Who is America's most famous Olympic athlete?


After doing this now for nearly 20 years, when asking casual (American) fans of the Olympics to name the most famous Olympic athlete who first comes to mind, the answer is invariably one of two:

Michael Phelps. Or, more likely, Carl Lewis.

It’s in this context that one is urged to take in the first in a series of promotional videos — featuring both athletes and venues — from the LA24 bid committee.

Released this week, this first mini-movie features Lewis at the scene of arguably his greatest triumph, the LA Memorial Coliseum, where in 1984 he won four Olympic gold medals. He has, over his Olympic career, nine golds and one silver.

Sports Illustrated named Lewis the Olympian of the 20th century. That list includes Jesse Owens, Jim Thorpe, Mark Spitz, Nadia Comaneci, Paavo Nurmi, Emil Zatopek and many more. Track and field's international governing body, the IAAF, named him male athlete of the century. The International Olympic Committee named him "sportsman of the century."

It would make for a long and fascinating discussion about why, despite his many achievements, Lewis is — still — viewed with something like suspicion in some quarters of the media. It’s a mystery, really. Ben Johnson is the guy who ran with stanozolol in Seoul in 1988, a steroid that turned his eyes yellow. If you have questions about Lewis’ stimulant tests back in the day: Lewis didn’t violate any rules then, and the levels wouldn’t be considered anywhere near a positive now. And, fast forward, maybe there are questions and maybe there aren't about clenbuterol and Jamaicans in Beijing in 2008.


Carl Lewis sang the national anthem. He ran for office. Neither proved glorious. So what? Wasn't it Teddy Roosevelt who said it was the guy who was out there trying who matters? Lewis sometimes speaks his mind. Like last year, at a pre-Rio Games media summit, when he talked about Team USA relay drops. So what? Wasn't it Jack Nicholson who once said we couldn't handle the truth?

People: Carl Lewis has 10 Olympic medals. Nine are gold. And that's just the starting place. Some appreciation and respect, please.

When — not if — you watch this video, consider:

Phelps has won every single one of his 28 Olympic medals overseas. You can argue back and forth about whether Phelps is the greatest Olympic athlete of all time (yes) but this is just fact: eight medals in Athens, eight in Beijing, six in London, six in Rio.

Lewis stands at a different place in the collective imagination. Why? This has zero to do with Phelps, who over the years has come to represent consistent, if not amazingly ferocious, excellence. With Lewis, it's even more layered, and this is where things get even more interesting, and this is another reason why the Olympics -- despite all their problems -- matter, and a lot.

Lewis won those first four medals, again all gold, in LA: the 100, the 200, the long jump and the 4x100 relay, matching the four golds that Owens won in the same four events in Berlin in 1936. The Coliseum is where Rafer Johnson lit the 1984 cauldron, another on a list of enduring memories. The Coliseum was center stage not just for the 1984 Games but the 1932 Olympics, too. Of course, it represents, as Lewis says in the video, history. It's more, really: you can hear and feel there the echoes of history because the building has been around so long. That’s the point: as everyone who knows the first thing about the Olympics and track and field knows, the Coliseum is nothing less than sacred ground.

Our world could use a lot more of what the Coliseum is and always was. It is good, especially in the Olympic context, to walk on sacred ground. Better still to run.

Haters: cheerfully taking your $69.99 now


For years and years, NBC has had the Olympics. Then the network doubled down, obtaining the rights to, among other events, the track and field world championships. Then it tripled down, getting the rights to track and field's global series, what's called the Diamond League.

For the past five years, under the direction of chief executive Max Siegel, USA Track & Field has been building out its own digital presence. It is now far and away, at least as U.S. sports federations go, the digital leader in the Olympic space at its destination, USATF.tv.

The natural — but nonetheless forward-thinking — next step: the direct-to-you livestream “track and field pass” announced Wednesday by NBC. For $69.99, or roughly $7.75 per month from now until December, you get unprecedented access to pretty much every professional track and field event that matters.

