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U.S. bid for 2020 Summer Games very unlikely but still possible

While a U.S. bid for the 2020 Summer Olympics still seems very unlikely, USOC chief executive Scott Blackmun didn't completely rule it out in responding to a question during the teleconference after Tuesday's USOC board meeting.

Blackmun's point was nothing had changed since I addressed the issue in a Blog three weeks ago, when International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge seemed to be begging the U.S. to bid.  That was in the immediate aftermath of NBC having put $4.38 billion in the IOC's lap for U.S. rights to the 2014, 2016, 2018 and 2020 Olympics.

The deadline to submit a bid city application with the IOC is Sept. 1.  That would make it impossible for the USOC to have a lengthy domestic bid process (or any such process) like the ones that led to the Chicago candidacy for 2016 and the New York bid for 2012, both of which failed ignominiously.

Blackmun reiterated on the teleconference what he had told me June 7:  that the USOC would think about a 2020 bid only after it has resolved the ongoing revenue-sharing discussions with the IOC.

"If we are able to (resolve) it, we will put the idea of a possible bid under consideration,'' Blackmun said Tuesday.

Quick background on the revenue-sharing:  under an open-ended deal, the USOC gets 12.75 percent of U.S. broadcast rights and 20 percent of the IOC's global sponsorship revenues.   For five years, many IOC members have been demanding the U.S. take a smaller share.  Acrimony over that issue helped scuttle Chicago's 2016 bid.

Recent negotiations on the issue have gone so much better than expected -- at least to this point -- that USOC leaders hope it may be resolved at next week's IOC meeting in Durban, South Africa.  (At that meeting, the IOC members will choose the 2018 Winter Games host; the candidates are Annecy, France; Munich, Germany; and Pyeongchang, South Korea.)

Even if a new deal is struck, the likelihood of a U.S. bid for 2020 is complicated by the timing.

Blackmun said three weeks ago the USOC has spoken informally - but not recently - to potentially interested 2020 parties in a few cities, including Chicago and Los Angeles.  He said Tuesday there has been no discussion with new Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel -- or mayors of other cities.

Two-time Olympic host (1932 and 1984) Los Angeles clearly seems the best choice for a last-minute bid in a difficult economy, because it has so many facilities in place and a permanent group called The Southern California Committee for the Olympic Games.

Chicago has the excellent 2016 bid plan but no Olympic Stadium or aquatics center and no apparent desire to bid again.

If the U.S. does not bid for 2020, some people in Denver (which gave back the 1976 Winter Games after Colorado voters rejected a bond issue to finance them) are itching to try for the 2022 Winter Games.  Reno-Tahoe also is interested, with a web site in place.

The 2024 Summer Games seem destined for Paris as a centennial of its last Olympics.

The IOC will choose the 2020 host in September 2013.  At the moment, the 2020 field is wide open, with Rome the only declared candidate.

Should Tokyo -- another 2016 loser -- enter the fray, as expected after the Japanese Olympic Committee last week backed a 2020 bid, it would generate considerable sympathy in the aftermath of the tsunami, earthquake and nuclear plant meltdown that have hit Japan this year.

But many Japanese will insist money would be better spent on bread to rebuild the devastated areas than on circuses.

That also would be a forceful argument against bidding in financially-strapped U.S. cities (which means all major U.S. cities), even if the economy improves dramatically by 2020.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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