'America's bid,' whichever city it is


The U.S. Olympic Committee formally announced Tuesday it intends to launch a bid for the 2024 Summer Games, by now the news equivalent of dog bites man. It has been evident for months the USOC would be in the game for the Games. The issue is what city, and when the USOC will finally announce its choice from among four: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston or Washington, D.C. In that spirit, it’s so interesting that International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach is now making plans to attend Super Bowl XLIX on Feb. 1 in Glendale, Arizona. Just imagining here: if you came all the way over from the IOC’s base in Switzerland to Arizona, wouldn’t USOC headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colorado, make for a handy place to ask all four U.S. bid cities to come for, say, a briefing on Agenda 2020, the IOC’s just-passed series of initiatives? Then again, if you were the IOC president spending a little time in the United States, of course you would meet with top-tier sponsors in New York — which would also do just fine, too, for a quiet rendezvous on the side with bid-city teams, right?

If you had an active imagination, you might bet this was why, among other reasons, the USOC didn’t choose one city Tuesday from among the four.

No need. No time pressure. Why, after spending nearly a year getting to Tuesday and board of director approval to jump into 2024, force a decision that doesn’t now need to be made? Early next year sometime — that’s plenty fine.

The five rings in a scene from the 2010 Games in Vancouver // photo Getty Images

This is a race with a long, long, long way to go. It holds many, many variables.

There are but a few certainties.

This: come 2024 it will have been 22 years since the Olympic Games were in the United States, since the Winter Games in Salt Lake City in 2002, and 28 years since the Summer Games in Atlanta in 1996.

This, too: 2008 Beijing (Asia). 2012 London (Europe). 2016 Rio de Janeiro (South America). 2020 Tokyo (back to Asia). The IOC has a kinda-sorta continental rotation rule that’s not really a rule but if it were one — it would be time in 2024 to go to North America.

And this: in May, NBC paid $7.65 billion dollars to the IOC to extend its right to televise the Games in the United States from 2022 through 2032. At some point, the Olympics are coming back to the United States; the first opportunity is 2024.

Rome jumped in Monday to the 2024 campaign. Fascinating. For the 2020 race, the economy was so bad in Italy that the then-prime minister yanked the Rome bid right out. Since, all across Europe, cities pulled out of the 2022 Winter Games race, mostly because of the economy (and the prospect of spending billions of euros when measured against that $51 billion figure associated with the Sochi 2014 Games).

Italian premier Matteo Renzi told Associated Press the Rome 2024 campaign “isn’t based on great infrastructures or big dreams but rather great people,” adding, “We will be at the vanguard for all the spending controls.”

Berlin or Hamburg are going to jump, if they can get past voters in Germany. With all due respect to the IOC president, who is German, this proved the challenge in Munich, which — after coming up short for 2018 — tried to mount a campaign for 2022 and could not get past the ballot box.

Paris is making noise about 2024. OK, but have the French learned their lessons from the disaster that was the Annecy bid for 2018? Oh, and the European economy.

Budapest? Where the sports leaders are eager but the political establishment not so much? And about that European economy …

Istanbul? The 2020 bid leader, Hasan Arat, is one of the great guys in the Olympic movement. The challenge there is president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Three weeks ago, at an international conference on justice and rights for women, he said, “You cannot put women and men on equal footing,” and, for good measure, said some forms of work are just not suitable for women: “Give her a shovel and maker her work — this cannot be. It would be primarily against her delicate nature.” One of the 40 planks of Agenda 2020 affirms what’s called Principle 6 of the Olympic movement, which calls for non-discrimination of all sorts.

South Africa. If they win the 2022 Commonwealth Games there, 2024, too?

Doha is often mentioned as a 2024 possibility. The economy is not an issue in Qatar. But there are all kinds of machinations about whether or not Qatar will or won’t bid, or should or shouldn’t. Stay tuned.

At this very early stage — and it needs to be stressed that at the end of 2014 for a vote that won’t be taken until 2017, it is almost comically early in the 2024 race — you see the dominoes potentially lining up.

There is intense interest — again, intense interest — within some of the highest levels of the Olympic movement in seeing a 2024 Games in the U.S.

That was the message Larry Probst, the USOC chairman, put it as plainly as he could — he’s not in the business of giving anything away, nor should he be — in a teleconference Tuesday with reporters.