Haters are going to hate, sure, but now even the haters are very likely going to be throwing down their $69.99 because, in the American Olympic space, Max Siegel is doing stuff that no one else is. This is the future, people. You want it? Here it is:

The Boston Marathon (this weekend). The London Marathon. The Berlin and Amsterdam Marathons.

The IAAF World Relays from the Bahamas (next weekend).

The highest profile USATF events, including USA vs. the world at the Penn Relays. The Drake Relays. The Pre Classic. The USA Outdoor Championships. All 14 Diamond League stops. All 10 days of the IAAF world championships from London.

Even the USATF Hall of Fame Black Tie & Sneaker Gala in November and the December Jesse Owens Awards.

For that $69.99, you can watch it live and on demand — on your phone, your tablet, your computer. Deep breath: on your Apple iOS, Apple TV, Android, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast and, of course, at NBCSportsGold.com.

In December, USATF and NBC announced an eight-year partnership. Again, the progression: forward if obvious and natural.

"Never before has so much track and field content been available in such a condensed package," said Adam Schmenk, USATF’s managing director of events and entertainment properties/broadcasting, the executive behind USATF.tv's growth. "Thanks to NBC Gold and USATF.tv, track fans have in store viewing like nothing else."

What makes all of this doubly interesting is Thursday’s announcement after two days of meetings (in London, if you're keeping score) from the IAAF, track’s international  governing body. Here is chief executive officer Olivier Gers, saying that the sport’s “product offering is strong” but “may need some repackaging,” the IAAF now “trialling lots of new initiatives” and “looking at different sport presentations and will be having discussions on how we evolve the sport over the next few years.”

Hello? This is one sure way forward. Everyone is on their phones, and pretty much 24/7.

You like track and field. You want to see track and field. You have been complaining seemingly forever that the NFL, NBA and MLB are there for the watching but track and field isn’t. Aren’t you now likely to pay to watch track and field?

Just like if you are a baseball fan and you want to watch baseball?

Soccer and soccer?


More: isn’t this a way as well to test what might work, and not, in terms of reaching new track and field fans? The 2021 world championships are in Eugene. That’s the next tipping point for the sport in the United States with the possibility — stress, possibility — of a Summer Olympics in Los Angeles in 2024 or, perhaps, 2028.

"NBC Sports is committed to serving passionate sports fans and we know track and field fans fit that description," said Portia Archer, the NBC Sports Group vice president in charge of the direct-to-consumer product line. Noting that the "track and field pass" is an extension of the Olympic Channel in the United States, she also called it "perfect for fans who follow track and field and for those beginning to discover it, whether at home or on the go ... no matter what platform they may be using."

Indeed, this initiative comes amid much discussion — see the Bloomberg Businessweek cover story last week on the impact of cord-cutters on ESPN — of how the TV and sports landscape is going to be shaped in the years ahead.

Who else in the U.S. Olympic scene is doing this kind of initiative? (In fairness: NBC also offers a "rugby pass," and a "cycling pass," which includes the Tour de France. Significant American influence in either? It's not 2005 anymore, and we all now know Lance Armstrong used performance-enhancing drugs. Back to reality.)

You want to know why it's Siegel?

Because when he took over a in 2012, this is precisely what Siegel said he was going to do — find new, inventive and creative ways to package and market a sport that needed exactly this kind of jolt.

Siegel can't fix the Diamond League itself. But he can fix the way you watch the Diamond League. Now -- for real -- you can watch it without having to find something called beIN sports. Or knowing somebody's cousin from Slovenia who had hooked up Eurosport on some weird remote cable or computer thingy that required expertise in VPNs, time-shifting and other matters best left to those who operate best in their pajamas under the influence of Doritos and Red Bull.

Siegel said,  “We recognized several years ago the fans wanted more track and field content and the way they consume it was changing. 

"That’s why we invested in our digital platform to bring more of the sport to our fans in the most accessible way.

