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Category: 2016 Olympic bids

Chicago needs to join next U.S. World Cup

Mundial
The opening ceremony of the 1994 World Cup at Soldier Field (AP file photo)

By Philip Hersh

A few things have slipped by lately while I was working on other things.  I'm getting to them one-by-one -- this is the fourth and last -- and linking you back (below) to the three I have already covered.

4.  The 2010 World Cup final between Spain and the Netherlands draws a rating of 8.1 on ABC, largest U.S. audience ever for a men's soccer game.

An 8.1 rating for any TV show is impressive these days.  And this was for a telecast on a summer Sunday afternoon.  And a match with teams from countries that do not have huge immigrant populations in the United States.  And the rating doesn't include all the U.S. viewers who watched the Spanish-language broadcast.  And the third-place match between Uruguay and Germany at the same time a day earlier drew a 3.1.

The significance of those numbers?

They don't mean that soccer is on its way to challenge the big three U.S. sports - football, baseball, basketball.

They do mean that the World Cup definitely is a big deal to U.S. viewers, even after their own team is eliminated.  That interest owes greatly to the ever-growing commitment to the event made by the Evil Empire (that's ESPN).  The coverage from South Africa was exhaustive (and exhausting during the opening round when there were three or four televised games a day).  The match commentary and in-studio analysis was compelling and informative.

They also mean Chicago needs to get aboard a boat it chose to miss last fall.

With those ratings and the measure of interest shown by the large number of U.S. fans who traveled to South Africa, the international soccer federation (FIFA) would be foolish not to give the 2022 World Cup to the United States when it awards the 2018 and 2022 tournaments Dec. 2.  (England has been considered the 2018 favorite.)

And, if that happens, maybe Mayor Daley (should he run and win re-election next year) will get over his hissy fit of post-Olympic-bid pique that led the city not to submit itself as one of the possible host cities in a U.S. bid.  As in the case of Olympic bids, venue changes for the World Cup can be made after a city or country is picked.

Chicago will have to spend some money on Soldier Field to meet FIFA requirements, but the amount -- some $1 to $2 million -- is not be a deal-breaker.  And, the experience of the 1994 World Cup, when Chicago hosted six matches (including the opener), showed how much positive exposure (and tourism dollars) it can bring the city.

In fact, Chicago could benefit more from the World Cup than the World Cup organizers would.

Because Soldier Field is smaller than stadiums in all the other 18 host city candidates -- it has more than 10,000 fewer seats than all but two of the other stadiums currently in the mix -- would be a substantial difference in ticket revenues, one of the organizers' primary revenue streams

The 1994 World Cup had nine venues.  There could be a couple more the next time in the United States, given the number of new stadiums built since 1994. 

Whether Daley or someone else is running the show, Chicago needs to be one of them.

The previous installments:

1.  Hurdler Allen Johnson leaves competitive track and field at age 39.

2.  The U.S. Olympic Committee board last week rejected the Tagliabue committee's recommendation to stop having immediate past chairmen serve as honorary president and attend board meetings.

3.   French cyclist Jeannie Longo-Ciprelli wins her 57th national title at four months shy of her 52nd birthday -- and 31 years after winning her first.


Olympic panel's recommendation was no honor for Ueberroth

The U.S. Olympic Committee board last week rejected the Tagliabue committee's recommendation to stop having immediate past chairmen serve as honorary president and attend board meetings.

It was the only recommendation made by the advisory committee, chaired by former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, that the board chose not want to implement.

Read more: "Olympic committee move not an honor for Ueberroth"

-- Philip Hersh



USOC leaving Ueberroth years behind

On the surface, it looks like purely a sensible money-saving move.

Dig just a little, and it won't take long to unearth the other motive in the U.S. Olympic Committee's decision to close its office in Irvine, which the USOC announced Monday.

It marks a further break with the Peter Ueberroth era and the international relations team he assembled, one that could not prevent a repeat of the bid city debacle that originally had led Ueberroth's USOC to engage the services of Bob Ctvrtlik and Robert Fasulo after New York's bid for the 2012 Winter Olympics finished next-to-last among five finalists in 2005.

(And let there be no doubt about it: In his four years as board chairman, it wasUeberroth's USOC.)

Fasulo Ueberroth brought in Fasulo as international relations chief right after the 2006 Winter Olympics. Ctvrtlik became USOC vice president for international relations a couple months later.