He said that “all across the board,” from IOC members and leadership, there is encouragement for the Americans, who have spent the past five years — since the debacle that was the Chicago 2016 vote in October 2009 in Copenhagen — promoting humility and repairing relationships in the Olympic sphere.

Or, as Scott Blackmun, the USOC’s chief executive put it, “It is a really good time for us to throw our hat into the ring again.”

So which of the four cities will it be?

“It’s a four-way tie,” Blackmun said on the teleconference, being politically correct, which for now is totally appropriate.

The truth-serum answer: it’s the one that not just can, but will, win.

Which one will that be?

This is where it’s appropriate to ask hard questions, to not hold on to even the slightest bit of romance about what you might think about the cities. Olympic bidding is not for the faint of heart or the naive.

It’s one thing to be able to hang the Olympic rings on bridges or across buildings for postcard-pretty pictures. It’s quite another to actually get stuff done. Little stuff. Big stuff. What do recent events in the cities suggest about that?

It is essential, moreover, to have a team, and in particular charismatic figures, around whom a bid can be built. These are lessons from the Chicago 2016 and New York 2012 bids, and from the winning London 2012 and Rio 2016 teams, too, and this is another reason why the USOC sought Tuesday to buy time.

Another: you can bet that per Agenda 2020 the key watchwords now are sustainability and legacy. Probst, again, responding to a question on that teleconference: “Existing venues are a plus, for sure.”

For now, the USOC is — as it should — playing it cool.

No need to get out in front of the game when, legitimately, time is on the USOC’s side.

This, too, from Probst, and this is yet another lesson from Chicago 2016 and New York 2012, which were bids that were mostly about Chicago and New York. “We want to think about this,” meaning the 2024 city, whichever one it turns out to be, “as America’s bid,” and there you heard first the inkling of a probable bid slogan, “not just that particular city.

“And hopefully we can energize the country, and get the country to engage with the Olympic movement, inspire youth to get involved with sport. So not only do we hope that there are benefits for the individual city but we hope that it will have a positive impact on the country as well.”


Enough with trial by court of public opinion


Enough already with trial by court of public opinion. All around. We have courts — real courts, of law — to dispense justice. That’s what they’re for. You can like Hope Solo, or not. But her case is not like that involving Ray Rice. The notion that the two matters are the same, or ought to be treated the same, or that the U.S. Olympic Committee ought to do something in the Solo case, and do it now, because of some notion of equality or of leveling the playing field in sports thoroughly and completely misses the point.

It also fundamentally ignores reality.

The USOC -- which convenes this week in Chicago for its annual assembly -- can’t just whomp around like an 800-pound gorilla. There are laws that define what it can, and can’t, do.

Goalie Hope Solo before last week's US-Mexico match // photo Getty Images

Which is exactly the point that seems to be lost in all the shouting over the past couple days and weeks amid the Rice matter and, more recently, as it has dawned anew on columnists — including some of the leading voices in the United States — as well as on the Twitter mob that Solo is herself facing domestic violence charges.

It’s simple.

The United States is a nation rooted, fundamentally, in the law. We can agree, or disagree, about whether the law is applied appropriately in a particular case or not — but, big picture, that is the essence of the thing.

To continue, the law is not a one-size-fits-all. In each case, the idea is that the law is applied to specific facts. And, in each case, the accused — this is crucial — is afforded due process.

Rice, in a February altercation, assaulted his wife-to-be, Janay, at the Revel Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The next month, a grand jury indicted him on felony charges of aggravated assault. At the risk of being obvious, a felony is punishable by a year or more in custody — which means state prison. We now know, thanks to TMZ, that Rice punched his fiancee in a casino elevator, knocking her unconscious.

In May, prosecutors agreed to allow Rice to enter into a pretrial diversion program, which will allow him to avoid prosecution, assuming he successfully completes the program. Typically, it takes about a year.

Solo, meanwhile, has pleaded not guilty to two counts of misdemeanor domestic violence stemming from a June incident at Solo’s sister’s home in Kirkland, Washington.

Just to pause for a second.

A misdemeanor involves a crime punishable by a year or less behind bars — that is, in county jail.

So, just to start, there’s a huge difference.


According to documents obtained by the Seattle Times, Solo charged her 17-year-old nephew, punched him in the face and tackled him. When the boy’s mother tried to intervene, Solo attacked her, too.

Police said in an affidavit that when they arrived on the scene, the boy’s T-shirt was torn and he had scratch marks on his arms and a bleeding cut on his ear.