“There is no one better at producing and distributing Olympic content than our partner NBC. So,” he said, “expanding our collaborative relationship into the digital space was an easy decision for us.”

What the USOC ought to tell United Airlines


United Airlines is a key sponsor of the U.S. Olympic Committee. The Olympic values: respect, excellence and friendship. In light of the video evidence showing security officials at Chicago’s O’Hare airport literally yanking a passenger off a United flight Sunday because the airline needed seats for its staff, if you were the USOC, aren't your next moves super-obvious?

1. Tell United Airlines that what everyone can see on that video is so not in keeping with the Olympic spirit. 2. Then either get out of your deal with United or commence a conversation in which the airline understands with clarity that it will henceforth deliver major service upgrades. Again, for emphasis: those upgrades will be for everyone involved in the Olympic mission, and in particular the female athletes of Team USA, if recent chatter involving the women’s national hockey team can be of particular guidance.


This video speaks to an institutional culture at the airline gone so very wrong. United chief executive Oscar Munoz's several missteps -- the apologies now seem forced and ring hollow -- only underscore that wayward culture.

In almost every situation, it's inevitably a risk to rush to judgment.

Even so: what benefit does the USOC get from continued affiliation with that culture? And what risk does the USOC run by having its own brand, which it has cautiously and carefully rebuilt after governance meltdowns 15 years ago, associated with a sponsor that not only could but would violate someone's dignity in such a profound manner? For the sin of paying good money and just sitting there, trying to get from Chicago to Louisville?

Of course the USOC needs an airline partner. An airline provides what in Olympic or sponsor speak is called VIK, or value-in-kind. Instead of cash, an airline offers travel -- that is, seats. The USOC needs those seats to get athletes as well as officials and administrators to, well, wherever.

What the USOC has right now is called leverage. It ought to use it, big time. Hello, American or Delta -- let's talk.

In the meantime, United deserves all the "re-accommodating" it can get. Big time.




And, finally, this -- some world-class trolling:


NHL: Agenda 2020, drop dead


Agenda 2020, International Olympic Committee Thomas Bach's would-be reform proposal, holds 40 points. The IOC members passed all 40, unanimously, in December 2014. Some two and a half years later, with the exception of the launch of the Olympic Channel, Agenda 2020 has proven a lot of aspirational talk and not much else. The NHL's decision to walk away from the 2018 Winter Games offers potent new evidence of the obvious irrelevance with which it views Agenda 2020 and, by extension, the larger Olympic enterprise. There can be no other conclusion. If Agenda 2020 held the power to effect meaningful change, what would the NHL choose when weighing this essential question: is hockey a brand or a sport?

Aspirational talk is swell. But the real world demands far more. And the NHL's move underscores the largely empty gesture that Agenda 2020 is well on its way to becoming.

Most of the focus on Agenda 2020 package has been on the points dealing with the bid-city process. That's understandable. That process needs a wholesale makeover. The 2022 Winter Games race ended with just two cities and now the same for 2024, Paris and Los Angeles.

It's simply not clear whether any of those Agenda 2020 bid-city proposals can ever be meaningful.

Or, for that matter, the rest of the Agenda 2020 package.

Last week, the NHL announced that decision not to take part in the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea. Assuming no change, that ends a run of five consecutive Winter Games with NHL players.

Now, to Agenda 2020, and Recommendation 8. Here it is, word for word:

"Forge relationships with professional leagues

"Invest in and forge relationships with professional leagues and structures via the respective international federations with the aim of:

"• Ensuring participation by the best athletes

"• Recognizing the different nature and constraints of each of the professional leagues

"• Adopting the most appropriate collaboration model on an ad-hoc basis in cooperation with each relevant international federation."

How would the reasonable person say that's working out?


More of the same (Paris), or something new (LA)


The choice the International Olympic Committee is facing for the 2024 Summer Games, even as it considers a 2024/2028 deal between Los Angeles and Paris, could not be more clear.

