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Volume 21 No. 1
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‘Ultimate goal was playing an appropriate role’ in movement


The U.S. Olympic Committee appointed Scott Blackmun as CEO in January 2010, just months after the second loss in four years for an American Olympic bid. The crushing Chicago defeat in 2009 was seen as a rebuke to the USOC, then struggling with internal problems and low esteem in the international sports world.

The board put a hold on further bids, giving Blackmun and Chairman Larry Probst time to make changes. The USOC has since enjoyed stability at the executive level and has earned praise for mending fences abroad.

One day before the International Olympic Committee made it official, Blackmun sat down with staff writer Ben Fischer at the Westin Lima Hotel & Convention Center to reflect on the long, winding path to securing a domestic Olympics.

You’ve spent your entire tenure trying to improve international relations in hopes of winning the Olympics. You ended up with 2028, not the Games you wanted. Was the effort worth it?

Scott Blackmun was hired in 2010 to help rehabilitate America’s standing in the international sports world.
BLACKMUN: We actually rolled out a plan in 2010 that had international relations as one element out of four or five, and it wasn’t even necessarily the most important one. What was clear was that the U.S. was not playing an appropriate role in the global Olympic movement, a role commensurate with our financial presence and our competitive presence in the movement. We didn’t become engaged and involved just because we wanted to win a bid, but we knew we were never going to win a bid until we started showing up, and leadership hadn’t shown up. …

In terms of where we are today, we didn’t sit down in 2010 and say we want to win the 2024 Games. We sat down and said, “We’ve got to change our approach to this if we’re ever going to host the Games again.” We thought really hard about bidding for 2022, but we decided not to because we weren’t ready. The first time we thought we’d gotten the ship on course was with respect to 2024, but there’s no magic to 2024 versus 2028.

Initially, the USOC nominated Boston to bid in this cycle, but it collapsed amid public opposition. You once called the Boston situation “the most unsettling and challenging time” in your professional life. Do you feel differently about it now?

BLACKMUN: Boston feels like a long time ago. It obviously wasn’t a good fit, but we’re way past that.

That period in the summer of 2015 after Boston withdrew was a tough period. Why was that able to work out so well?

BLACKMUN: The only reason this worked out the way it did is the two leaders of the L.A. bid, the mayor (Eric Garcetti) and Casey (Wasserman), both have an authentic belief in the power of the Olympic Games. Without that, there’s no way they would have come back and found a way for Los Angeles to try to host the Games in 2024. They believe in the Olympic movement, what it can do for the U.S., for the country, and that’s the reason they didn’t tell us to pound sand.

Because it was so much work?

BLACKMUN: Because we picked somebody else. Notwithstanding that, they stood up and raised their hand to serve the Olympic movement. And that’s powerful.

How does it change the U.S. Olympic Committee to have the 2028 Games in hand?

BLACKMUN: The ultimate goal was playing an appropriate role in the movement. None of this changes that. We want to host the Games in the future, not just in 2028.