The Seattle Times account says this, too:

"When the teen’s mother tried to intervene, Solo attacked her as well, the document says. The teen tried to pull Solo off his mother and then broke a wooden broom over her head, the document says."

The "her" in that sentence is Hope Solo. So she got a broom broken over her head, at least according to that account. Solo's attorney says she is the victim in the case, according to the newspaper.

Now there may be all kinds of reasons for U.S. Soccer to assess Hope Solo’s conduct, in this instance and over the years. But to say that the federation ought to be spurred to action now because Ray Rice beat up his fiancee in an elevator?

Ladies and gentlemen, Hope Solo has pleaded not guilty. She is due the presumption of innocence.

Indeed, on Tuesday evening, on her Facebook page, Solo had this to say: "... while I understand that the public desires more information regarding the allegations against me, I continue to maintain my innocence against these charges. And, once all the facts come to light and the legal process is concluded, I am confident that I will be fully exonerated."

What if, at trial, it turns out there are extenuating circumstances? Unreliable witnesses? Flimsy evidence? What about the broom? When in all of it did that take place, and what might -- or might not -- a jury think about that?

The Seattle Times report says the boy alleges Solo had been drinking. It also says the 17-year-old "got an old gun that did not work" and pointed it at Solo to try to get her to stop. Police, according to the newspaper account, determined it was a broken BB gun.

What if a jury of her peers finds Solo not guilty of the charges against her? What then? If U.S. Soccer moves decisively now, and she is found not guilty -- should she be punished all these months for what would turn out to be no sound legal reason?

“Abuse in all forms is unacceptable,” the chief executive officer of the U.S. Olympic Committee, Scott Blackmun, wrote USA Today in an email earlier this week.

“The allegations involving Ms. Solo are disturbing and are inconsistent with our expectations of Olympians. We have had discussions with U.S. Soccer and fully expect them to take action if it is determined that the allegations are true.”

For sure.

But until then, the USOC is not the NFL, and U.S. Soccer is not the Baltimore Ravens. That’s not how the real world works.

The USOC is not in the position of dictating to a national governing body how to run its affairs. Indeed, the Ted Stevens Amateur Sports Act prevents that very thing.

Here’s the deal:

Outrage is one thing. Justice is another. Hope Solo is due her day in court. It’s coming in November. Until then, a little calm, please, and a lot more reasonableness all around. It’s good for everyone.


2024: LA's time again?


Shutters on the Beach, the Santa Monica hotel, is one of those Southern California legends. The beautiful people go there, and for excellent reason. You get there by heading west down Pico Boulevard until it dead ends at the sand. The president of the University of Southern California, C.L. Max Nikias, had them in full roar Wednesday evening for an alumni event at Shutters. It was not even two and one half years ago that USC announced a $6 billion fundraising campaign. Already, the president said, the university is more than halfway to its goal.

A few blocks away from USC itself, the 73-story Wilshire Grand Hotel is going up at 7th and Figueroa streets, a $1-billion downtown Los Angeles complex with 900 rooms and 30 floors of office space. It will be the tallest building west of the Mississippi River.

2014-01-29 12.04.00

Just steps away from that, of course, is the LA Live complex, anchored by Staples Center, where the Lakers, Clippers and Kings play, and where ESPN has its West Coast studio. The Ritz-Carlton and Marriott there have already become destinations. In 2011, it’s where the International Olympic Committee held its Women and Sport conference; just a few weeks back, USA Swimming’s Golden Goggles gala took place in the same ballroom.

There really can be little doubt Wednesday why USA Track & Field chose Los Angeles — over Houston — as the site of the 2016 U.S. Olympic marathon Trials.

In short: LA is rocking, especially downtown LA, which used to be dreadful but is now staking a claim to be hipster central.

The intrigue, really, is whether the U.S. Olympic Committee will see what is becoming increasingly obvious as it weighs not only whether to get into the race for the 2024 Summer Games but what U.S. city to pick: Los Angeles just might be — again — the right place at the right time.

There’s only one Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Athletes from all over the world want to compete there, to make history, the way it was made in 1932 and 1984.

It’s why there could be only place for the announcement that the marathon Trials were coming to LA — the famed peristyle end of the Coliseum.

It was just after 12 on a glorious January afternoon, the California bear flag swaying overhead to one side, the American flag on the other by those three stately palm trees reaching up high into the sky.  The new Los Angeles mayor, Eric Garcetti, fixed LA’s place in the sun for one and all, saying, “Los Angeles is the western capital of the United States, the eastern capital of the Pacific Rim and the northern capital of Latin America.”