At first, they worked in space provided by Ueberroth's Newport Beach-based company, The Contrarian Group. Later, as the staff grew to five (including Chris Duplanty, who made $281,000 in 2008 for a Ueberroth-created post supposed to be an unpaid, volunteer position), the USOC began renting space in Irvine that likely cost some $30,000 a year -- not an enormous expense.

And then the Chicago 2016 bid failed even more miserably that New York's had. While Rio de Janeiro clearly was not going to lose last October, no matter who did what (short of the handsome bribes that presumably ended after the Salt Lake bid scandal), some blamed Ctvrtlik and Fasulo for not doing a better job of locking in enough votes to avoid having President Obama travel to Copenhagen to promote a bid that made a humiliating first-round exit in a field of four.

Ctvrtlik had resigned his USOC post early last year to become a paid member of the Chicago 2016 staff.  When the USOC decided to close the Irvine office, it offered the staff there a chance to relocate to Colorado Springs, Colo., (where international relations staff will not pay for rent in the USOC headquarters), an offer it knew Fasulo was guaranteed to refuse. The USOC announced Monday that Fasulo will leave his post Aug. 31.

Ueberroth had a role in Chicago's bid until bid chairman Patrick Ryan told the USOC chairman last spring his services weren't needed.  That move owed to the animosity Ueberroth's hard-line stance on revenue sharing had created among International Olympic Committee members demanding that the USOC rewrite existing contracts and take a smaller share of the global revenue pie.

(Full disclosure: As readers of this blog may remember, I frequently backed the rationale for Ueberroth's stance on revenue sharing, which was based on how large a percentage of that money came from U.S. companies and TV rights.  But the issue turned into a shouting match between Ueberroth and some IOC members, and I said at that point the USOC had to at least lower the decibels to avoid damaging Chicago's bid. That happened a few months after Larry Probst became USOC chairman in late 2008, but by then the issue had become toxic to Chicago.)

The USOC recently has engaged with the IOC in quiet negotiations on revenue sharing, some of which took place during the Vancouver Winter Olympics. Maybe the closing of the Irvine office is a symbolic part of those negotiations, showing the IOC that the new USOC regime -- Probst and Chief Executive Scott Blackmun, who took over in January -- really does have a different approach to international relations than the one that left the New York and Chicago bids with embarrassing defeats.

*On a related subject: Ten days ago, the USOC announced the recommendations of an independent advisory commission on its governance chaired by former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue. I didn't feel compelled to write about it then because I already had outlined in blogs a couple months earlier what became the two most significant recommendations -- extending the chairman's term beyond four years and expanding the USOC board.

 My Nov. 9, 2009 blog was headlined, "To gain long term clout, USOC needs longer term for Olympic committee boss.''  Its opening sentence was, "Larry Probst needs to be the U.S. Olympic Committee  

for at least eight years.'' Later, I said, "How much relationship-building could Probst do in less than three years, anyway?''

The Tagliabue commission report said the board should "consider extending the term limits for the chairman of the board in order to allow increased ability for international relationship building.''

In a Dec. 10, 2009 blog based on an interview with Tagliabue, I wrote, "Tagliabue clearly seems inclined to recommend a larger USOC board than the current one, which now includes just eight voting members, two of whom (the U.S. members of the International Olympic Committee) share one vote.  He just returned from chairing a meeting of the Georgetown University board, which has 45 members, a size he called workable.

" 'In the NFL, we had a 32-member board, and that was workable,' '' he said.

The Tagliabue commission report recommended the board be increased from 11 to 15 members.

Among the other Tagliabue commission recommendations, which the board will take up in June, were ones recommending elimination of the positions of board liaison and first vice president, international relations.

One job was Duplanty's. The other was Ctvrtlik's.

At this rate, it soon will take more than a little digging to find traces of the Ueberroth years.

-- Philip Hersh

Robert Fasulo, foreground, and Bob Ctvrtlik, formerly the top two USOC international relations officials, in a November 2006 photo. Fasulo will step down Aug. 31;  Ctvrtlik left his post last year; a commission recommended 10 days ago the job be eliminated. AP file photo / Chris Carlson.


The envelope, please: My athletes of year, decade

The year after a Summer Olympics is supposed to be a time when the stars of the previous Games catch their breath while the likely stars of the next Winter Games give the Olympic world some breathless anticipation.

So it was no surprise to see alpine skier Lindsey Vonn emerge as, so to speak, the Michael Phelps of the upcoming 2010 Winter Games, a woman clearly capable of winning four of her sport’s five events.

But we also saw Phelps being Phelps all over again, saving a sport whose brain-dead leadership allowed decades of history to be washed away by its failure to rein in technology.

