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Vancouver Vantage Point — No American Athlete Left Behind
Posted By Gary Wamsley On February 27, 2010 @ 2:21 pm In Sports | Comments Disabled
Vancouver Vantage Point
February 27, 2010 #16
No American Athlete Left Behind
By Mike Moran
A critical column this week in one of our leading sports magazines praised American athletes for their astonishing performance in Vancouver, despite being “deserted” by the United States Olympic Committee for the last two years………. the theory is that the turmoil at the USOC at the top, its ouster of popular Olympian Jim Scheer as CEO last year, and continued turnover in management dating back a decade could have distracted this record-setting team from their goals, but didn’t…………….. as an involved witness to the ongoing past problems at the USOC, I have a fairly good vantage point on the issue, rest assured……………the truth is less tantalizing………….. the U. S. Olympic Team in Vancouver, with 36 medals already assured, has tied Germany for the most medals won by any nation in Winter Games history (2002) and could break that mark today, as well as topping the medals chart for the first time since 1932……………while the USOC was experiencing its problems, its systems for support of American athletes, and the stable, strong leadership of the National Governing Bodies remained aggressive, consistent, and solidly dependable……………what this team is accomplishing in Vancouver is no accident, nor the result of some sort of Survivor response by hundreds of athletes…………. many Americans don’t hear of, or know much about the National Governing Bodies or the USOC…………but America’s system of identifying, nurturing and training its athletes is much different than those of the two nations right behind our athletes in the medal race, Germany and Canada…………the USOC relies on the financial support of sponsors, donors and the American public, along with its share of USA television rights fees (started in 1986 to protect the USOC’s domestic fund-raising efforts) and IOC worldwide sponsors, many of them U. S. corporations………….. Germany’s system is funded by its national government, and Canada has put millions of government dollars into its Own The Podium program leading to these Games……….. the USOC has historically been a magnet for criticism for over three decades related to its leaders, an easy target for some media because its management has changed at a head-spinning rate, self-inflicted controversies, and it does not enjoy the expensive Teflon coating of our professional associations with their Madison Avenue image resources…………it has evolved from an almost Mom and Pop organization that resided at 57 Park Avenue in New York for decades, with a staff of a half dozen, raising the funds to send our athletes to the Games by selling lapel bins and belt buckles, to its enlarged presence on the American sports landscape and Colorado Springs headquarters, training centers, a staff of over 300, millions of dollars in corporate support, scrutinized and protected by Congress, and an uneasy relationship with the IOC……………the National Governing Bodies have grown from operations that, when I joined the USOC in 1978, included some run out of the garages and homes of their leaders to effective, talented and imaginative associations with strong and capable leaders and systems for developing athletes and a pipeline to sustain performance………….. they each receive USOC funding and support, but they have separate business and management, find their own, non-Olympic sponsors, stage their own events, raise needed funds, send their athletes to national and international events other than the Olympic and Pan American Games, and face the same obstacles and challenges that the USOC does every day……………all you have to do is take a look at some of the chief executives of the National Governing Bodies to understand why their athletes are standing on the medal platforms in Vancouver, and why their partnership with a now revitalized, strong USOC and its new chief executive, Scott Blackmun, will keep America at the top…………USA Hockey’s Dave Ogrean is a former ESPN executive, USOC Director of Broadcasting, Assistant Executive Director for the College Football Association, and Executive Director of USA Football in Washington…………Ogrean has skillfully managed a partnership with the NHL and a strong youth program which is attracting girls and boys to the sport..………….. U.S. Skiing’s Bill Marolt was an Olympic skier, Team USA Coach at the Sarajevo Games, and the University of Colorado’s athletic director during its glory years in football and 1990 national title…………he has developed an incredible fund-raising base and opened one of the world’s most amazing facilities for his skiers in Park City last year…………U. S. Figure Skating’s David Raith comes from a background that includes a rich involvement as an executive with USA Track and Field, CNN and Turner Broadcasting, including the management of the popular Goodwill Games designed by Ted Turner…………USA Luge chief executive Ron Rossi has devoted more than three decades to his sport and its development………………. what is taking place in Vancouver is a marvelous tribute to the unique American system for getting our athletes the chance to realize their dreams…………from the astonishing success of our skiers, through the compelling skating of Apolo Ohno, the possibility of Steve Holcomb’s USA Bobsled Night Train team today, the passion of our women’s ice hockey team and its disappointment, the dreams realized by Billy Demong and Johnny Spillane in a sport few Americans knew about until now, the inspiring triumph of Evan Lysacek, and to tomorrow’s earthquake producing hockey showdown with Canada…………. these athletes and the scores of others on the Olympic Team have not been abandoned by the USOC or the National Governing Bodies over any period of time……………the headlines about the USOC, the lost bids by New York and Chicago, the turnover in executives, downsizing of its Board and even now another commission studying its blueprint and leadership, have not cost the most important people, our athletes, their chance to succeed……….. there are too many passionate, selfless and dedicated men and women among the staffs at the USOC and the National Governing Bodies to have allowed that to happen………….. now we have Scott Blackmun sitting in the big chair at the USOC, with the support and strong endorsement of the NGBs, and the USOC Board……………I avoid thinking that it’s just another start, and here we go again……….. what I do see now is the healthy, positive beginning of a new era in American Olympic history, one that might rival the USOC’s Golden Years of growth, prominence and effectiveness from 1984-1998, and a partnership of immense potential between the USOC and the National Governing Bodies, with the best yet to come.
Mike Moran Senior Media Consultant The Colorado Springs Sports Corporation 1631 Mesa Ave., Suite E Colorado Springs, CO 80906 (719) 634-7333, ext. 1011
Mike Moran was the chief spokesman for the United States Olympic Committee through thirteen Games, 1980-2002. The Omaha, Nebraska native was the Sports Information Director at the University of Colorado for a decade before joining the USOC in 1978 as it left New York City for Colorado Springs. He was the Senior Communications Counselor for NYC2012, New York City’s Olympic bid group from 2003-2005 and is now a media consultant.
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