USOC top brass again draw attention to Olympic host selection process
A senior member of the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) has again drawn attention to the way Olympic Host Cities are chosen, just three months before the country is expected to decide whether to launch a bid for the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Asked after a speech to the National Press Club in Washington what one thing about the Olympics he would change if he could, Scott Blackmun, the USOC’s chief executive, responded as follows:
“If you look at how we select the cities for the Olympic Games, rightly or wrongly it’s very different than the way a business organisation would make that selection.
“The Olympic Games are obviously a multi-billion-dollar programme, a multi-billion-dollar value and the selection is made based on whatever cities sign up to be hosts of the Olympic Games and then there’s a competition and a vote among those cities.
“It would be great if we could find a way to strategically make that selection in a way that helped build the Olympic brand around the world.”
In June, Larry Probst, the USOC’s chairman, who is also an IOC member, was reported by insidethegames to have said that he would like to see the IOC Executive Board decide where the Games were held.
He subsequently explained that he “served that up [at a conference] as, you know, ‘Here’s an idea, here’s a thought’.
“Upon further thinking about it, it might not be such a terrible idea to have the Executive Board get down to a couple of cities and then put the vote between those two cities to the full membership.”
Blackmun’s comments come as the Executive Board, licking its wounds in the wake of the reduction of the field for the 2022 Winter Games to just two candidates, is meeting in Montreux, with reform of its bidding procedures high on the agenda.
While Blackmun reiterated that no final decision on whether to bid had been made, the US is seen increasingly as front-runner in what has suddenly become a very important race from the point of view of the IOC’s general image.
The last US bidder – Chicago – was eliminated (to gasps) in the first round of voting for the 2016 Games won eventually by Rio de Janeiro; this despite the presence in Copenhagen, where voting took place, of President Barack Obama and wife Michelle.
In answer to another question, Blackmun disclosed that the USOC, which gets no US Government funding, expected this year to receive a gross total of more than $20 million (£12.5 million/€16 million) in “major gift philanthropy”, up from less than $1 million (£624,000/€790,000) a year in 2010.
He also sounded a positive note regarding the ambitions as sports event hosts of smaller countries such as Qatar, which has been awarded the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
“I think it’s fantastic that we have a number of countries like Qatar who are rising up and wanting to invest their substantial resources in sport,” Blackmun, a former soccer goalkeeper, said.
“I think that’s a wonderful thing.
“I think we have to rely on the IOC and the international sport federations (IFs) to make sure that those investments are appropriate, and hopefully through the oversight of the IOC and IFs, when competitions are held in places that are hot, it won’t be at the expense of our athletes, because that’s critically, critically important.
“So we are very, very supportive of the arrival at the party of places like Qatar, but we are looking to the IOC and IFs to make sure that those competitions are held under conditions and circumstances that promote athletics, as opposed to the opposite.”
Blackmun’s keynote speech was devoted to US college sport and its critical importance to the country’s Olympic success.
Alluding to the dwindling number of programmes in some Olympic sports, such as gymnastics and wrestling, he said: “Our concern, stated very bluntly, is that the inevitable reallocation of resources in college athletics will make it even more difficult for Olympic sport programmes to survive.”
However, he added that the USOC had a $5 million (£3 million/€4 million) donor prepared to invest in the preservation of Olympic sports at college institutions.