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07/24/2009

Is the USOC working for Rio??

If I didn't know better I'd think the United States Olympic Committee is actively working against Chicago's bid to host the 2016 Summer Games.

A few examples...

In the business of bidding relationships are everything.  So earlier this year, newly installed USOC Chairman Larry Probst engineered a coup that ousted the widely known and well regarded CEO Jim Scherr.  In recent years Scherr has traveled the world for the USOC working with others to rehabiliate an international image that had been badly tarnished in the eyes of many International Olympic Committee members (the people who will decide whether Chicago gets the Games).  It also didn't hurt that Scherr's identical twin brother runs the legacy component of Chicago's bid. 

Scherr was replaced by Stephanie Streeter who conceded in an interview with me this spring that she was uncomfortable with the "public ambassador" duties of her job.  She and Larry Probst were no-shows in Lausanne, Switzerland last month when Chicago and the other 2016 Candidate Cities gave key presentations to the IOC.

Fast forward to this month when the US Olympic Committee angered several key IOC members by dropping the bomb that it would launch an Olympic-oriented television channel in conjunction with Comcast.  As you can imagine, the IOC doesn't much fancy competition that could de-value the amount of money it gets from auctioning off broadcast rights for the Olympic Games.  They've been talking about the Olympic channel for years, couldn't the USOC have waited to ruffle feathers until after the host city vote in October?

“We alerted them...to the serious issues that we have and that we should discuss them before the announcement,” IOC executive board member Richard Carrion told the New York Times.“That’s how a good partnership should work. I guess this is their style of doing things.”  Thanks IOC.  If the member from Puerto Rico is mad at us, how do you think the folks over in Europe feel?

Just this week, the USOC boasted in a press release that it had more than doubled its fundraising goal, bringing in $4.4 million so far this summer.  At the same time, the USOC was irritating IOC members by delaying talks over the seriously sore subject of Olympic revenue sharing.  The USOC gets the biggest slice of the pie because it brings in the most revenue for the Olympics; but some IOC members think America gets more than its fair share.  Not the best time to be bragging about how much money you raked in.

For as long as I've been covering Chicago's bid for the 2016 Games I've been told that the bid is a "partnership" between the city and the US Olympic Committee.  With friends like this, who needs enemies.

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