And Usain Bolt becoming lightning-in-a-bottle for track and field’s leadership, a star of such dimensions he is keeping afloat a sport drowning in its recent doping history.

As they had been in 2008, Bolt and Phelps were the biggest winners of 2009 in the Olympic sports world.

The biggest loser? Chicago, its excellent bid for the 2016 Olympics shamed by a first-round elimination. For that, Chicago can thank the U.S. Olympic Committee’s dunderhead leadership, given the USOC’s determined efforts to create more internal turmoil and infuriate the International Olympic Committee.

Not that anyone was going to deny Rio de Janeiro its historic prize: becoming the first South American host of an Olympics.

That is why I am giving Brazil’s president one of the top prizes in these 23rd annual Tribune international sports awards, for people to whom an Olympic gold medal – or, in this case, an Olympic Games -- is the ultimate goal.

World Athletes of the Year

MEN GOLD – Usain Bolt, Jamaica, track and field. Last year, I couldn’t pick between Bolt and Michael Phelps, so they shared this award. In 2009, Bolt was not only in another class from any athlete in any sport but from any human being who has taken on the simplest of all athletic challenges: getting from here to there faster than the competition. With his second set of 100-200 world records at a major meet (Olympics 2008, worlds 2009), plus another sprint relay victory, Bolt is a runaway winner.

SILVER – Michael Phelps, United States, swimming. It isn’t just that Phelps won five more world championship gold medals, giving him an astounding 20 golds for the four worlds in which he has competed. It is his having defied the anything-goes suit insanity that rendered swim world records essentially meaningless: Phelps set world marks in the 100 and 200 butterfly without the all-polyurethane super suits.

BRONZE – Aksel Lund Svindal, Norway, alpine skiing. After missing a season because of a horrific late 2007 crash at Beaver Creek, Colo., Svindal returned to win the World Cup overall and Super-G titles and the world title in super combined in 2009.

WOMEN

GOLD – Lindsey Vonn, United States, alpine skiing. Imagine what Vonn might have done if she hadn’t slashed a thumb opening a Champagne bottle to celebrate her second gold medal (downhill, Super-G) at the 2009 worlds? As it was, she won 9 World Cup races, a second straight World Cup overall title, two World Cup discipline titles and utterly dominated her sport.

SILVER – Guo Jingjing, China, diving. The word had been that Guo, who turned 28 last October, would retire after the 2008 Olympics, where she won two more golds (after two in Athens). But there she was at the 2009 worlds, winning two titles (including an unprecedented fifth straight in a single event, 3-meter springboard), the ninth and 10th world titles of her career. Now she talks of competing at the 2012 London Games.

BRONZE – Federica Pellegrini, Italy, swimming. In a year when she posed nude for the cover of the Italian edition of Vanity Fair, then undressed the competition at the Rome worlds, it was hard to recall this 21-year-old once suffered from panic attacks about competition. She won the 200 and 400 freestyles at worlds to justify the gold paint covering her body in the magazine pictures.

U.S. Athletes of the Year

MEN

GOLD – Michael Phelps, swimming. (see above).

SILVER – Todd Lodwick, Nordic combined. After two frustrating Olympics, in which he had top 10 finishes in all six of his events but could not become the first U.S. athlete to win a Nordic combined medal, Lodwick retired in 2006, 11 years after making his World Cup debut. The father of two returned last season at age 33 to win not only the first world title of his exceptional career but a second one two days later.

BRONZE – Evan Lysacek, figure skating. Making 4½ minutes of jumping, spinning and footwork sequences look effortless, the 23-year-old became the first U.S. man to win the world title since Todd Eldredge in 1996.

WOMEN

GOLD – Lindsey Vonn (see above)

SILVER – Erin Hamlin, luge. Yes, she had home-track advantage in Lake Placid, but no woman from any country had won there or anywhere over the German wundermadchen in 99 Olympic, World Cup and World Championship races dating to 1997 -- until Hamlin took the gold medal at the 2009 worlds.

BRONZE – Allyson Felix and Sanya Richards, track and field. Felix won her third straight world title at 200 meters; Richards finally got the major meet gorilla off her back by winning her first individual title, at 400 meters. Then they teamed up for a second straight world gold in the 4 x 400 meters.

World Performances of the Year

MEN

GOLD – Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Brazil. The Brazilian president’s appeal to the International Olympic Committee during final presentations before the 2016 Olympic vote was a brilliant mix of emotion and pragmatism. One telling example: after weeks of telling the IOC to stop giving the Olympics only to rich countries, President Lula reminded everyone that Brazil was the only country among the world’s top 10 economies that had yet to be an Olympic host. That ended when the IOC made Rio the 2016 winner.

