USOC boss shoots down would-be vultures circling Chicago bid
The U.S. Olympic Committee took a potshot Monday at the cities circling Chicago's 2016 Olympic bid like vultures.
Stephanie Streeter, the USOC's acting chief executive, issued a "Statement of USOC Commitment to Chicago 2016.''
That was prompted by recent stories, which drew attention on some Olympic news sites, suggesting Tulsa, Okla.; Pittsburgh, Pa.; Minneapolis; Detroit and Birmingham, Ala., are thinking about bids for the 2020 Summer Games. Such putative bids, preposterous at face value (The Tulsa Olympics? Riiight...), would be out of the question if Chicago was selected the 2016 host on Oct. 2.
Last winter, the USOC had to tamp down interest in Denver for a 2018 Winter Olympic bid, which also seemingly depended on Chicago's failure. Former USOC spokesman Darryl Seibel said in March: "All our attention is focused on Chicago and supporting its bid.''
(As it turns out, a 2018 winter bid would have been impossible for a U.S. city, because the IOC has set an Oct. 15 deadline for national Olympic committees to submit the name of a candidate, and the USOC could not be evaluating winter bids while working for Chicago's.)
Streeter's statement (full text below) makes that point, saying no future bids will be considered while Chicago is "on the international stage.''
"Let me reiterate that position in the most adamant terms,'' Streeter said. "Chicago is not only our current bid city, it is our only bid city, and it is the sole focus of our efforts.''
While issuing such a statement calls more attention to the notion that other U.S. cities are waiting for Chicago to lose, which Chicago's three rivals could say shows a lack of national backing, Chicago 2016 spokesman Patrick Sandusky said Monday's statement was "consistent with the USOC's position. The USOC has affirmed on several previous occasions that we are the only bid city, Summer or Winter.''
The USOC already has devoted considerable resources to the Chicago bid, including the exhaustive efforts of an international relations team led by USOC Vice President Bob Ctvrtlik, international relations chief Robert Fasulo and several others. Their work has included not only trying to sell the Chicago 2016 message to the voting members of the International Olympic Committee but such mundane tasks as helping process visas for important international sports visitors.
Of course, the USOC leadership also may have undermined that work with actions that, if necessary at all, could have waited until after the Oct. 2 vote.
First came the March ouster of previous Chief Executive Jim Scherr, re-creating the image of organizational instability and revolving-door executives that had plagued the USOC until former board Chairman Peter Ueberroth put Scherr in the top spot five years ago.
Then there was the early July decision, which has Ueberroth's imprint all over it, to defy the IOC by announcing the birth -- stillbirth? -- of the U.S. Olympic Network after the IOC asked the USOC to hold off until a number of issues were resolved.
For financial reasons, the USOC desperately needs another Olympics in the United States, sooner rather than later.
It should be fully committed to Chicago's bid and show that more in its actions than words.
Statement of USOC Commitment to Chicago 2016 by Chief Executive Stephanie Streeter:
"Several recent news reports indicate that a number of U.S. cities are considering future Olympic bids. While it is always encouraging to see enthusiasm for the Olympic Movement, the USOC has been on record for more than two years in proclaiming that there will be absolutely no consideration of any future bids -- winter or summer -- from the U.S. while Chicago is on the international stage.
"Let me reiterate that position in the most adamant terms. Chicago is not only our current bid city, it is our only bid city, and it is the sole focus of our efforts.
"We are now 52 days from the decision on the 2016 Host City. All of our hopes and dreams for bringing the Olympic Games back to the United States are anchored in Chicago 2016 and the IOC decision on Oct. 2.
"Through our enduring bidding partnership, Chicago 2016 has earned our gratitude and respect. The City of Broad Shoulders has placed the United States in a great position to bring home the world's greatest celebration of humanity.
"From my point of view, what Chicago Mayor Daley and Chicago 2016 Chair and CEO Pat Ryan have accomplished in their quest for the Games is nothing less than extraordinary.
"They have developed a magnificent plan for the Games in the heart of the city on the shores of Lake Michigan that will deliver a spectacular experience for the athletes. They have built a powerful partnership with the Obama Administration that has resulted in a new White House Office of Olympic, Paralympic and Youth Sport.
"They have developed a remarkable legacy program through World Sport Chicago -- the Urban Youth Sport Initiative -- that is engaging young people in Olympic and Paralympic sport in Chicago's urban center, a program that has been endorsed, through Mayor Daley's influence, by the U.S. Conference of Mayors and is now being adapted in six U.S. cities: Indianapolis, Louisville, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Oklahoma City and St. Louis.
"They have aligned the public and private sectors behind the bid, including leading U.S. corporations and foundations, to ensure that the Games can be produced without risk and that the Olympic Movement will greatly benefit from the infusion of new American resources.
"In short, they have managed to capture the imagination of individuals and organizations across our country and have achieved a degree of national interest that no previous U.S. bid has been able to mount.
"With less than two months to go before the IOC's decision in Copenhagen, two months in which it is essential for us to capture the attention of the global Olympic Family, it is equally essential that the USOC sustain a 110% focus on the needs of Chicago 2016.
"So, with all due respect to those cities that are dreaming about one day bidding for the Games, now is not the time. This is Chicago's time. Please join all of us at the USOC in standing with Chicago 2016. Given what they've accomplished in projecting the right image for our country, it is clear they have earned our full respect and devotion."
-- Philip Hersh
Photo: U.S. Olympic Committee Chief Executive Officer Stephanie Streeter. Credit: Ed Andrieski / Associated Press