USOC should invest

Filed under: Opinion |

In a recent blog, the always-sensible Mike Moran called upon the U.S. Olympic Committee to repair its shattered relationship with its host city.

Doing so, Moran wrote, requires that the organization recognize that it has been “the recipient of a controversial $53 million grant,” and reciprocate the city’s generosity.

He urged that the USOC “commit to holding every one of its major events in its hometown as a gesture that brings the city and its populace in distressed economic times a return on the investment it has made…”

Noting that “Colorado Springs embraced the USOC in 1978, and welcomed it when no other city wanted it,” Moran exhorted the organization’s leaders to “visit schools, take seats on the boards of local charities and important business organizations, host community events and festivals, and get out to meet the citizens.”

As a practical matter, why should the USOC care about Colorado Springs?

They’ve already gotten a big payday, thanks to the naive generosity of our elected officials, and they’re unlikely to get another — so why waste time on the local yokels?

More to the point, the organization, like its host city, is in crisis.

The USOC needs wise, sophisticated, urbane leaders. They need not be former Olympians or even have much experience in the sports business. They need to understand the greater landscape of the Olympics, to understand other cultures, to speak other languages, and to interact comfortably and respectfully with their peers throughout the world.

None of the six finalists to replace Streeter, despite their considerable merits, seem likely to bring the kind of leadership that the organization so clearly lacks. The USOC should not model itself upon for-profit domestic sports organizations such as the NFL, but upon transcendent non-profits such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Led for the last quarter of a century by the brilliant Philippe de Montebello, the Metropolitan leads and defines art museums.

Five years ago, the Met acquired a 14thcentury Duccio portrait, ‘Madonna and Child’ for a price in excess of $45 million. It’s a tiny painting (11” x 8.3”), no larger than a sheet of copy paper.

Instead of being condemned as an egregious waste of money, a purchase that only a tiny subset of scholars could appreciate, de Montebello’s decision was universally applauded. So confident were New Yorkers in his judgment, his knowledge, and his connoisseurship that they believed what he said — that the museum had no choice but to acquire this radiant work of art.

We remember the day, just a few years ago, when a new leader arrived in town to take the reins at the divided, dispirited Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center.

In less than three years, Michael DeMarsche tripled the organization’s membership and opened a spectacular new addition.

DeMarsche is gone, but his brief tenure at the FAC should remind us of the power of determined leadership to ignite and reinvigorate tired organizations, be they local governments, businesses, or nonprofits.

The USOC and city government need transformational change — and we hope that the New Year will bring positive changes to both.