SILVER – Usain Bolt, Jamaica, track and field. His world-record time of 9.58 seconds at the Berlin worlds was, well, otherworldly. Next for Bolt: the sound barrier.

BRONZE – Kenenisa Bekele, Ethiopia, track and field. Running in Bolt’s shadow, Bekele became the first man to win the 5,000 and 10,000 meters at a world championships. "I would definitely beat him [Bolt] at this distance," Bekele joked after the 5,000.

WOMEN

GOLD – Caster Semenya, South Africa, track and field. Her stunning win in the 800 meters at the world meet, in a time more than 8 seconds better than her personal best a year earlier, touched off a controversy over what constitutes sexual identity and fair competition that has yet to be resolved. Rivals railed that Semenya, 18, was a man; tests have reportedly shown her to be intersex. Semenya will keep her gold medal, but her competitive future has yet to be decided.

SILVER – Jeannie Longo-Ciprelli, cycling, France. Longo, a 1996 Olympic champion, won her 56th national cycling title last summer – at age 50. She also finished 10th in the time trial at worlds five weeks before her 51st birthday.

BRONZE – Kim Yuna, South Korea, figure skating. Before a large contingent of compatriots in a sellout Los Angeles crowd, Kim not only became the first South Korean to win a world figure skating title but did it with a record score, won by a whopping 16 points despite two significant errors in her free skate and established herself as a prohibitive favorite for 2010 Olympic gold.

WORLD ATHLETES OF THE DECADE

MEN

Michael Phelps, United States, swimming: Utterly no contest here. With a record-breaking 14 Olympic gold medals, 20 world championship gold medals and 29 individual world records (the first in 2001; the most recent in August 2009), Phelps was in a class by himself.

WOMEN

Anja Paerson, Sweden, alpine skiing. Quietly, unassumingly (except for her celebratory belly slides after races), the 28-year-old had a decade of brilliance in every dimension. Three Olympic medals (one of each color); seven world titles (plus two seconds and a third); two World Cup overall titles; five World Cup event titles; and 40 World Cup wins, making her No. 4 all-time in that category.

-- Philip Hersh


Chicago's Olympic loss is a gain for London 2012

Chicago's loss in the race for the 2016 Summer Olympics has turned into a gain for the London 2012 organizing committee.

Doug Arnot That's because Doug Arnot is going to work as director of games operations of the London Summer Games.

Arnot was director of sport, venues and Games operations for Chicago 2016. His star did not fall when Chicago's burned out in the first round of the Oct. 2 voting that made Rio de Janeiro the 2016 Olympic host city.

During Chicago's final presentation, Arnot began and ended by speaking French (the only Chicago presenter to deliver a sentence in anything but English), therein recognizing and honoring the idea that French is one of the two official languages of the Olympic movement.  Such a gesture was, of course, too little, too late for a bid that foundered at least partly because of the United States Olympic Committee's inability to communicate, through either the words or actions of its leadership, a real desire to be part of the Olympic world as more than an occasional Games host.

Arnot went to Chicago 2016 after resigning as the chief executive of USA Rugby. (Coincidentally, rugby was voted onto the 2016 Olympic program a week after the host city selection.). He had been managing director of operations for the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games and managing director of venues for the 1996 Atlanta Summer Games. He has worked on eight Olympics as a consultant or organizing committee staffer.

Arnot, an avid cyclist, is part of a group of Olympic nomads that go from Games to Games, bid to bid, passing on their knowledge. If Chicago had won, Arnot would have been in line for a top organizing committee position, perhaps even chief operating officer.  

It figured Arnot wouldn't be out of Olympic work for long.

-- Philip Hersh

Photo: Doug Arnot addresses the International Olympic Committee this month during Chicago's final presentation before the vote for the 2016 Summer Olympics. Credit: Michael Tercha / Chicago Tribune


Golf and rugby to be among sports at 2016 Olympics

Imagine what a golf course in Rio de Janeiro would look like...

Lush rainforest grass surrounded by cascading waterfalls and singing vibrant-hued toucans? The world's best golfers will find out in 2016. 

The International Olympic Committee voted today to bring golf to the 2016 Olympic games for the first time in more than a century.

The IOC is also permitting rugby to make its first appearance at the Olympics since 1924. Rugby, which was voted in 81-8 with one abstention, received less resistance than golf, which was voted in 63-27 with two abstentions.

