Olympics Blog

News about the Summer and Winter Games

Category: Chicago 2016

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

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.


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


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.


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


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.


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.



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.


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 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

Chicago bid spurs truce in U.S. Olympic family feud

In the interest of avoiding any negative publicity that could affect Chicago's Olympic bid, the leaders of the U.S. Olympic sports federations -- called National Governing Bodies in Olympic world parlance -- have declared an informal truce in their Olympic family feud with the new USOC leadership.

"Chicago 2016 is the most important objective for everyone in the (U.S. Olympic) movement, and that is the one thing that brings complete consensus at this time,'' said Steve Penny, president and chief executive of USA Gymnastics.

Penny also is a member of the NGB Council, meeting this week in Chicago as part of the annual U.S. Olympic Assembly. He has been outspoken in expressing reservations over the USOC board's decision to dump chief executive Jim Scherr and replace him on an acting basis with board member Stephanie Streeter.

Other NGB leaders also have been very critical of the leadership change, which occurred in March. Many wondered why it could not have waited until after the Oct. 2 vote for the 2016 host city, since the switch only added to a long-held worldwide impression that years of USOC leadership instability were back.

Continue reading »

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.)

Continue reading »

USOC words, actions, attitude do Chicago Olympic bid no favors

Since the April day in 2007 the U.S. Olympic Committee announced it had selected Chicago over Los Angeles as the U.S. candidate for the 2016 Summer Olympics, the USOC has done Chicago few favors.

In fact, USOC words and actions over the last year have possibly undermined Chicago's bid and made a mockery of the USOC mantra of an "unprecedented partnership" between the national Olympic committee and a bid city.
It began last October, when Peter Ueberroth, in his final public speech as USOC chairman, rebuked the arguments of International Olympic Committee members critical of the USOC's stance in a revenue sharing dispute with the IOC. Ueberroth also reminded everyone in no uncertain that the U.S. corporations still contribute more than 60%of IOC revenues.
Chicago 2016 had no advance warning of what Ueberroth would say, which was certain to offend some 2016 voters, no matter if  his points were valid.
Continue reading »

The inside stuff: IOC letter to USOC on network dispute

Ioc The Chicago Tribune has obtained a copy of the letter sent by the International Olympic Committee to the U.S. Olympic Committee, in which the IOC advised the USOC to hold off on its announcement of a U.S. Olympic cable network.

The USOC chose to go ahead, which put the Chicago 2016 Olympic bid in an awkward position, as Kathy Bergen and I reported in Thursday's Tribune.

An image of the letter is located to the right (click on it to read). Below the jump is an official statement from the IOC, which echoes the strong criticism of the USOC leveled by IOC executive board member Richard Carrion of Puerto Rico and reported in the story.

Click on the thread for the official IOC statement.

Continue reading »

Illinois runners chase future, Kwan goes back to it


Ten things I know, and you should:

1.  Angela Bizzarri will take a shot at running fast enough to qualify for the August World Championships at a July 15 meet in Liege, Belgium.  The rising senior at the University of Illinois, a surprise third-place finisher in the 5,000 at the U.S. Championships last month, needs to top her personal best (15 minutes, 33.02 seconds) by 8.02 seconds to make the team.

2.  Algonquin's Evan Jager, in a similar position to Bizzarri after his surprise third at the same distance, is waiting for his Oregon Track Club coach, Jerry Schumacher, to pick a meet where he and OTC teammate Matt Tegenkamp can shoot for the time they need to assure participation at worlds in Berlin. Schumacher told me by e-mail, "We are still working out the details.'' Jager (13:22.18) and Tegenkamp (13:20.57) barely missed the qualifying standard (13:20) in the 5,000 final at nationals.

Hughes 3.  Good to see Michelle Kwan plans to return to skating for an audience after three years, even if it is only for a show in August with South Korea's Kim Yuna, the reigning world champion, in Seoul.   Both Kwan and Sarah Hughes, the 2002 Olympic champion, got their undergrad degrees this spring: Kwan from the University of Denver, Hughes from Yale.  In an e-mail Monday, Hughes said she has "no plans at this moment'' to skate in shows.

4.  I have yet to comment on what happened when the music stopped (for now?) in the California skate coach musical chairs game: Caroline Zhang joining Coach Charlene Wong, whose previous star, Mirai Nagasu, left to work with Frank Carroll, who coached Kwan through most of her brilliant career.  My first thought: good for Wong, who has -- like Carroll -- always been refreshingly honest in her interaction with the media. In two years, Wong helped Nagasu improve from a skater who could not get beyond the first level of qualifying for novice nationals to senior national champion.  Wong deserves another shot at having a skater in the 2010 Olympics, and Zhang definitely gives her that.

Continue reading »

Chicago financial bump for U.S. Olympic sports? No surprise

Logan EUGENE, Ore. -- It is hardly a surprise that the boss of any U.S. federation governing an Olympic sport would be "actively advocating'' for Chicago to become host of the 2016 Summer Olympics, as USA Track & Field chief executive Doug Logan said Friday he was doing.

After all, an Olympics in the United States always generates higher sponsorship and TV rights revenue for the U.S. Olympic Committee, and the individual federations see some of that increase in their grant allotments from the USOC.

And the sports also find it easier to attract their own sponsorships if the Games are in the United States, which Logan made clear when he also said that USATF's new deal with Nike would include a "significant increase'' if Chicago gets the Games.

The new Nike-USATF deal goes only through 2013, but includes an option to renew through 2017.

Continue reading »

Out of nationals decathlon, Oly champ Bryan Clay can focus on Chicago 2016


EUGENE, Ore. -- As you learned first what was possible from my Twitter feed Wednesday, 2008 Olympic decathlon champion Bryan Clay has pulled out of the U.S. Track & Field Championships with a hamstring problem.

According to Clay's agent, Paul Doyle, Clay tried a variety of treatments, including acupuncture and time in a hyperbaric chamber, before making his decision about an hour before the decathlon was to begin with the 100 meters this morning. He had first felt tightness in the hamstring Tuesday.

Clay's withdrawal means he also is out of the August World Championships, for which nationals is the qualifying meet.

"Unfortunately, we need a few more days,'' Doyle said. "He did a few knee lifts this morning and felt immediately he couldn't compete without putting the hamstring in jeopardy.''

Continue reading »


Recommended on Facebook


In Case You Missed It...

About the Bloggers