SBD/May 30, 2014/Olympics

’14 Intersport Activation Summit: USOC's Probst Wants Change In Olympic Host Selection

Probst feels IOC Exec Board should choose Olympic host cities
USOC Chair Larry Probst on Thursday said he would like to see the IOC change the way it selects Olympic host cities in the future. Speaking during a one-on-one interview at the '14 Intersport Activation Summit in S.F., Probst said he would like to see the 15-member IOC Exec Board select future Olympic host cities rather than having the entire 106-member IOC vote for the host city. Probst: “I will probably get in trouble for saying this, but (the Exec Board members) are supposedly the most sophisticated and knowledgeable people in the membership, so I would like to see the Board have more of a say.” The USOC is considering putting forward a bid city to host the '24 Summer Games, and Probst said that he expects the organization to cut the list of cities it is considering to three during the USOC board meeting on June 10. He added, "Those cities won’t be made public. We are going to try to manage this process so no one’s feelings get hurt or no one is spending too much money on a bid. ... We have to believe we have a pretty significant chance of winning that competition. It has to be as close to perfect as possible, but I think there is a feeling that the Games have to come back to the United States.”

Other comments from Probst: 

**On his difficult transition and the criticism he faced after joining the USOC: “That transition to the USOC was not a lot of fun. ... At first, my friend Peter Ueberroth convinced me to join the USOC board. But it evolved from coming on the board to replacing him as chair. I said, ‘Hey, I don’t know the first thing about the Olympic movement or the Olympic world. This is a crazy idea.’ But Peter is a relentless salesperson and he wouldn’t take no for an answer. … Finally, I agreed, but I quickly learned that I was not ready for it. I didn’t understand the relationship between the IOC and the USOC. I didn’t understand the relationship with the other Olympic constituencies. It was kind of a mess. That first 15 to 18 months was probably the most miserable time of my career. There were a lot of people saying, ‘Get rid of this guy.’ In that case, one can either run or stick it out. I decided I was going to stick around and make this work. It started with hiring Scott Blackmun (as CEO) and then building a better relationship with the IOC. ... I will tell you, it was not fun. It was really painful. But I am glad I have stuck around. It’s now been a lot of fun.”

**On Blackmun: “Scott is a fully-formed executive and is really good at what he does. He’s a quiet guy, but he leads by example. He’s really thoughtful and he’s really smart. We have a standing call every Tuesday at 8:30am. He has his list, and I have my list. He’s clearly making the decisions at the USOC, and he’s the guy making the calls. I respect that. … Scott is a terrific communicator. He communicates directly with all the constituencies within the USOC universe. That wasn’t the case with his predecessor.”

**On improving the USOC’s relationship with the IOC: “There’s no other way around it. It’s all about the relationships, and the only way to build that is by spending time with these people.”

**On the changes he would like to see within the Olympics: “Fewer meetings. Less travel. Seriously, the amount of time that people spend traveling to (IOC headquarters in) Lausanne (Switzerland) for three to four hours of meetings is outrageous. Sooner or later we have to embrace modern technology, and do some of these things through video conferencing."

**On his management style: “Tough, but fair. I have high expectations for myself and the people I work with. I set tough, but achievable, objectives; ambitious, but achievable objectives. I am very direct with everyone. That’s my style.”
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