More of the same. Or something new.

Or framing it another way: Paris is after a Games. Los Angeles is offering itself in service to the Olympic movement.

Both cities made 10-minute presentations Tuesday to a convention of international sports federation officials in Denmark.

In the LA spot, mayor Eric Garcetti said, “Many believe that the bids ... are quite similar when in fact the two bids that we have presented before us are quite different,” a distinction that even in 10 short minutes times two became crystal clear.

Paris bid co-chair Tony Estanguet, to the audience: “We are promising a Games of real passion and purpose …” Anne Hidalgo, the mayor: “So why Paris now?”  She answered a moment later: “We believe we have the right city with the right vision at exactly the right moment for sport.” Paris bid chief executive Etienne Thobois: “We will deliver the best Games ever for the athletes based on three key pillars,” among them a “brand-new [athletes’] village.”

LA strategy director Angela Ruggiero, the IOC athletes’ commission chair: “Our commitment to you isn’t just for the 16 days of the Games in 2024. It is for the seven years leading up to them, and beyond.” LA bid leader Casey Wasserman: “I think we can all agree that 2024 must be a transformative Games for the movement. This means that the next seven years must inform the next 100 years.”

To springboard off the two radically different presentations Tuesday in Denmark:

At issue is way more than 2024 (or 2028). It is nothing less than the ongoing relevance and vitality of the entire Olympic movement.

This is not hyperbole. It is not drama. It is not Chicken Little sky-is-falling talk.

This is real, and the leadership of the IOC as well as most of the members, who in theory ought to be up to speed on the potentially existential crisis the movement is even now confronting but in some instances might well be a little slow on the uptake, had better sharpen their focus, and quickly.

It’s this elemental:

IOC leaders and members act as stewards of the brand and the movement. An Olympic Games is a multibillion-dollar enterprise. In the bid context, the role demands world-class risk assessment. The old days of cronyism and I’ll-scratch-your-back, you-scratch-mine — that, with the FBI as well as the French and Swiss authorities watching with interest, has to be yesteryear. In a related spirit, there can be no place for sweet but misguided sentimentality. To exercise anything but cold, hard judgment, particularly now, when the brand and movement are considerably imperiled, is to be irresponsible, almost to the extreme.

Imperiled? Unequivocally. Evidence, just the latest:

The Tuesday presentations from both LA and Paris followed Monday’s announcement from the National Hockey League that it was out of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Games.

Bottom line: the league is willing to forgo the best two-week commercial the sport of hockey could ask for, and this with Beijing 2022 and China and the possibility of a market of some 2 billion consumers just waiting to be mined four years down the line.

Irrefutable conclusion: the league doesn’t think the Olympics are worth it. In its considered judgment, after being part of the thing since 1998, the Olympics are no longer relevant, or at least relevant enough.

That is a brutal blow to the IOC. No way to sugarcoat it. It is, to use a phrase, a nightmare on ice.

A comparison:

Would Manchester United stop its season for the FIFA World Cup?

Yes, yes, FIFA is in business to make money, the IOC is theoretically in it to help spread the values of friendship, excellence and respect, among others. But still — Man U and the other English Premier League teams are going to make it work out to go to Qatar in 2022 but per the NHL the Columbus Blue Jackets can’t, or won’t, put things on hold to send some guys to PyeongChang in 2018?

Starting from that premise, that the Olympic enterprise is not relevant (enough) for the league that for a generation has supplied the guys in the most important team sport on the Winter Games program, the IOC finds itself looking at just two cities left in the race for 2024.

When three cities have already fallen away: Rome, Budapest and Hamburg.

When the 2022 Winter Games campaign saw just two left standing by the end — Beijing and Almaty, Kazakhstan — with five other western European cities pulling out along the way because taxpayers or officials would have nothing to do with it: Oslo, Munich, Stockholm, Davos/St. Moritz and Krakow.

