U.S. Olympic Committee Chief Resigns

Stephanie Streeter i i

Stephanie Streeter, the acting CEO of the U.S. Olympic Committee, garnered criticism when the USOC botched the introduction of its TV network — and for her base salary of $560,000. Streeter says she will leave before the end of the Vancouver Paralympics in March 2010. Ed Andrieski/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Ed Andrieski/AP
Stephanie Streeter

Stephanie Streeter, the acting CEO of the U.S. Olympic Committee, garnered criticism when the USOC botched the introduction of its TV network — and for her base salary of $560,000. Streeter says she will leave before the end of the Vancouver Paralympics in March 2010.

Ed Andrieski/AP

The acting CEO of the U.S. Olympic Committee has stepped down five days after Chicago's stunning first-round elimination in the bidding for the 2016 Olympics.

Stephanie Streeter took the helm of the USOC just seven months ago; she was the group's fifth CEO in nine years.

Streeter says she planned to leave her Olympic post weeks before last Friday's selection of Rio de Janeiro as host of the 2016 Olympics. Chicago garnered just 18 of 94 votes in the International Olympic Committee's selection process.

USOC Blamed For Chicago Loss

"Stephanie's been a big proponent of accountability," says Alan Abrahamson, the Olympic Insider columnist for universalsports.com. "And somebody's got to be held accountable."

Abrahamson and others blame the USOC for Chicago's poor showing.

"This was the best bid the United States has ever put together," Abrahamson says. "You even had a personal appeal by the president of the United States and the first lady, and still Chicago got 18 votes."

Four years ago, New York's bid for the 2012 Olympics resulted in only 19 IOC votes in the first round and 16 in the second.

"What's the constant? What's the thread?" Abrahamson asks. "It's the USOC."

A Complicated Relationship

Streeter and USOC Board Chairman Larry Probst acknowledge weaknesses in the USOC's support for Chicago's Olympic bid.

"We don't have political capital. We don't have leverage," Probst told reporters in a conference call. "We need to have more of a presence in the international community and with the International Olympic Committee."

The USOC has a complicated relationship with international Olympic officials. That stems from resentment of U.S. foreign policy, which seeps into Olympic politics. It is exacerbated by U.S. television and corporate revenues, which are the biggest sources of Olympic funding. But some IOC members resent that as a kind of U.S. Olympic imperialism, and they resent what they believe is an excessive share of those funds kept by the USOC.

Streeter and Probst invited even more resentment when they announced the creation of a U.S. Olympic television network over the IOC's objections. The new network seems to compete with an existing Olympic television arrangement with U.S. broadcaster NBC Universal, an arrangement worth billions of dollars to the IOC. The USOC tabled plans for the network after the announcement triggered outrage in Olympic circles.

Search For New CEO

The Chicago bid also suffered, as Probst suggested, from the USOC's failure to do the kind of international networking necessary to bring the Olympics back to the U.S. The leadership turnover at the USOC has made that difficult. Some of those chosen to lead had corporate experience but little or no background in Olympic sports.

Streeter obliquely referred to that mismatch in explaining her departure. She told reporters that her "decision is really about returning to the corporate sector. And I love running large companies."

She and Probst acknowledged that corporate skills alone aren't enough in the Olympic world. Probst described his ideal CEO as "somebody that has the executive skills that Stephanie has, married with a background in sports."

Probst added foreign-language skills to the list, along with a willingness to do extensive international travel. The USOC needs someone, he said, who "can build the long-term relationships that we need to have with IOC members."

Building those relationships, Probst predicted, would take a decade or more.

"I'm talking 10, 15, 20 years," which means the USOC needs to find a CEO who will stay awhile.

Both Probst and Streeter have lost the confidence of the sports federations that govern Olympic sports in the U.S.

"Events of the last six months have caused the National Governing Bodies to lose faith in the USOC leadership," said Skip Gilbert, who heads USA Triathlon and the Association of Chief Executives in Sport. "This is not a vocal minority speaking out, but an overwhelming majority voice."

His comments are a reference to a survey released Wednesday of 46 chief executives of the U.S. National Governing Bodies. Those responding to the survey showed no confidence in Streeter's ability to be an effective leader of the Olympic movement. Ninety percent did not approve of the way Probst is doing his job.

Probst said Wednesday he does not plan to resign.

At stake in this minefield of Olympic politics is more support for American athletes. Olympics held in the U.S. create greater value for U.S. corporate sponsors and television networks. More money is generated for Olympic athletes and more kids are attracted to Olympic sports, which makes more American medals possible.

Probst says he hopes to have a new U.S. Olympic CEO in place by the end of March. That person will be the sixth USOC chief in a decade.

Dick Ebersol, who directs sports and Olympic programming for NBC Universal, the exclusive broadcaster of the Olympics in the U.S., told The Associated Press that the USOC "has clearly lost its way."

"I don't believe there will ever be another Olympics in the U.S.," Ebersol told the AP, "until the USOC really gets its act together."

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