The side benefit of the US Olympic Committee finally hashing out a new revenue-sharing deal with the IOC is that an American city will be free to bid for the 2022 and 2024 Games, the next two on the docket.
The question is, will any want to toss in its hat after the early exits of New York and Chicago for the 2012 and 2016 summer versions? It’s clear that resentment about the hefty United States cut from global marketing income and American broadcast rights fees played a role in those rejections so the reworked arrangement (which runs through 2040) and ongoing diplomatic fence-mending by USOC leaders Larry Probst and Scott Blackmun should make for a much more favorable environment.
The better chance may be on the summer side, where there’s been no North American host since Atlanta in 1996. With Beijing having staged in 2008, London on deck for this summer, Rio de Janeiro in 2016, and either a European (Madrid or Istanbul) or Asian (Tokyo) city lined up for 2020, the geopolitical Wheel of Fortune would favor a US bid for 2024. By the time initial bids would be due in 2015, the economy might be more favorable for embarking on a nine-year journey.
While several US sites - 2002 host Salt Lake City, Denver, Reno-Tahoe and Bozeman, Mont. - are interested in the 2022 winter chase, they’d only have a year to put a package together under difficult financial circumstances. The USOC board will talk this month about the options.
The IOC’s executive board had no trouble lopping off Doha, Qatar, and Baku, Azerbaijan from the original list of 2020 bidders, just as it did for the 2016 race. None of the 12 members reportedly favored Baku as a finalist and only three voted for Doha, which is staging the 2022 soccer World Cup and would be a desert hothouse even in October, when the temperature can be in the 90s. Although Baku has plenty of petrobucks, it’s a long flight from anywhere but Armenia, Georgia, and Iran and would have to build almost everything from scratch.
2008 Class down to 3
With Shawn Johnson announcing her retirement last weekend and Chellsie Memmel being denied a entry waiver, only three members of the Beijing silver-medal women’s team will be competing at this week’s US gymnastics championships in St. Louis - Olympic all-around champion Nastia Liukin, former world titlist Bridget Sloan, and Winchester’s Alicia Sacramone, who’ll be competing for the first time since tearing an Achilles’ tendon at last fall’s world meet in Tokyo.
Memmel was coming off February shoulder surgery while Johnson still is having problems with the left knee she tore up skiing two years ago. The Class of 2008 will be up against last year’s entire gold-medal team at the San Jose trials at month’s end for the five London spots.
Looking solid is Needham’s Aly Raisman, who recently won the US Classic for the second time.
“She looked very confident and very aggressive,’’ observed team coordinator Martha Karolyi. “You could not tell that she feels any pressure and we really, really need that.’’
The men’s competition will include all of last year’s world bronze-medal team, most notably parallel bars titlist Danell Leyva and Beijing medalist Jonathan Horton, plus 2008 national champion David Sender, who sprained an ankle at that year’s trials and missed making the team.
Rowing their boats
They did it by a fingernail but the US lightweight women’s double of Kristin Hedstrom of Concord, Mass., and Julie Nichols finally nailed down their Olympic rowing berth, finishing fourth .09 seconds ahead of the Brits at the World Cup regatta in Lucerne, Switzerland. Had they not, they would have had to go through another set of trials next week in New Jersey, as will sculler Ken Jurkowski, who didn’t make the Lucerne final.
The American flotilla, which came into the year having qualified in only eight of 14 events, ended up making it in all but the men’s double and lightweight double. The men’s four announced Monday includes Charlie Cole of New Canaan, Conn., and Scott Gault, who rowed in last year’s world boat, plus Harvard grad Henrik Rummel and Glenn Ochal.
Why did the Kenyans choose their men’s 10,000-meter team at last weekend’s Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Ore., instead of in Nairobi? Because after not having won a gold medal since 1968, they wanted to see who their three best were at a London-type altitude. Turns out they were Wilson Kiprop (in a global year’s-best of 27 minutes, 1.98 seconds), former world medalist Moses Masai, and Bitan Karoki . . . While a third of the US women’s soccer roster will be Olympic rookies - forwards Alex Morgan and Sydney Leroux, midfielder Megan Rapinoe and defenders Kelley O’Hara, Amy LePeilbet and Becky Sauerbrunn - Leroux is the only one of the 18 members who wasn’t on last year’s World Cup squad that placed second to Japan. Captain Christie Rampone will be playing in a record fourth Games, while midfielders Shannon Boxx and Heather O’Reilly and defender Heather Mitts will be participating in their third. Eleven of the players won gold in Beijing four years ago.
Michael Phelps, who went 8 for 8 in Beijing, won’t say what his competitive smorgasbord will be at the trials or whether he’ll go head-to-head with domestic archrival and world champion Ryan Lochte in the 400-meter individual medley on opening night in Omaha. “It’s not a definite no, it’s not a definite yes,’’ says Phelps, who won the event in 2004 and 2008. It’s all but certain he’ll swim both butterfly races in which he’s global titlist as well as the 200 freestyle, which would qualify him for the 4 x 200 relay. The rest of the menu is up in the air. “I don’t know that we need to give the competition more ammunition than they already have,’’ says coach Bob Bowman . . . Back in the swim after taking eight years off is 31-year-old sprinter Anthony Ervin, who won the 50-meter freestyle and was second in the 100 free at last weekend’s Santa Clara Grand Prix, the final tuneup before the Olympic trials at the end of the month. If Ervin, who dead-heated with Gary Hall Jr. for the 50 gold in Sydney, can finish in the top six in the 100, he’ll earn a relay ticket to London . . . Does swimmer Alex Meyer think the 25-kilometer open-water event will be added to the Olympic program? “I doubt it,’’ says the Harvard grad, who won the 25k world crown two years ago and will swim the 10k in London. “Nobody wants to watch a five-hour swim. They can’t even show a whole 400 free on TV.’’ . . . Tough draw for the US men’s water polo team, which will face Olympic champion Hungary and bronze medalist Serbia in its London preliminary group. The Americans, who won silver in Beijing, also will face Montenegro, Romania, and Great Britain. The US women, who also were second in 2008, will catch a break since neither defending champion Netherlands nor world titlist Greece qualified. They’ll meet global runner-up China, Hungary, and Spain.
The Hall calls
Five of the inaugural 12 members of the new IAAF Hall of Fame are American track and field icons with a combined 22 gold medals among them - Jesse Owens, Al Oerter, Carl Lewis, Edwin Moses, and Jackie Joyner-Kersee. They’ll be inducted along with Finland’s Paavo Nurmi, Ethiopia’s Abebe Bikila, Brazil’s Adhemar da Silva, China’s Wang Junxia, Australia’s Betty Cuthbert, Fanny Blankers-Koen of the Netherlands, Emil Zatopek of the Czech Republic, and a dozen more to be announced . . . Soccer player Kristine Lilly, whose global record for international matches (352) might never be broken, is among the new crop of inductees in the US Olympic Hall of Fame. Joining her are fellow gold medalists James Connolly (the 1896 original, in track and field), Jenny Thompson (swimming), Gary Hall Jr. (swimming), Gail Devers (track and field), Dan O’Brien (track and field), Lisa Fernandez and her 2004 teammates (softball), Jean Driscoll (Paralympic track and field), and coach Ed Temple (track and field).
John Powers can be reached at email@example.com; material from Olympic committees, sports federations, and wire services was used in this report.