USOC to resume talks with IOC; 2022 bid on hold
LONDON (AP) – U.S. Olympic Committee leaders will resume negotiations with the IOC this week about the revenue-sharing dispute that’s been blocking potential American bids for the games, including the 2022 Winter Olympics.
USOC chairman Larry Probst and CEO Scott Blackmun told The Associated Press on Wednesday that they will hold talks with International Olympic Committee officials on Friday in Innsbruck, Austria, during the inaugural Winter Youth Games.
“We’re making progress, slowly but surely,” Probst said. “I think both sides want to make sure that this gets done correctly. That’s obviously taking some time.”
The negotiations with the IOC, ongoing for more than a year, are aimed at resolving the dispute over the U.S. share of Olympic television and marketing revenues. The IOC believes the American cut is excessive and should be redistributed.
After New York’s unsuccessful bid for the 2012 Olympics and Chicago’s humiliating first-round defeat in the vote for the 2016 Games, the USOC has repeatedly said it will not bid again until the revenue issue is resolved.
When the two sides failed to reach an agreement last year, the USOC passed on bidding for the 2020 Summer Games. The next chance is for the 2022 Winter Olympics, and the USOC is already hearing interest from potential bid cities.
Denver has formed an exploratory committee on a possible bid. Reno-Lake Tahoe, Nevada, and Salt Lake City are also in the mix.
“We’re grateful that Denver is interested and that Tahoe is interested. People from Salt Lake City have expressed interest,” Blackmun said. “It’s an expensive proposition. The fact that we have three or more U.S. cities interested in making an investment in the Olympic movement is a very positive thing for us.
“We’re being very candid with those cities in terms of where we are with the IOC and our expectation. It’s not going to be productive to submit a bid until we can put those discussions behind us.”
The U.S. last hosted the Summer Olympics in 1996 in Atlanta, and the Winter Games in 2002 in Salt Lake City.
“We would love to host the games,” Blackmun said. “It’s important for us to keep Americans connected to the games. But as we saw with New York’s bid and Chicago’s bid, while we have this dispute out there, it’s difficult for us to put together a bid that’s really going to resonate with the IOC.”
Probst added: “We want to put ourselves in the best possible position to win a bid if we do in fact bid for another winter or summer games.”
Under a long-standing contract, the USOC receives a 20 percent share of global sponsorship revenue and a 12.75 percent share of U.S. broadcast rights deals. Any new formula would go into effect after 2020.
Both sides had hoped to reach an accord last year, but the talks hit a roadblock.
“We’re hoping we can to get to a resolution that both sides are comfortable with sometime in the not too distant future – sooner rather than later,” Probst said. “There are a lot of moving parts and a lot of different constituencies need to be considered. It’s time consuming.”
Probst and Blackmun stopped off for a day in London, less than seven months before the opening of the 2012 Olympics on July 27. The United States will be sending about 600 athletes and 600 coaches and officials to the games.
Transportation is one of the biggest challenges for London organizers, who hope the city’s already-stretched Underground system and traffic-choked streets can cope with the Olympics.
The British media have frequently criticized the prospect of Olympic VIPs traveling by luxury vehicles and using special traffic lanes, but Blackmun said that won’t be the case with the USOC.
“We’re very prepared to use public transportation in addition to private transportation,” he said. “In terms of our delegation, the majority of us will be using public transportation.”
Keeping the Olympics safe from a terrorist attack is also a major issue, with Britain planning to deploy up to 13,500 troops to protect the games – as well as 10,000 security guards and 12,000 police officers. Police recently managed to smuggle a fake bomb into the Olympic Park in a security test.
“We’ve got 600 athletes here. We want to make sure they are protected to the greatest extent possible,” Blackmun said. “I wouldn’t say that our preparations for London are any different than our preparation for any other games. We have great relationships and cooperation with the British government and we really don’t anticipate any issues.”
Blackmun also spoke of the USOC’s medal hopes for the games. At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the U.S. led the total medal count with 110, while host China topped the gold tally with 51.
“Will the U.S. win the medal count?” Blackmun said. “We hope so. But there’s some very, very difficult competition that we’re looking at from China, from Russia. The U.K. has a very strong team this year.”
Italian sports official Luciano Barra recently projected that China would win the most medals (103) and most golds (43), followed by the U.S. with 82 and 35, and Russia with 76 and 30.
“The Chinese could win the medal count,” Blackmun said. “They have a fantastic team. They’re investing heavily in that team. They’re really prioritizing sport as a nation and that’s a good thing for the worldwide Olympic movement, not a bad thing.”
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