SBJ/February 11 - 17, 2002/This Weeks Issue

USOC to display its Corps values

The U.S. Olympic Committee is planning a two-pronged campaign modeled on the Peace Corps to try to maximize the legacy of the Salt Lake City Winter Games.

Committee CEO Lloyd Ward and volunteer President Sandra Baldwin have pledged to take the post-Salt Lake Olympic spirit on the road and to maximize Utah's world-class Olympic facilities by drawing athletes to the region after the Games end.

Ward stopped short of detailing how to pay for the plan, but Baldwin promised that a pilot program would begin this year loosely based on the Peace Corps model. The U.S. Olympic Corps will place a dedicated staff in Central and South America to inspire young athletes to pursue Olympic sports, including some winter events they've never considered.

Additionally, Ward outlined a road show within the United States that engages Americans in the long, and often lonely, journey that Olympic prospects will make between now and the Summer Games in Athens in 2004.

"We need to tell the story," said Ward, noting the success of college basketball's March Madness theme in building drama toward a championship.

Who will pay for these initiatives? Ward said he believes the International Olympic Committee will subsidize outreach programs in Central and South American nations "if we bring meaningful programs to the table." At home, he is relying on continued sponsor support, which is far from certain, and a unified effort by national sports federations rather than "a major ballooning" of the USOC's budget, which is about $491 million for the 2000-2004 cycle.

"We have so many opportunities," Ward said. "We just haven't connected the dots."

Steve Woodward is a writer in Chicago.

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