Posted on: February 16, 2012 2:37 am
Edited on: February 16, 2012 9:37 am
Posted by Bryan Fischer
LOS ANGELES -- Anti-doping, U.S. involvement in international competitions, the economics of the Olympics and the upcoming Games in London were among the topics discussed at the start of a two-day conference discussing the Olympics hosted by the University of Southern California.
International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge spoke to nearly 200 people Wednesday night on the campus of the USC, not far from L.A. Memorial Coliseum, host site of the 1984 Games. Though the event was designed to be a discussion of the current state of the Games and upcoming challenges, the president couldn't help but feel a little nostalgic as he pointed out the successful model that Los Angeles served for future host cities.
"I have very fond memories of the '84 Games," Rogge said. "The Games were truly revolutionary because [organizer] Peter Uebberoth was able to prove that the games were profitable. Also, what was very important was that the games were sustainable and left a tremendous legacy for the city."
With the London Games less than six months away, the stop was one of several conferences Rogge was visiting in order to ramp up support for the Olympics and discuss what the international body was looking to accomplish.
"The Games are there for the athletes," said Rogge. "The welfare of the athletes are of paramount importance. I'm highly optimistic because the [London 2012] organizing committee is led by the great Sebastian Coe and he has a very good team around him. I think these Games will be the athletes Games."
U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun was less bullish. Although he noted preparations for going to England were made much easier because of ties between the two countries, that may not necessarily translate in terms of the medal count for the Americans.
"It's an English-speaking country so that makes logistics so much easier for us. I think everybody feels like London is ready for this and from a logistics standpoint we're very comfortable with the way it's looking," Blackmun said. "From a competitive standpoint, it's going to be a close race. A lot of experts feel like the Chinese will pass us in the medal count. Our job is just to make sure our athletes are as well prepared as they can be.
"We would very much like to win the medal count. Overall and the gold medal count and the silver and bronze medal count. We would like to win as many as we can. But we can't control how well our athletes will do, only how well they prepare."
Rogge's final term as president will come to a close in 2013 after London but not before he presides over the selection process for the 2020 Games. News broke Tuesday that one of the finalists, Rome, would be withdrawing its final bid, in part because of the widening European debt crisis. Rogge was nonchalant regarding the impact and noted that this is not the first time a host city has had to pull back because of economics.
"Sports fills all the ills of society," he said. "We still have five very strong candidates and it will be a very good race for the final decision."
The remaining cities -- Madrid, Istanbul, Tokyo, Qatar and Baku, Azerbaijan -- will find out the winner of the process in September 2013. Though experts have said it is still too early to figure out the favorite, this is shaping up to be a telling bid process to see if the IOC will continue to award Games to new locales (Sochi in 2014 and Rio in 2016, among others) or will go with more traditional hosts with the strongest financial backing.
"I don't think it's a trend. The choice of the International Olympic Committee is based on quality, it was not based on new horizons or new developments," Rogge said. "But when two cities are equal on technical aspects, then maybe the [going somewhere new]aspect will be there but only if the city is as good as the other ones.
"We do still have some places like Africa where we want to go."
The USOC will not begin the process of an American bid for any of the Games after 2020 until a new revenue-sharing agreement can be brokered with the IOC. But Blackmun noted that finances for the Colorado Springs-based organization were healthy and growing despite any perceived problems. The USOC's typical operating budget is not much more than the athletic departments of large universities like Ohio State or Texas but new fundraising targets could see numbers start to climb in the future. In addition to a cut of larger media rights deals (NBC secured the Games until 2020 with a $4.3 billion bid), major gifts to Team USA are up nearly 30 percent and the organization received a $10 million donation last year, its largest gift ever.
"We have thought about whether or not to seek government funding but the truth is it's hard to argue [this model] hasn't worked," Blackmun added. "Our athletes have performed so well. Can that persevere into the long-term? We don't know. What we do know is that Americans send the U.S. team to the Olympic Games, not the American government and it's very important for us to have the support of Americans."
Both Rogge and Blackmun will participate the fifth World Congress on Women and Sport, which is expected to draw 750 delegates from 140 countries to the J.W. Marriott at L.A. Live starting Thursday, according to the L.A. Times. The event is one of several occurring in a busy week for Los Angeles, with President Barack Obama hosting several fundraisers and a delegation of senior Chinese officials coming into town for, among other things, a Lakers game.
Category: Olympic Games
Tags: 2012 London, 2012 Olympic Games, 2012 Olympics, Barack Obama, International Olympic Committee, IOC, Jacques Rogge, L.A. Memorial Coliseum, Lakers, London 2012, London Games, Los Angeles Lakers, NBA, Ohio State, Olympic Games, Olympics, Peter Ubberoth, Scott Blackmun, Sebastian Coe, Team USA, Texas, U.S. Olympic Committee, USC, USOC