POSTED: August 17th 2009

USOC in race against time to shore up Chicago 2016

Larry Probst: complex issues / USOC
Larry Probst: complex issues / USOC

LAURA WALDEN & KEIR RADNEDGE / Sports Features Communications

TAMPA/LONDON: Suddenly, it appears, directors of the United States Olympic Committee have realised the awful truth . . . that they will be handed all the blame if Chicago is beaten in the 2016 Games bid race.

That would then raise serious questions about both long-term and short-term strategy within the USOC.

The long-term issue concerns the US share of Games revenues while short-term concerns will focus on the unnecessarily premature proposals to launch an Olympic television network.

Both are provocative issues among IOC members and other national Olympic committees which may consider the only way to protest will be to vote for Madrid, Rio de Janeiro or Tokyo rather than Chicago on October 2 in Copenhagen.
Advocates of the USOC’s ‘super-share’ of Olympics revenue claim this is deserved reward for bringing in the major TV revenues, from NBC, and a number of significant sponsors. Opponents say the US status as the wealthiest nation on earth means it should accept parity for the sake, if nothing else, of ‘fairplay.’
The TV network plan is confusion itself. NBC owns not only US rights to action from the Games but rights to many high profile events that are Olympic. What would be left for the USOC network because NBC would, no doubt, contest the USOC’s right to challenge it on its own high-cost territory.

Mainstream income

The USOC would appear to want to play with fire in proposing a pay-to-view network which clashes with the interests of the original source of its own mainstream income.

Friends of the USOC have not been encouraged to leap to its defence after some of its internal changes – such as the messy replacement of ceo Jim Scherr with board member Stephanie Streeter.

That issue has resurfaced with the revelation that her pay package could be worth more than $1m-a-year. The USOC board approved a $560,000 base salary for Streeter, who is acting ceo, but a bonus package could bring the total salary to seven figures if she meets a number of goals. Scherr earned $619,507 in 2008 off a base salary of $428,243.

USOC president Larry Probst has defended the pay award, saying: “Stephanie's compensation is commensurate with the duties and responsibilities associated with the acting ceo position. She is doing a terrific job and is fully deserving of the compensation she is receiving."
Yet earlier this year the USOC laid off 13 per cent of its staff amid concern that, in recessionary times, it was unable to maintain all its multimillion-dollar sponsorship contracts.

Probst and Streeter have negotiated a deal with IOC which promises, over the next decade, to reassess the revenue share issue.

In the last 10 days, suddenly, Streeter felt it necessary to issue a long statement stating USOC support for Chicago – a stance which, surely, should not have needed any clarification. Then came an announcement that the TV network plans are being put on ice.

The USOC, it appears, has woken up. Will it be just in the nick of time for Chicago?

Keywords · USOC · Chicago 2016 · IOC · Olympic Games · NBC · Streeter · Probst · Scherr

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Laura Walden ()

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