To be clear, the USOC is in no hurry to make any sort of announcement. The IOC won’t pick a site until 2017. The USOC has more pressing concerns — like the impending Sochi Games — before it resumes its focus on 2024.

Yet as the IOC members begin arriving over the weekend in Sochi for the meetings that precede next Friday’s opening ceremony, the issue of what the USOC will do for 2024 will be gathering increasing relevance.

Sochi and the Rio 2016 Summer Games are seen by many within the Olympic movement as “adventures.”

In 2018 and 2020, the Games will be in Asia, in choices seen as involving less risk, in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and Tokyo.

The 2022 race is just now taking shape. But insiders are already suggesting it would be little surprise to see Almaty, Kazakhstan, and Beijing emerge as frontrunners. Both, again, are seen as choices involving less risk. The IOC will pick the 2022 city in 2015.

Again for 2024 — at this very early stage, the IOC is known to be keen to be soliciting a U.S. bid.

The USOC wants in only if it has the closest thing to a guarantee — of course there is no such thing — that it is going to win. It can not afford another debacle like Chicago 2016 or New York 2012.

If the USOC jumps in, the obvious question is, what city gives it the best chance?

Chicago? With its amazing lakefront? And great technical plan for 2016? Not likely. The mayor was President Obama’s key adviser when Chicago got bounced.

New York? The new mayor seemingly has other priorities.

Boston? Not once over the last year has even one IOC member been heard to say, you know what, I would really, really love to spend 17 days in Boston, Massachusetts. Also, if Mitt Romney — who, genuinely, did a first-rate job running the Salt Lake 2002 Games — is serious about getting back into the Olympic scene, advising the Boston 2024 people, he had better brush up on some reading. He told Fox News two weeks ago that the Munich Games had issues with Hitler; the Munich Games were in 1972, 27 years after Hitler’s death. (Mr. Romney’s staffers: see Berlin, 1936.)

Dallas? The state of Texas could for sure meet the IOC’s financial guarantees. But not a chance Dallas can win. Among its several challenges, beyond being in the American South, and the South is where Atlanta is, and the IOC still recalls Atlanta 1996 all too well: the first thing that comes to mind for some who don’t know about Dallas is, believe it or not, the JFK assassination. Not a positive vibe for an IOC election.

Houston? Not running.

There is sound reason to consider San Francisco, and seriously. It has technology assets the IOC, bluntly, needs. It is typically seen as every European’s favorite American city, and the IOC is heavily dominated by European interests. USOC board chairman Larry Probst is based in the Bay Area. Moreover, San Francisco has never played host to the Games and LA, of course, has done it twice.

It’s that twice-before thing that, over the past several bid cycles, has been a considerable strike against LA.

Now that London is a three-time host, though, that has opened the door for LA, and perhaps in a big way.

A significant faction within the IOC is known to favor New York and LA, and if New York truly ends up being a non-starter — that tilts things considerably.

The New York thing is all about the 2012 bid. It’s about what people remember.

LA: the same, and more. Given all the uncertainties in our uncertain world, it may be, as a symposium at the LA 84 Foundation last Saturday suggested, that the IOC needs Los Angeles — the same way it did in 1984, when Los Angeles was essentially the only city in the world that wanted the Olympics, and 1932, the first Games to last 16 days and the first with an athletes’ village.

The Games, it must be understood, are part of the fabric of civic life in Los Angeles.

Olympic Boulevard? That’s 10th Street. Named after the X Olympiad, the 10th Olympic Games, in 1932.

For most Angelenos, the period from the moment Rafer Johnson lit the cauldron in 1984 until the day Rodney King was beaten by police in 1991 were golden years in Southern California, and they want a new version of those years.

The LA city council, the county board of supervisors, other local political figures — they all support the idea of a 2024 Games. There’s no political opposition. Only support.

To emphasize that point, Garcetti keeps a 1984 LA Olympic torch in his office. How many mayors do that kind of thing? For real — not for show.

Thousands of would-be Olympic athletes train in Southern California. Hundreds of Olympians live in the area.

You want shopping? There’s Beverly Hills and more. Disneyland? Right. You want celebrities, Hollywood, the beach? Check, check, check.

The weather? Only perfect.