This is the moment of clarity.

The old model, the more of the same, is the one in which bid committees don’t tell the truth about the costs of their government-funded Olympic bids.


Rio 2016, bid book $14.4 billion, reality check $20 billion or more. Tokyo 2020 bid book $7.8 billion, now estimated at maybe $15 billion, possibly $25-30 billion. Sochi 2014, bid book we won’t even go there, final tally a reported $51 billion.

Paris 2024 is more of this same.

The Paris people say they have 95 percent of their venues built. It’s the 5 percent that aren’t that mark the big-ticket items: that athletes’ village along with media housing and an aquatics complex. The Paris bid book costs those out at over $2 billion.

History says that $2-billion figure would be way low. It’s almost a guarantee, actually.

If there is one thing we have learned in this social media age, it is this:

Even those things that seem certain and stable can unravel, and quickly.

The almost-probable unraveling connected to that athletes’ village — wouldn’t it be fast and furious and the end game hugely uncertain? Consider how quickly the entire Budapest bid came crashing down — just weeks.

Wouldn’t a bet on Paris 2024 be the very same thing that has gotten the IOC into the deep credibility hole from which it is now looking up, seeking a way out?

When it should, by any reasonable measure of risk assessment, be seeking calm? Seeking stability?

As Garcetti also said Tuesday in the LA presentation:  “We believe LA2024 offers the Olympic movement something creative and new — not more of the same. This is an important time for our collective Olympic movement. A time that demands new thinking, new ideas and new solutions.”

The key difference: LA, just as it was in 1984, is privately financed. Surely with considered respect to the mayor, Wasserman said, “Free of government interference,” adding at another point, “The bottom line for everyone is that the bid we delivered to you in February of this year is the Games we will host in the summer of 2024. You can count on it.” Garcetti called it a “no risk, no surprises budget” because there will be no new permanent new venue to build. The all-in number: $5.3 billion, again, privately funded.

What does the reasonable person bargain for? Certainty.

Gene Sykes, the bid’s chief executive officer, noted that LA could have run the risk of building a new village — but opted not to, instead using the existing dorms at UCLA: “It takes a huge risk off the table.”

When risk is thus appropriately managed, then you can start laying out the “something creative and new.”

Wasserman, in Q&A, noting the advantage of not having to worry about construction: “We don’t have to build those facilities that normally take up the time, effort and resources of most bid and [organizing committees] … Our view is, because we will have two things that most [organizers] never have, time and money, to invest in growing those sports in the United States, to growing those sports in California and in Los Angeles … what a great place to start, when we have those seven years to really focus on engaging the youth, to develop sport in a way that, frankly, very few people have ever had the opportunity.”

The mayor, also in Q&A: “We see our legacy not just as a physical legacy. So often, the Olympics are about, what are you going to build? For mayors, it’s about — what part of town are you going to revitalize? Our experience from 1984 is what’s more important is the human legacy. It’s one of the reasons the profitability from the 1984 Olympics has spent $250 million on people and facilities and coaches. So, for instance, in a low-income area of Los Angeles called Compton, two African-American girls named Venus and Serena Williams were exposed to tennis as little girls. Today they’re two of the best tennis players in history. Our vision is to have a human legacy that sports is made free and universal for all youth in Los Angeles — forever."

Ruggiero, in the presentation itself: the chairman and chief executive of The Walt Disney Co., Bob Iger, would chair an innovation the bid is calling a “Sports Ambassador Program.”

It would, she told sports officials, “identify business leaders in California to work with you to maximize commercial opportunities in the United States.”

Let’s see — NBC is the IOC’s most important Olympic partner. Now welcome to the team Disney, which owns ESPN and ABC and (like NBCUniversal) runs a bunch of theme parks and operates signature movie studios.

Oh, and that George Lucas Star Wars museum is due to open literally next door to the LA Memorial Coliseum by 2020. Perhaps on May 4. Get the in-crowd joke: “May the Force be with you.”

