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Don’t bet on the USOC leaving the Springs

Wed, Apr 29, 2009

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Life, as President John Kennedy once pointed out, is unfair. That’s why Donald Trump is rich, Paris Hilton is famous, and credit card companies never forget how much you owe. And that’s why, despite the blundering that has characterized the city’s attempt to keep the U.S. Olympic Committee in town, the architects of the near-disaster won’t take the fall – because the USOC’s staying put, no matter what.

As a source close to the USOC (whom I’m not going to name, so don’t bother to ask) pointed out this morning that the organization really doesn’t have many options.

Chicago might seem attractive if it is awarded the 2016 games come October, but the USOC brass would find itself playing second fiddle to the Chicago Olympic Organizing Committee.

The USOC would be sharing space with the COOC, engaging in turf wars which it would lose and being distracted from its core mission.

Like the NFL, the USOC is not responsible for building and maintaining stadiums nor for the outcome of any particular game, but for maintaining the viability of the Olympic movement and Olympic brand.

In any case, the era of cities eagerly throwing money at sports-related nonprofits, as did Indianapolis with the NCAA, might have ended.

Local governments and economic development groups are strapped for cash, and might be more inclined to spend their money on projects with immediately quantifiable returns, rather than investing millions for bragging rights and prestige.

Not that the USOC wouldn’t be able to find a new home if the organization so chooses, but such a distraction would scarcely be welcome at this time. It’s got plenty to do this summer and fall preparing for the upcoming winter games, and doing everything it can to support the Chicago bid.

And according to reports from Chicago, interim CEO Stephanie Streeter is planning to move to the Springs in the near future, bringing her 18 month-old twin daughters. It seems unlikely that she’d uproot her family for a temporary move.

That, as much as anything tells me the USOC’s planning to stay.

And – just a thought – what happens if the Games go elsewhere, to Madrid or Tokyo or even to Rio de Janeiro? The last time an American city hosted the Summer Games was during 1996, in Atlanta, which was just 12 years removed from the 1984 Los Angeles Olympiad.

Miss out on 2016, and you can bet that heads will roll at the organization. Changing headquarters will be the least of their worries.

The sticking point remains the $16 million that was promised by LandCo for athlete housing and improvements on the Olympic Training Center campus.

My guess is that some face-saving deal is presently being worked out, whereby the city and El Pomar Foundation will jointly make commitments and pay for the OTC improvements during the next three or four years.

So, be prepared for a triumphal press conference, wherein the players in this drama praise themselves – despite the comedy of errors, pronounce the deal done, shake hands and take a few shots at the media for daring to question such wise, dedicated and civic-minded leaders.

Who knows, we might not have to wait very long.

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