That blockbuster hotel complex going up downtown? Yang Ho Cho, who runs the South Korean conglomerate, Hanjin Group, is not only a USC trustee — he led the winning Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Games bid.

In an era in which the IOC is avowedly seeking to minimize costs, 85 percent of what’s needed for a 2024 LA Games is already on the ground.

And then, of course, there’s the Coliseum.

Garcetti, speaking in Spanish — the mayor is so fluent he asked a reporter whether she wanted a question answered in English or Spanish — called the Coliseum “a grand symbol of Los Angeles’ Olympic history,” which is, of course, the essence of the thing.

USC now has a 98-year master lease for the place. They’d have to put a new track inside; it’s football-only now. But, you know, these things can be worked out if that’s what everyone wants.

The mayor, back to English, said of the 2016 marathon Trials, “This is a great thing on its own.” And then he also said, “Los Angeles is truly a great Olympic town.”


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The rationale: it’s time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here, for instance, is one constructive signal:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then there is the political challenge.

Why, again, is that 2015 meeting in Washington?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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.


Smart USOC executive play

Here's why the U.S. Olympic Committee is trending in all the right directions under chief executive Scott Blackmun. On Wednesday, the USOC announced an executive team re-shuffle, keynoted by the hiring of Benita Fitzgerald Mosley as what's called the "chief of organizational excellence," in essence chief operating officer.

Fitzgerald Mosley, 51, comes back to the USOC from USA Track & Field, where she was chief of sport performance. Last summer in London, the U.S. track team won 29 medals -- one shy of the audacious Project 30 goal set out by former USATF chief executive Doug Logan, who hired Fitzgerald Mosley and then charged her to see it through.

Fitzgerald Mosley is the real deal, one of the most intelligent, articulate and capable executives in the United States. That's right -- any business, not just sports. It is the USOC's good fortune that she is working in the Olympic movement, and that she thoroughly understands not just the scope and nature of its mission but, as well, all its component pieces.

It is a coup for Blackmun to get her back in Colorado Springs, Colo., the USOC's longtime base.

For emphasis: it is the USOC's gain and, candidly, USATF's loss.

Fitzgerald Mosley is the 1984 Olympic 100-meter hurdles gold medalist. She served the USOC previously as director of its Chula Vista, Calif., Olympic Training Center (1995-97), of all three USOC Training Centers (1997-2000) and of its public relations programs (2000-01).

From 2001-09, she was was president and chief executive of Women in Cable Telecommunications.

"I'm excited about working with Scott," Fitzgerald Mosley said, simply, in a telephone interview from Des Moines, Iowa, where the U.S. track and field national championships are underway.

She is due to take up her new position in August.

"I'm extraordinarily excited about this addition to our team," Blackmun said in a statement. "We have to ensure that we continue to evolve as an organization and hold ourselves to the same standards as our athletes, and Benita will help us do just that."

For one thing, what Fitzgerald Mosley will do is bring an athlete's perspective to executive-level meetings in the Springs. Everyone else in that room might think they know what an athlete wants or needs. Fitzgerald Mosley knows for sure. That's invaluable.

For another, Fitzgerald Mosley brings diversity. There's no getting around this. She is African-American. She is female. Blackmun has repeatedly pledged that enhancing diversity is a USOC priority, and Fitzgerald Mosley's hiring is proof that the USOC is not just talking the talk.

"He and I certainly didn't talk about that," Fitzgerald Mosley said, adding, "I certainly recognize that's a plus in my hiring. Breaking through barriers or at least overcoming them is something I'm used to doing as hurdler."

Blackmun has plenty this 2013 on his plate, in particular the contours of a potential 2024 Summer Games bid and the search for a chief development officer who could multiply fund-raising levels. Practically speaking, that means Fitzgerald Mosley is going to have plenty to do, too -- again, a smart play by Blackmun.

Unlike some chief executives who are control freaks, Blackmun is more than confident enough in himself to hire someone as capable as Fitzgerald Mosley, to not be threatened by her and to trust her and and the rest of his team to get their jobs done. This is the winning culture he has helped create at the USOC since coming on board in January, 2010.

Take note of this USOC statement:

"Fitzgerald Mosley will oversee a number of organizational priorities that will utilize her unique perspective, including athlete career programs and the athlete ombudsman's office. Additionally, she will assume many of the responsibilities of outgoing Chief Administrative Officer Kirsten Volpi, including diversity and inclusion, human resources, facilities, NGB organizational development, security, and strategic planning."

