U.S. Olympic Committee Picks New CEO

The U.S. Olympic Committee has settled on its new chief executive. Multiple sources tell NPR it is Scott Blackmun, who served as the organization's interim CEO in 2000. The USOC faces a number of challenges, including repairing the damage from a last-place finish in its bid to bring the 2016 games to Chicago.

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The troubled U.S. Olympic Committee has picked a new CEO. Multiple sources tell NPR that the committee has reached into its past and selected Scott Blackmun. He was chief counsel and acting CEO 10 years ago. A formal announcement is scheduled for tomorrow.

As NPR's Howard Berkes tells us, Blackmun's return is getting positive responses.

HOWARD BERKES: It seems more coronation than appointment, not because Scott Blackmun inherited the job, but because praise for his return to the U.S. Olympic helm is so enthusiastic.

Mr. DOUG LOGAN (CEO, USA Track and Field): He will bring a measure of stability that this organization has not had, certainly, in the last year and maybe going back even further than that.

BERKES: That's Doug Logan, who runs USA Track and Field. And he's referring to a decade of management turmoil at the U.S. Olympic Committee, with nine different CEOs, including Blackmun temporarily in 2001. Go back far enough and it's 13 chiefs in 14 years. The turmoil is blamed in part for Chicago's failure to win the bidding for the 2016 Olympics.

Mr. LOGAN: The state of the USOC was chaotic, and Scott is a very, very able executive. He's got years of experience in sports and in entertainment. He is a very able and skilled administrator. He's got a longtime reputation for being a conciliator.

BERKES: Which is a skill the U.S. Olympic Committee needs, because some of the turmoil stemmed from battles among sports federations competing for influence and money.

The USOC governs Olympic sports in the United States and doles out a good share of their funding. It also needs good relationships with international sports federations and the International Olympic Committee if the United States has any hope of ever hosting another Olympics.

Willie Banks was a triple jumper in the Olympics and represents former and current athletes.

Mr. WILLIE BANKS (Former Olympic Athlete): The problem that we've faced for a long time is the fact that we continually have changeover in our leadership and that is very disconcerting to our international friends. So, if they're seeing that we're going with someone who's tried and tested that they know, it's a little bit easier to deal with them.

BERKES: Blackmun helped shepherd the U.S. Olympic Committee through the 1998 bribery scandal involving Salt Lake City's Olympic bid. The scandal focused mostly on the International Olympic Committee, but the USOC also came under scrutiny for influence peddling involving its own employees.

Blackmun left the USOC in 2001 when he was passed over for the permanent CEO job. And what followed was a series of failed CEOs. Most had perfect corporate pedigrees, but little Olympic experience.

Lisa Delpy Neirotti is an Olympic scholar at George Washington University.

Professor LISA DELPY NEIROTTI (Olympic Scholar, The George Washington University): Scott does bring the corporate knowledge of how to run a business. So you get both: the understanding of what the USOC's role is, as well as how to run it efficiently and effectively.

BERKES: This should comfort corporate sponsors who watched in dismay as the USOC's missteps seemed to tarnish the American Olympic brand. In one notable flub, the group announced a U.S. Olympic TV network, even after the International Olympic Committee warned against it, fearing conflicts with exclusive rights holder NBC.

Scott Blackmun has a task as daunting as the competition facing athletes, whose own abilities to succeed may depend on his success.

Howard Berkes, NPR News.

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