MIKE MORAN: Major Olympic Drama In Store For The USOC And Colorado Springs
MIKE MORAN / Colorado Springs Sports Corp
This Weekend At The 125th IOC Session In Buenos Aires will be a game changer
No city in America will have more at stake and have more interest than Colorado Springs, America’s Olympic City, in the issues debated and decisions reached when the powerful International Olympic Committee meets in Buenos Aires Saturday through next Tuesday for its 125th Session.
There will be drama and tension at the Colorado Springs Headquarters of USA Wrestling Sunday morning at 8:15 a.m. Mountain Time when the IOC assembles to hear presentations from Wrestling, Baseball/Softball and Squash, with a critical vote to follow that will determine which one of the sports makes it on to the program in 2020 and 2024 and in doing so, secure its place for the future in the Games.
This vote will have an impact, both emotionally and physically, on the thousands of wrestling athletes in the United States in particular.
In America, more than 400,000 men and women compete in the sport at the college, high school and additional amateur levels. Many of them compete with an Olympic dream in mind as they toil in sweaty, hot rooms and gyms and dedicate their lives to a quest that so many chase around the world, to make it to the Olympic Games and stand on the medals platform to hear our national anthem, like Henry Cejudo of Colorado Springs did in Beijing in 2008.
Without the dream of wrestling competition in the Olympic Games, colleges will drop the sport, high schools will trim strained budgets and eliminate the sport, club programs will die, and a sad chapter in American Olympic history will close. What American kid who ever donned a sweat-soaked singlet and aspires to win an Olympic gold medal has not heard of Dan Gable, Bruce Baumgartner, Henry Cejudo, John Smith, Jeff Blatnick, Dave Schultz, Kenny Monday or Cael Sanderson?
Former USA Wrestling and USOC chief executive Jim Scherr, himself an Olympic wrestler in 1988 in Seoul and an NCAA Champion at the University of Nebraska, will lead the presentation by the sport. Scherr was the first Olympian in history to lead the USOC in its top executive capacity, making history in the process.
He’ll be part of the presentation team that includes FILA President Nenad Lalovic, 2008 Canadian women’s gold medalist Carol Huynh, Lisa Legrand of France, the Vice-President of the French Wrestling Federation and 2004 Olympic bronze medalist, and Daniel Igali, a Nigerian-Canadian wrestler who was a gold medalist in Sydney for Canada.
The sport, often called “Man’s Oldest Sport” has done more since the May 29 vote in Russia that put the sport at risk than all the others. It has changed its rules, created gender-equity, improved internal governance, designed new uniforms, enhanced its television-favorable presentation, and traveled the world enlisting support from Olympic wrestlers and officials from scores of nations. The IOC knew what it was doing when it added wrestling for women in 2004 in freestyle competition and that sent an important signal around the world.
The eight sports campaigning were: Baseball-Softball, Karate, Roller Sports, Sport Climbing, Squash, Wakeboarding, Wrestling and Wushu.
Wrestling has been a part of the Games since the Ancient Olympiad in 708 B.C. and one of the biggest attractions as the Modern Games resumed in Athens in 1896. It has 177 world federations on six continents, and in 2012 in London, 71 nations sent wrestlers, with 29 of them winning a medal.
That’s popularity as well as parity.
With all due respect to the bat and ball sports and squash, wrestling has earned the right to remain in the Olympic Games. It plays before sellout audiences at every Olympics, and the argument that it doesn’t capture the hold on the Games’ massive global television audience is nothing but noise.
Do you think that the billions who watch the Games are transfixed by respected sports like table tennis, equestrian, synchronized swimming and archery in numbers that exceed wrestling’s numbers?
In America, that means trips to the refrigerator, pizza deliveries, bathroom breaks, and getting the kids ready for bed.
The United States Olympic has given every indication that it wants to bid on the 2024 Olympic Games and bring the world’s biggest and most prestigious sports event to our shores for the first time since the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City.
In Buenos Aires, the host city for the 2020 Olympic Games will be selected on Saturday. The candidates are Tokyo, Istanbul and Madrid, with Tokyo, the 1964 host city, the favorite at the moment.
