SBJ/20080825/Beijing Olympics

Ueberroth: 2016 decision critical to IOC, not U.S.

The closing ceremony in Beijing not only marked the conclusion of the 2008 Olympics but also the final Olympics Peter Ueberroth will attend as chairman of the U.S. Olympic Committee. Ueberroth’s term comes to an end this fall when he will transition into a nonvoting role on the USOC’s board of directors. As the Beijing Games wrapped up, Ueberroth sat down with SportsBusiness Journal staff writer Tripp Mickle to talk about the impact of the 2008 Olympics, the future of the USOC and the future of the Olympics.

What do you think the legacy of the Beijing Games will be?
Ueberroth: These Games are going to be an exclamation point for the full arrival of the country of China on the world scene so that it can touch all of the citizens of the rest of the world. China showed its heart in the opening ceremonies. It showed its culture in the opening ceremonies. Now, it’s showing its facilities, which are the best in the world.

How do you think Michael Phelps’ success will impact the international Olympic movement?
Ueberroth: People will begin to focus more on careers than has ever happened in the past. When Babe Ruth came in and hit 60 home runs, guys were hitting 20 and 30 and 15 and 40. But then once he broke it, it’s lasted for generations and generations and generations. People will now pay attention more to extended records of other people.

How does the U.S. Olympic Committee take the momentum from these Games and build on it in the future?
Ueberroth: It’s going to be a challenge. The network will be a big help because the idea is to take all of the sports into the American homes for parents and kids to see.

Where do things stand with the network? Will it come to fruition within a time period?
Ueberroth: It has to get itself well established in the gap between now and the (2010) Winter Games.

How critical is 2016 to the future health of the United States Olympic movement?
Ueberroth: It’s very important. I don’t think it’s critical. I think it’s more critical to the IOC than it is to us.

Why?
Ueberroth: It’s not that the Games haven’t been here in a long time, it’s that they haven’t really been in a major market in the United States. By major market, I’m talking about a place where major companies are located. Chicago and New York are the two spots where you really have a lot of sponsors. You can start down our roster with United Airlines and McDonald’s and so on.

Your term comes to an end soon. When you reflect on your recent time with the USOC, what achievements stand out in your mind?
Ueberroth: I think stability is the best you could say. (Beforehand, we had) four elected leaders in a four-year period … (and) weren’t a factor because no one could spell IOC.

You take a look at our international group, we have people who can speak eight or 10 languages and have deep international relationships that go back years. It’s a different deal. Rick (Burton), Jim (Scherr), Norman (Bellingham) and others have created a different dialogue. USA House used to be a closet. Now whatever leadership group is there is having a private dinner. … If anything, I’ve helped stabilize.

For more of the interview with Peter Ueberroth, go to www.sportsbusinessjournal.com/beijinggames.

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