If Iger and Disney now, this being April and Denmark, wouldn’t it stand to reason that by or at the next major milestone on this campaign, an all-members assembly at Olympic base camp in Lausanne, Switzerland in July, there would be news of yet more significant Los Angeles and California companies on board?

“Our bid isn’t about money, or ego, or boosting American pride or, frankly, even winning or losing,” Wasserman said during the presentation. “It’s about something much deeper.”

His next words brought forth the Olympic force, the reason all of this matters, or at least it's supposed to:

"It’s about ensuring that our — and your — Olympic dreams remain achievable, as far into the future as possible. To us,” he said, and it is exactly this kind of relevance, rooted in new ideas and creativity, that the Olympic movement needs, not to mention just a little bit of a wink and a nod, “that’s a dream worth sharing.”

Disclosure: If I have spoken to Bob Iger, it has only been in passing. His wife, Willow Bay, is the incoming dean of the Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California; she is the current director of the journalism division. I have been on the Annenberg journalism faculty for the past six years.

Reform the IOC bid process -- this doesn't work


The campaign for the 2024 (and, maybe, 2028) Summer Olympic Games moves this coming week into its next phase. It’s a carefully structured, overly programmed, International Olympic Committee-directed 10-minute road show. That is, both Los Angeles and Paris officials get 10 minutes (apiece) to present to the 20 or so IOC members due to be in attendance at a sports convention on the eastern coast of Denmark’s Jutland peninsula.

That far to travel for that little time and, moreover, to an audience that isn’t even one-quarter of the voting IOC membership? That is not anywhere near, to use a favorite IOC phrase, best practice.

Indeed, the whole IOC bid and campaign machinery — theory, structure, implementation — needs a thorough re-do.

For years, the IOC has sought to use the “evaluation” process as a means to have cities sell the IOC on their (that is, the cities’) merits.

That process needs to be flipped.

The IOC ought — better yet, needs, and better still, needs right now — to be asking, what are our (that is, the IOC’s) needs and what city can best fulfill our (again, IOC) needs?

It is patently clear to a significant cohort of Olympic watchers -- and some insiders, too -- that the bid process is broken and thus the IOC has arrived at a junction that spells crisis. Change must be effected.

The $51 billion questions on the table are whether senior IOC leadership as well as the rank-and-file members a) recognize the gravity of the problem and b) will respond.

It is worth noting that it was in the bid context -- see Salt Lake City, late 1990s -- that the IOC suffered its most existential threat. Until, perhaps and again, now.

As a result of the Salt Lake scandal, the IOC enacted a 50-point reform program.

Fast forward to a conference a few days ago in London. There, the former IOC marketing director Michael Payne called the bid process — as it is now — “toxic.”

Here, in a nutshell, is why:

The Barcelona 1992 Summer Games made presidents, prime ministers, governors and mayors everywhere believe that the glow from an Olympics could similarly jump-start their own government-funded infrastructure projects.

The Games come with a fixed seven-year deadline. That means stuff has to get done — airports, metro, light rail and sewer lines and more.

That deadline, in practice, has also produced ridiculous cost overruns.

Sochi: that reported $51 billion. Beijing: $40 billion. Rio: probably $20 billion. London: $15 billion. Tokyo: bid projected at $7.8 billion, now maybe $15 billion, who knows. Athens: $11-15 billion.

Over the past two, maybe three, years, the spiral of media— and in particular social media— reports have come back to bite the IOC in the backside.

As this space pointed out in a March 3 column and as Payne noted in his speech last Wednesday, the ever-increasing import of social media means community activists can leverage virtually any local grievance and turn it into as, he said, a debate “about whether to stage an event” such as the Olympics.

That’s what brought down the Budapest 2024 bid just weeks ago. And before that the Hamburg 2024 bid.

The Los Angeles 2024 effort — the bid and, if it succeeds, a Games — is privately financed. Just like 1984. This is the key difference between the LA effort and just about every other Summer Olympics since the IOC got itself into the jam it now finds itself in.