A Tokyo triumph would solidify enhance a United States Bid for 2024, which would begin sometime in 2015 or 2016 with a USOC program to select the right city, with the IOC’s decision in 2017. It would not seem practical to return the Games to Europe so soon after London, or Turkey with its current and threatening unrest.
The Olympic Summer Games have not been held in the United States or North America since Atlanta’s 1996 Centennial Games. It’s about time.
If America brings those Games to our soil for the first time in more than two decades, it will be a result of a masterful, quiet and low-profile USOC program to regain its lost international standing, its leadership, trust, credibility, and despite its position as the most powerful National Olympic Committee in the world, become a true friend to the International Olympic Family. The architects of this superb outreach are USOC Chairman Larry Probst and CEO Scott Blackmun, a Colorado Springs guy who once was the USOC’s lawyer, managing director of sport and interim CEO in 2001.
Blackmun, who holds a critical position on the IOC’s powerful Marketing Commission, is a Dartmouth grad, former soccer goalie and Stanford Law School graduate who was selected in January, 2010, as the venerable organization’s chief executive. When he lost the USOC vote for CEO in 2001 to Lloyd Ward, Blackmun became the chief operating officer of Anschutz Entertainment Group, one of the world’s most respected presenters of sports and entertainment events. While based in Los Angeles, he served on the board of directors of the California Chamber of Commerce.
Probst, appointed as USOC Chairman in 2008, has been nominated to become an IOC Member, usually a formality. He’s the chairman of video game publisher Electronic Arts Inc., and is in line to become the fourth U.S. member on the IOC, joining Anita DeFrantz, Jim Easton and Angela Ruggiero. His election would be significant for the United States.
"It would be fair to say the U.S. is a very strong important partner of the IOC," IOC spokesman Mark Adams said. "Larry's nomination is a sign of that and a good sign of the continuing very strong cooperation we have with the USOC."
In the last two years, Probst and Blackmun have visited more than 50 IOC nations, shaken hands and met with the majority of the IOC Members themselves, logging thousands of miles away from their families with a singular purpose, to extend the hand of trust and friendship to the International Community.
With Blackmun’s spadework, the USOC has settled a decades-long, festering issue involving the USOC’s share of American Olympic television rights fees and worldwide sponsor revenue that likely was a major part of the humiliating defeats of superb bids for the 2012 Games by New York and the 2016 Games by Chicago. And, he crafted the new agreements that carefully protect the USOC’s important revenue stream at the same time.
Probst and Blackmun have forged bilateral agreements and exchanges with the Association of African Olympic Committees, the Olympic Council of Asia, and the powerful National Olympic Committees of Russia and China. Probst just returned from the FINA World Swimming Championships in Barcelona and Blackmun is just home in Colorado Springs and the IAAF World Track and Field Championships in Moscow.
Since January, more than 1,900 athletes from Russia, the Netherlands, Japan, Great Britain, the Ukraine and Zimbabwe have been USOC guests at the Colorado Springs Olympic Training Center, not to mention hosting the Warrior Games for our nation’s wounded warriors this summer for the third time.
This dynamic pair of executives, a world-class staff and a smart and powerful Board of Directors has changed the United States Olympic Committee into one of the world’s finest sports bodies and secured Colorado Springs as its hometown for the future. Probst, Blackmun, chief spokesman Patrick Sandusky and Chief Bid and Protocol Officer Chris Sullivan will be the shoes on the ground USOC team in Buenos Aires this weekend.
They will be solidifying friendships gained, forming new ones, and putting a positive image of the USOC in front of the world, without a lot of attention and news coverage. That’s the new face of the USOC, and it’s working.
Mike Moran was the chief spokesman for the United States Olympic Committee from 1978-2003 and Games from Lake Placid to Salt Lake City. He served as the Sports Information Director at Nebraska-Omaha and Colorado, and has lived in Colorado Springs for 34 years and is the Senior Media Consultant for the Colorado Springs Sports Corporation and keynote speaker and emcee for numerous sports events.
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