Some IOC members were hesitant to vote for golf due to the high costs associated with the sport, potential accessibility issues, and the fact that some clubs exclude women members, according to the Associated Press.

Tiger Woods, however, is reportedly thrilled, indicating in a taped message that he would participate in the 2016 Olympics if golf were approved.

"There are millions of young golfers worldwide who would be proud to represent their country," Woods told reporters from the Presidents Cup in San Francisco. "It would be an honor for anyone who plays this game to become an Olympian."

-- Melissa Rohlin


U.S. Olympic Committee chaos: the whole story

Stephanie The top two officials of the U.S. Olympic Committee, acting chief executive Stephanie Streeter and board chairman Larry Probst, took actions Wednesday that were tantamount to an admission the USOC had failed Chicago in its bid to be host of the 2016 Olympics.

But even Streeter’s announcement she would not seek the job on a permanent basis and Probst’s decision to turn his volunteer position into a full-time commitment fell short of satisfying their critics.

Leaders of 46 national sports federations, known as NGBs, who are directly involved in preparing Olympic athletes, gave a collective vote of no-confidence in both Streeter and Probst and called for both to resign immediately.

Streeter is to stay as acting CEO through a search process Probst said should be complete by the end of the first quarter of 2010. Before the NGB statement was issued, Probst said he had no plans to resign.

NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol and NGB Council chair Skip Gilbert decried the idea that Streeter, acting CEO since March 5, would stay in her position during the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics.

Continue reading »

What the U.S. Olympic Committee would rather keep silent

The United States Olympic Committee prefers the sounds of silence.

Here is what -- or hear what -- it isn't saying:

-- There is an open spot on the U.S. Olympic Committee board of directors -- the independent director position Stephanie Streeter belatedly vacated after becoming acting USOC chief executive in March.

I have learned the favorite to fill it is Robert Bach, president of Microsoft's entertainment and devices division.

Why might his addition to the board be significant?

Like Streeter and other board members, he has ties to Stanford University. Streeter and board member Jair Lynch received undergraduate degrees from Stanford; board member Bob Bowlsby is the Stanford director of athletics; and Bach got his MBA from Stanford.

And Bach works in the same general area (hardware and software for entertainment) as did USOC Chairman Larry Probst, the retired chief executive of video games giant Electronic Arts. To my question of whether he and Bach had a professional relationship, Probst replied (somewhat obliquely) Tuesday by e-mail: "Part of his [Bach's] responsibility is the Xbox business and Electronic Arts develops software products for the Xbox platform.''

And what might that mean?

Continue reading »

Rio de Janeiro to host 2016 Olympics

Rio
After eliminating Chicago in the first round of voting, International Olympic Committee members have selected Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, as the site of 2016 Summer Games.

This will be the first time the Olympics will be held in South America.

More details coming later here at our Olympics blog and at latimes.com/sports.

-- Houston Mitchell

Photo: A crowd celebrates at Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janiero following Friday's official announcement that the city will host the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. Credit: Andrlei Almeida / AFP/Getty Images


Chicago ousted in first vote for 2016 Olympics

Chicago Chicago was eliminated in the first round of International Olympic Committee voting, and Tokyo was eliminated in the second round, leaving Rio de Janeiro and Madrid  in the running for the 2016 Summer Games.

There were 95 votes in the first round because two members, NHL player Saku Koivu of Finland (currently in preseason training with his new team, the Anaheim Ducks) and Alpha Diallo of Guinea could not make it to Copenhagen. One of the 95 voters did not vote in the first round. No vote totals were available.

Others not voting in the first round included the seven members from the countries with candidates (two each from the U.S., Japan and Brazil; one from Spain); Kun Hee Lee of South Korea, who has been suspended pending judicial action involving him in South Korea; and IOC President Jacques Rogge, who does not vote.

As soon as a city is eliminated, members from that country can vote.

Under IOC rules, in case of a tie during a round when only two candidates remain, the IOC president can vote or ask the executive board to break it. There is a runoff in case of a tie between the two lowest vote-getters in an earlier round.

Officials pick out clear plastic balls from a bowl filled with such balls, each with a number, and assign a number to each city for voting purposes. Voting is secret and done electronically. The numbers were No. 8 for Tokyo, No. 9 for Madrid, No. 4 for Chicago and No. 7 for Rio.

-- Kathy Bergen and Philip Hersh

Image: Chicago's 2016 Olympic candidate logo. Credit: Associated Press


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