And it unequivocally is in that jam.

The irrefutable evidence:

For public consumption, the IOC is essentially just letting the road show and evaluation process play itself out. Behind the curtains, it is trying to figure out how to cut a 2024/2028 deal between the last two cities standing, LA and Paris.

When the history of all this gets formally written, this note: this space was the first to suggest this very thing — the 24/28 LA/Paris double-double. Look it up: September 15, 2016. (Also predicted in that very column: Budapest would fall out via referendum.)

The Denmark road show is being held for the benefit of the international sports federations. Two years ago, this very same sports convention was under the leadership of the judo federation president, Marius Vizer, who was at odds with IOC president Thomas Bach, and no 2022 Winter Games bid-city presentations were allowed, purportedly to cut the cost of bidding as part of Bach's Agenda 2020 would-be reform push.

For the past year, the federations have had a new guy in charge, Patrick Baumann, from basketball. Now Paris and LA get to present. It also happens that as of a few weeks ago Baumann is also the head of the 2024 IOC evaluation team. No criticism should be implied or inferred of Baumann (like Vizer, a very smart guy) or the way he ended up leading that evaluation team (long back story) — the point is, how can the Agenda 2020 reforms look anything like but what real life has proven them to be, hollow?

Back, of course, to the point of the bid process: personality politics cannot be the basis for a billion-dollar decision. That’s just basic.

Similarly, it makes little or no sense to cater to the sports federation officials. Unless he or she is also an IOC member -- they don't vote.

The IOC has a distinct credibility problem. A key reason is that it is perceived, appropriately, as the establishment, particularly in Europe, where taxpayers are mightily angered at the spending of their euros on what they perceive, rightly or wrongly, as Olympic waste.

So: essentially forcing a bunch of folks to jet into Denmark for  two 10-minute presentations? Just to feed the egos of international sports federation leaders? And then everyone goes out to the lobby for snacks and cocktails?

There is a much better way.

The IOC needs to reverse the paradigm.

The IOC should not be asking whether (pick one, A, B or C) the archery or badminton or canoeing president likes city x's pretty video.

Again, no vote unless an IOC member and, besides, that's in line with this theme — which city can impress us most?

In turn, that leads to this kind of question: city x, why is it important to your redevelopment strategy to build an athletes’ village that you have already budgeted at some billion-dollar obscenity that we nonetheless know, because history says so, is laughably low?

The IOC is not a redevelopment agency. It is not an urban planner. It is about sport. That is what the Olympic Charter makes plain, time and again. Sport. In the service of humankind.

To that end, the IOC should be asking, what is your detailed strategy to connect with athletes and other young people, and not just in your country? Don’t bore us to death with school programs. Tell us about connection and engagement. Tell us something innovative, creative and exciting.


Right now, the IOC produces a fat evaluation report filled with answers to questions such as the number of hotel rooms in city x or its airport capacity. These questions are relevant. But they are relevant mostly to IOC staff. This next sentence is critical: the staff does not vote.

This logically produces a huge disconnect in the evaluation and thus the bid and the election process. Why?

Because the members largely do not care.

Again, on issues such as the whether it's the Westin or the Hyatt or runway 26-left or 18-right, the members mostly do not read these reports. So this entire evaluation process, which after Salt Lake is supposed to form the underpinning for the most important decision the members make, is a colossal waste of time, money and resource.


The IOC should lead a focused inquiry that determines which city is most likely to:

— engage young people, with a detailed plan for how, and in particular on mobile platforms and across social media

— produce not just moments but heroes to inspire those young people across seven years, to and through opening ceremony and the 17 days of the Games, if not beyond

— take a leadership role across the Olympic and broader political landscapes by demonstrating transparent fiscal stewardship, responsibility and stability in all budgets related to the production of a Games

— voluntarily submit all such budgets to scrutiny by internationally accepted accounting experts, those reports routinely to be made matters of public record

— stabilize if not energize the Olympic movement in the host nation and around the world

— spark sponsor and audience interest domestically and internationally

If the IOC did that for 2024, there would be only one conclusion. It would be so easy. Crisis solved.