Volpi is leaving the USOC to return to the Colorado School of Mines, in Golden, Colo., west of Denver, where she previously served as chief financial officer.

In other changes:

USOC chief financial office Walt Glover will take on further responsibility for information technology and audit. He will report to Blackmun.

Rick Adams has been named chief of sport operations and NGB relations. He will add oversight of the three Olympic Training Centers to his NGB organizational development portfolio. He will report to Fitzgerald Mosley.

Mike English, who had been chief of sport operations, is leaving.


USOC's snapshot of stability

Financial documents, it is often said, are boring. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

They provide a wealth of clues about the performance and direction of whatever entity is at issue.

What the U.S. Olympic Committee's annual tax filing, its Form 990, made public Wednesday, underscores -- yet again -- is that, under the direction of board chairman Larry Probst and chief executive Scott Blackmun, it has reversed years of chaos and infighting and traded that for security, stability, growth and zero turmoil.

In combination with the medals tallies from the Vancouver 2010 and London 2012 Games -- the U.S. teams won the overall counts at both Olympics, with 37 in 2010 and 104 in 2012 -- these are, in many ways, glory years for the U.S. Olympic Committee.

Almost totally.

Now comes the next step: the USOC is quietly moving to forge partnerships within the international Olympic movement. Probst is thought to be a candidate for IOC membership, perhaps as soon as this year; meanwhile, he and Blackmun have, since 2010, assiduously been at work at relationship-building, and the USOC is eyeing a bid for the Summer 2024 or Winter 2026 cycle, probably 2024.

All this is rooted in the comfort of the documents that underpin the USOC"s standing.

On the very first page: total revenues of $338.3 million, up from $140.7 million in 2011.  This wide discrepancy is normal, due to the receipt of broadcast revenues in a Games year.

Similarly, expenses were up from $185 million in 2011 to $247 million in 2012 (also, page 1).

Revenues thus exceeded expenses by $91 million.

The timing of the lump-sum broadcast pay-out for the Summer Games forces the the USOC to shelter cash reserves so that it can have sufficient operating cash for the remainder of the four-year Olympic cycle.

The apples-to-apples comparison for 2012 is 2008, the final year of the previous four-year cycle, which in Olympic terms is called a "quadrennium." USOC revenue in 2008: $280.6 million. At $338.3 million, 2012 revenue marked a 20.5 percent jump.

As a continued sign of the stability the USOC has shown since Probst took over as chairman of the board and Blackmun came on as chief executive, the report lists no severance payments -- that is, no former employees were "highly compensated."

Compare that to the 2010 Form 990, which featured three chief executives on the USOC payroll  -- Blackmun, who had been hired that year, along with former executives Jim Scherr and Stephanie Streeter.

Alan Ashley, the USOC"s chief of sport performance, got about a 10 percent raise over 2011 (page 8). Based on the 2012 team's performance in London -- who wants to question that?

Blackmun's compensation (page 7), breaks down this way: $461,923 salary (page 64), $231,750 bonus (page 64) and $35,664 retirement income (page 64). Then there's another column of deferred compensation -- a long-term performance bonus plus non-taxable retirement and health insurance benefits.

For those tempted to look only at the first column (page 7) next to Blackmun's name and see the number itself, which says, $729,337, there's this:

He made less in 2012 -- a Summer Olympic year -- than he did in 2011. His 2011 total: $742,367. He got paid a bigger bonus in 2011 is mostly why.

Then there's this for context and comparison:

According to a database published last month by USA Today, here is what various athletic directors around the United States make: Shawn Eichorst, Nebraska: $1.123 million. Barry Alvarez, Wisconsin, $1.143 million. Tom Jurich, Louisville, $1.401 million.

David Williams at Vanderbilt: $3.239 million.

By any measure in the real world, Blackmun is a bargain.

Meanwhile, USA Ski & Snowboard got $4.3 million in grants from the USOC; it earned 21 of the 37 Vancouver medals. At the 2013 alpine world championships, Ted Ligety won three gold medals; Mikaela Shiffrin won the world slalom title; Kikkan Randall is a cross-country medals threat; and more.

USA Swimming got $4.16 million; it won 31 medals in London.

USA Track & FIeld got $4.692 million. It won 29 medals in London.

This is the USOC strategy: to invest in sports likely to bring back results. Given the U.S. team's world-leading performance in London -- all those who want to argue that the swim and track teams did not measure up, line up on the left.



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.