaw nothing less than a thorough transformation of his airline's corporate culture. He took over after a series of accidents in the 1990s; he instituted changes that turned Korean Air into one of the world's safest carriers.

This is a man who moves easily now at the highest levels of Korean and western business, government and politics.

At the same time, this is a man who moves comfortably in any environment -- having seen pretty much everything along the way, including the Vietnam War, the Korean DMZ, gritty downtown Los Angeles and a lot of McDonald's menu boards.

He is a genuine human being. He is accessible and real. "I want not just to shake the hands of the IOC members," he said here Thursday night, one of a series of conversations in various locales around the world over the past several months. "Instead, I want them to say, 'This is a guy I can work with for the next eight years.' This is what we want to show."

Real people, even important businessmen, sometimes make mistakes -- that's life. Yang Ho Cho accepts responsibility and asks to move on. Last year, Korean Air signed a sponsorship deal with the International Skating Union. The ISU's president, Ottavio Cinquanta, is a ranking IOC personality. The IOC thereupon issued a warning to the Pyeongchang bid committee, and the airline agreed to postpone its sponsorship of the skating federation until after the July 6 vote.

"We had good intentions," Yang Ho Cho said. "There wasn't any hanky-panky. I had to learn.

"... If you're talking about transport -- I'm an expert. Sports -- I'm learning."

This Korean 2018 crew is -- like Yang Ho Cho -- entirely, indeed profoundly, different. They move, many of them, effortlessly in English -- like communications director Theresa Rah.

They invite you to sit with them in the hotel bars. If that doesn't sound like such a big deal -- it's a huge change from the prior two bid cycles.

Early on, it was decided that the 2018 strategy would be to reach out, early, to non-Koreans who could help -- among them, the English communications and strategy advisor Mike Lee, who played a key role in Rio de Janeiro's winning 2016 Games bid, as well as the American counterpart Terrence Burns, who helped Sochi win for 2014.

Most intriguingly, Yang Ho Cho is not the emotional center of the campaign. Nor is he aiming to be. In that regard, the German and Korean campaigns make for a vivid contrast. Munich puts forward a star: Katarina Witt, a two-time Olympic figure skating champion. Yang Ho Cho is more orchestra conductor than star.

It is perhaps illuminating that though Yang Ho Cho of course speaks English -- he went to high school in the United States -- he had no trouble a few months back acknowledging a succession of 2018 advisers who suggested that with a little bit of practice he could sound just that much better.

How many chief executives are truly willing to accept such coaching?

"Why not?" he said Thursday. "I can learn from anyone who can teach me."

If you know Yang Ho Cho's back story, though, that's hardly surprising.

Korean Air is the family business. So he didn't exactly grow up in poverty.

But he didn't exactly wallow in privilege.

Yang Ho Cho's passions have always been travel and photography. After high school, he went to go see the sights in Europe. His father sent him to the continent with $3,000.

"I spent only $2,000. I gave him back $1,000. After that," he said, "my father never questioned my spending."

Next:  boot camp in the Korean Army. When that was finished, he was sent to the DMZ:  "We had no electricity. We had to use kerosene lamps just to see. For me, it was just too much of a shock."

Anything, he reasoned, had to be better.

So he volunteered to go to Vietnam.

Again -- he volunteered to go to a war zone. "At least in Vietnam," he said, "they had electricity."

He spent 11 months there. "After that -- it was back to the DMZ." And after that, he had learned something about himself: "If I can live at the DMZ, I can do anything."

When his military service ended, he went to college in Korea, then moved to Los Angeles, to learn the family business in earnest.

He and his wife lived downtown. He was getting paid $800 per month. Their rent was $300. It was a big treat to take the kids out for French fries.

While in Los Angeles, he earned a master's degree at USC -- where he now serves on the board of trustees.

He still has the California driver's license he got all those years ago. It came in handy on that road trip to New York.

He and his crew saw the national parks in Utah; then took in Santa Fe, New Mexico; went back up to Oklahoma; headed down to New Orleans; east to Savannah, Georgia; then made their way up through Washington, D.C., to New York.

Oh, they did make one other important stop along the way. They went to Memphis, and for one very important reason.

That's where you can find Graceland and, as Yang Ho Cho said with a laugh, "I like Elvis."

No apologies necessary: still the shining city on the hill

Enough already with the "we wuz robbed" whining and complaining in the aftermath of FIFA's decision to award the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 Cup to Qatar. Qatar? Not the United States? Robbed! We wuzn't robbed.

We got beat. Indeed, we beat ourselves.

That's why there must -- again, must -- be a systemic and comprehensive re-think before the United States bids again for any event of significance in international sport, and in particular the Olympic Games.

Without such a review, American bid success has to be seen -- at best -- as problematic,  China, Brazil, Russia, South Africa and Qatar presenting abundant evidence of the will to take the World Cup and the Olympics to new territories.

That doesn't mean the United States can't win.

It does, however, mean that the American approach has to be fully re-calibrated.

"The United States can put forward and should put forward a very compelling argument to FIFA and to the IOC that's based on their needs," meaning FIFA and the IOC, "and not money," Terrence Burns, the president of Atlanta-based Helios Partners, a long-time and super-successful player in the bid game, said in a telephone interview.

