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Category: Peter Ueberroth

Hoist a cold one: $18 mill taking chill out of USOC - IOC relationship

Peter1 To paraphrase a famous utterance, the financial agreement announced Thursday between the U.S. Olympic Committee and the International is a small step in settling account ledgers and a giant leap in getting past the idea that this was more about settling accounts than reaching a reasonable solution.

The differences between the USOC and the IOC on financial issues had become so great and divisive over the past few years it seemed one side was from Mars, the other from Venus and both had chosen to emulate Ralph Kramden's threat when he got fed up with his wife, Alice, on the old ``Honeymooners'' sitcom:

"To the Moon, Alice."

The result of all the squabbling over games costs, the issue more easily taken out of play, and revenue sharing, which will remain much harder to solve, gave those of us who cover the Olympics some wonderfully vitriolic outbursts to report.

All that noise also gave Chicago's failed 2016 Summer Games bid a headache for which there was no medicine.  While it was not the prime reason Chicago lost to Rio, which was destined to win, it gave the IOC voters an easy excuse to humiliate the United States by eliminating a good Chicago bid in the first round a year ago.

So where does it all stand now, and how did the parties get there?

The war of words ended with the departure of Hein Verbruggen from the IOC and Peter Ueberroth as chairman of the USOC.

It took nearly another year for the USOC to overcome its internecine feud, which began when board member Stephanie Streeter engineered the ouster of USOC chief executive Jim Scherr. When Streeter, haplessly unfamiliar with the peculiarities of Olympic administration,  took Scherr's job on an acting basis, the USOC's constituents were so furious they tried to oust not only her but Peter Ueberroth's successor as chairman, Larry Probst, who had been looking at his post as a very part-time thing.

Streeter was forced out soon after the Chicago bid demise. Probst, both combative and chastened in reaction to the criticism, vowed to do the USOC work on a full-time basis and is keeping his word.   The USOC board then showed uncommon good sense in hiring Scott Blackmun as CEO, knowing his past involvement with the USOC would make Blackmun's learning curve a flat line.

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From USOC's Mike Moran: A call to salute 1980 Olympians who stayed at home

Wednesday, I posted an essay from 1980 U.S. Olympian Anita DeFrantz on the pain she still feels over the 1980 Olympic boycott. (To read it, click here).

Mike Moran Here is a more anecdotal voice on the 1980 boycott, that of longtime U.S. Olympic Committee spokesman Mike Moran, who would like to see the International Olympic Committee formally honor athletes from the more than 60 countries -- including the United States -- who did not go to the 1980 Moscow Summer Games because their political leaders supported U.S. President Jimmy Carter's boycott.

-- Philip Hersh

Read more: "A call to honor all the world's 1980 Olympians who were forced to stay home"

Photo: Mike Moran was the chief spokesman for the United States Olympic Committee through 13 Games, 1980 to 2002. He is now a media consultant.


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



U.S. Olympic Network cuts to black before ever seeing light

Peter Ueberroth's legacy within the international Olympic world will remain indelible and enormously significant.

That was clearer than ever Wednesday, when many obituaries of former International Olympic Committee President Juan Antonio Samaranch -- mine included -- noted how Samaranch took Ueberroth's model for private financing of the Olympic Games and used it as the basis for the global sponsorship programs that took the IOC from pauperdom to prosperity.

The success of the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Games, which Ueberroth ran, effectively saved the Olympic movement.

That made some other news Wednesday take on an ironic dimension, chipping away even further at the legacy of Ueberroth's four-plus years as chief executive of the U.S. Olympic Committee.

That news, as first reported by SportsBusiness Daily, was the termination of a deal struck last year between the USOC and Comcast for a U.S. Olympic Network.

The network was Ueberroth's baby.  Whenever he saw USOC chief operating officer Norm Bellingham, the USOC staffer in charge of network development, Ueberroth would ask, apparently in jest, "What channel are we on, Norm?''

That was a sign of Ueberroth's impatience over what seemed an interminable gestation period for the network.  That impatience undoubtedly played into Ueberroth's insistence on going ahead with an announcement of the deal last July despite having received a crease-and-desist letter from the IOC, which warned the USOC to hold off until a large number of contractual issues were resolved.

After Comcast found out about the IOC's objections, it chose to have no representative on the media teleconference for the network announcement.  This time, the cable behemoth just walked away, possibly to rid itself of a contractual entanglement that might have given critics of its proposed merger with NBC -- the U.S. Olympic rights holder through 2012 -- more basis for their argument that the combined company would stand to control the market in too many ways.

When that USOC-IOC conflict flamed up last June, it also reignited the lingering controversy between the two parties over revenue sharing.  That wound up burning Chicago's Olympic bid, even after Larry Probst, who took over as USOC chairman in late 2008, all but begged forgiveness from IOC President Jacques Rogge and announced an indefinite hold on plans for the USOC network.

The IOC members -- and former members -- who had been most vocal about the revenue dispute used the network fiasco to remind everyone the USOC -- and, by inference, its bid city -- was the devil incarnate.

Let's make one thing clear: There was no way Chicago would have beaten Rio for the 2016 Games in last October's vote, not after the IOC  gave Rio a virtual line-by-line analysis of how to improve a bid plan that had been rated fifth among the seven candidates in June 2008. Rogge wanted his legacy as IOC president to include having been in office when South America got its first Olympics, and the IOC did everything it could to make that happen.

(Six months later, the IOC must be thinking it might have been more careful about what it wished for. What it has gotten already is:  horrible crime at this year's Carnival in the notoriously murderous city; mudslides that have killed nearly 200 and left thousands homeless; a political battle over oil revenues that threatens the 2016 organizing budget. Wait until the construction falls far behind.)

Without the network issue, though, Chicago might have avoided its humiliating first-round defeat.

In its announcement of the Comcast deal last July 8, the USOC said the network was supposed to be up and running soon after the Vancouver Winter Games. Now it is probably dead for good.

"This is just a formal acknowledgment of a decision made eight months ago, when we agreed not to pursue the network without the cooperation of the IOC," USOC spokesman Patrick Sandusky said in an e-mail Wednesday. "The timing for the network no longer made sense."

The silliest part of the whole thing was the U.S. Olympic Network never made sense no matter when or which way one looked at it -- especially financially, as it was expected to drain at least $25 million a year from USOC coffers indefinitely.

Someone -- maybe even Bellingham --  can channel that money in more useful ways.

-- 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.


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