USOC's Blackmun: Federal or state guarantee may be key to U.S. bid for Games

While 2024 Summer Games the likely target, 2026 Winter Games bid not impossible

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Four-time Olympic basketball champion Teresa Edwards, the U.S. chef de mission, and USOC CEO Scott Blackmun at the Olympic Village welcoming ceremony for the U.S. team (Alexander Hassenstein / Getty Images)

Four-time Olympic basketball champion Teresa Edwards, the U.S. chef de mission, and USOC CEO Scott Blackmun at the 2012 London Olympic Village welcoming ceremony for the U.S. team (Alexander Hassenstein / Getty Images / July 25, 2012)

Few International Olympic Committee meetings will have more of an impact on the future of the Olympics than the session that is to take place this September in Buenos Aires.

In a brief span, the members will elect a presidential successor from six candidates to replace Jacques Rogge of Belgium, who has served 12 years; pick the 2020 Summer Games host from three candidates, Madrid, Tokyo and Istanbul; and decide whether wrestling, baseball-softball or squash will be added to the Summer Games program after 2020.

While the United States has no dog directly in any of those fights, the winners of each clearly will affect the U.S. Olympic Committee’s approach to a future in which hosting another Olympics is a high priority.  For instance, some feel a Tokyo victory in the 2020 race will hurt a U.S. bid for 2024, since it will give the IOC members more incentive to pick a European city.

With all that in mind, I sat down last week with USOC chief executive Scott Blackmun, who has been on the job for 3 ½ years, for a question-and-answer session.

Here is Part I of that interview:

Q.  Does the result of the IOC presidential election make a difference to the USOC?

A.  I’m sure it will.  We just don’t know which way.  I’m sure the six candidates would bring different things to the table in terms of leadership and programs.  We don’t have a vote as a National Olympic Committee and are looking forward to working with whoever gets that position.

Q.  On the issue of which sport might get added to the program, don’t you have a conundrum?  You have two “U.S.” sports, the joint baseball-softball bid, and a very popular sport in the U.S., wrestling, as another.  Can you have a preference?

A.  No.

Q.  Can wrestling overcome the stunning circumstance of being dropped from the program by the IOC executive board in February?  If it does, that would be an admission the earlier decision was a mistake.

A.  If you look at the reforms wrestling has implemented since that initial vote, they have made substantial progress.  From that standpoint, it is hard to say (dropping them) was a mistake by the IOC – assuming they get back in the Games.

Q.  The USOC is seeking cities interested in a possible bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics.  It would seem a Winter Games are A) easier to get, because the number of potential host countries is more limited by topography and weather; and B) much less of an organizational and financial challenge for a host city.  Why did the USOC decide to concentrate on a summer bid?

A.  I think you are right on both those counts.  There are less countries that can host the Winter Games; because of that, your odds are better.  I also think we have a lot of infrastructure in place to host a Winter Games.

But I think our ability to inspire Americans and engage the whole country in sport is much higher in a Summer Games than a Winter Games.  That was the feeling of our board.

Q.  In terms of Winter Olympics, can you see the IOC ever going back to Salt Lake City, which has all the venues still in place and, therefore, could minimize costs – which is, purportedly, one of the IOC’s goals going forward.

A.  Salt Lake City has all the infrastructure, and they have proven they can rally their community around the Olympic Games.  I think Salt Lake City would be a very viable candidate if we decided we wanted to host the Winter Games.

Q.  Other than Salt Lake City and Denver, which other U.S. cities are possible Winter Games hosts?

A.  I think Reno/Tahoe could put together a compelling bid.  I haven’t seen details on an Alaska bid, but I know Anchorage is very interested.

We have two bobsled tracks in the U.S. – Salt Lake City and Lake Placid.  If you begin to build more bobsled tracks, you worry about your ability to fully utilize them.

Q.  Given the cost of new facilities, do you think the IOC would agree with the idea of using relatively close existing facilities – such as the Salt Lake bobsled track for a Denver or Reno-Tahoe Olympics?

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