"Money is important. A great technical plan is important. But the most important thing in this game -- and the game has changed -- is the vision thing.

"What is the narrative? What is the story? How does that dovetail with making the world a better place and how can we," meaning an American bid, "help you do that?"

Russia's winning 2018 World Cup bid? Helios.

Sochi's winning 2014 Winter Games bid? Helios.

Golf's winning campaign last year to join the Summer Games program? Helios.

Now on the Helios agenda: The 2018 Winter Games bid from Pyeongchang, South Korea, the IOC due to pick the 2018 site next July. Munich, Germany, and Annecy, France, are also in that 2018 race. The Korean bid is widely considered a strong candidate.

More Helios: work on the winning Beijing and Vancouver bids and on events such as the World University Games.

And others, too, which mostly would seem to add to the credibility of Burns and Chris Welton, who is now the Helios chief executive officer, because no one wins all the time:

Moscow's 2012 Summer Games bid, which came in dead last in IOC voting in 2005? Helios. Doha's 2016 Summer Games bid? Helios -- the IOC saying Doha was technically solid but then moving to exclude the Qatari capital, ostensibly on the grounds of the weather.

"I have never seen a bid be beaten by another bid," Burns said. "Every bid I have seen a bid lose -- it has beaten itself."

He said of the complaining, blaming and finger-pointing that seemingly has dominated American reaction to the 2022 loss and, to use another example, last year's first-round exit by Chicago in the 2016 IOC vote, won by Rio de Janeiro:

"It's really kind of funny when you see bids lose and the first thing they do is start blaming 'things beyond their control.' Or anti-Americanism. Or you hear, 'It's the wrong time,' or, 'There are visa issues getting into America,' or, 'In the United States, we have to do it with private funding instead of government funding and so it's harder for us.'"

You want hard? Sochi had zero -- nothing, nada, zilch -- on the ground for the Winter Games. They started there literally from scratch.

"If you don't think that I heard from everyone in the business when I started with Sochi that it was a joke and what were we thinking -- well," he said, "it wasn't."

He also said, referring to the United States, "This country, for every reason that's right, should still be the flagship. The USOC should be the flagship of NOCs in the world," meaning national Olympic committees. "It's not. FIFA and the world should be clamoring to hold their events here. They're not.

"Because we haven't given them a reason to."

The reason Americans once could give -- the reason that used to really, really matter -- is money.

Once, there was a lot more money here than elsewhere. International sports entities were eager to tap into that. That's why the United States could win with relative ease in the 1980s and 1990s.

Reality check: those days are long gone.

FIFA has all the money it needs. So does the IOC.

That's why the essence of the American argument for hosting 2022 -- enhanced sponsorships and television revenues -- was always such a dead-bang loser. It's why reading the transcript of USA 2022 World Cup bid chairman Sunil Gulati's presentation to FIFA feels like you've dropped in on an Economics 101 lecture.

Money still matters. There's no point in the USOC bidding for anything until it resolves a longstanding revenue-related dispute with the IOC.

But, going forward, basing a bid on the notion of making boatloads of money? It doesn't work.

What was missing from the 2022 American soccer bid was the narrative -- the outward-looking reason for the bid. Similarly, Chicago's 2016 Summer Games bid was technically fantastic. But the Chicago bid couldn't hit the emotional highs.

"You don't win bids on facts. You win bids on emotion," Burns said, adding, "You touch people's hearts. You have to do that in a way that addresses their core needs."

A far-reaching re-think ought to start from these two premises:

For one, the United States typically has gone into the bid game in far more of a reactive than pro-active mode. That has to change.

In this instance, reactive means this: Some city or number of cities, typically led by influential business or political figures, catches Olympic fever. In the abstract, there's nothing wrong with that. Passion is very, very good. The challenge is that it doesn't leave the USOC in control of the process.  In a real sense, the USOC is stuck choosing among cities and leaders. And then there's almost inevitably tension between the bid city and the USOC, both wrestling for control.

Wouldn't it be smarter to do it a different way? With the USOC taking a big-picture look and itself assessing when to bid, and whether it would be better to go for the Summer or Winter Games? Then -- identifying the city that gave the United States the best chance? Then -- finding somebody with the right skill set?

Taking charge  of the process is the first part. The second: the right strategy. That means developing a message that's embedded in the bid, and about two things: Why the United States is in. And, more important, why the fact of the United States being in is good for -- in the instance of the Games -- the Olympic movement.

It's regrettably all-too American to be snarky about the idea of sport as a tool for social good. Burns, referring to the IOC and to FIFA, said, "Maybe they're drinking their bath water, too, But they're looking for their movements and sport to make social impact, to move the world forward.

"That's a much-used line in every Olympic speechwriter's repertoire, including mine. But it's true. And for whatever reason we haven't figured that out yet."

Here's a start:

"We don't need to be ashamed about the American story, or apologize to anyone," Burns said.

At the same time, "We have to think about why America is what it is. I think it's still the shining city on the hill. I would tap into that."

And, as well, "I have never heard anybody stand up [at a bid presentation] and say, 'America is changing.' But every day we wake up and it's a different America. That is America. It was made to be a fluid, never-ending river of change."