Not cool anymore: hockey guys being hockey guys


Three years ago at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, with the women’s gold-medal ice hockey game between the United States and Canada teetering on the edge, time winding down in the third period, the American forward Kelli Stack sent a shot down the ice. The Canadian net was empty, cleared moments before for an extra attacker.

The puck slithered and rolled for some 130 feet. It slid toward that empty net for a seeming eternity.

The American women had won Olympic gold in 1998. Then silver in 2002, bronze in 2006 and in 2010 silver again. If it went in, Kelli Stack’s long-distance shout-out would make it 3-1, United States. Just over 80 seconds to play. An almost for-sure gold medal.

But no.

The puck clanged off the post.

Moments later, the Canadians tied the game and, in overtime, won, 3-2.

Would it all be so different now if only Kelli Stack’s shot had gone in?

An inch of difference and perhaps this entire story, then and now, would be so very different // Olympic Channel screenshot from the Sochi 2014 women's hockey final

Would there even be a dispute between the U.S. women’s national team and USA Hockey? Would it be so righteous? So public? So ugly?

Just imagine the marketing and publicity opportunities that not only could but almost surely would have awaited the women’s team — the Americans winning in Russia, all of that. Think of the way the starring U.S. women’s gymnastics team has been celebrated after recent editions of the Summer Games. The U.S. women’s soccer team, of course. The women on the U.S. swim team.

But no.

Hockey is a smaller sport to begin with — sorry, hockey fans, but this is fact — and the Olympic women’s hockey tournament has proven the classic definition — sorry again, but three times in 20 years has established this is also fact — of what it means, practically speaking in American culture, to be first runner-up.

Instead of celebration, what we have here is another classic — a classic study in an optics, culture and governance problem.

And it did not have to happen.

Repeat — none of this had to happen, most (but not all) of the blame falls on USA Hockey and significant steps need to be taken to make sure things get made right.

The essence of the problem is simple:

What we have here are hockey guys being hockey guys.

In 2017, that simply does not play.

Credit to the women on the national team.

You’d like to think that in 2017, it would not take a group of younger women willing to stand up to a much larger group of older, white dude hockey guys for — and, this is being really, really obvious here — notions of equity and fairness.

But here we are.

The players recognized — or their advisers did, or both — that the time for maximum leverage was now, with the 2017 world championships due to begin later this week.

Should the players be asking for the moon?

Of course.

Are they going to get it? Like — salaries?


Is there going to be progress?

Let’s start with some basics. Here, in a few paragraphs, is why the hockey guys are being hockey guys:

At its best, world-class women’s hockey is just that — world-class. USA-Canada, for instance, whether it’s at the Olympic or world championships, is typically first-rate stuff that, like that 2014 gold medal game, rivals other must-see sports products.

But consider as well other scores from the 2014 Winter Olympics women’s hockey tourney:

Semifinals: U.S. 6, Sweden 1. Prelims: U.S. 9, Switzerland 0.

From the Vancouver 2010 women’s hockey tournament:

Prelims: Canada 18, Slovakia 0. Canada 10, Switzerland 1. Canada 13, Sweden 1. United States 12, China 1. United States 13, Russia 0. United States 6, Finland 0.

The 2017 women’s world championships is being held in Plymouth, Michigan (where?). The hall seats 3,500 people. Reasonable questions on both counts: why?

If the women’s tournament would fill NHL arenas, wouldn’t it make sense to go to one?

If corporate sponsors saw an opportunity to step up these past couple weeks in a big way — and lord knows some major mainstream outlets in the press have made the dispute between the players and the federation a significant thing — wouldn’t it make logical sense that some company somewhere would have seized that opportunity? And yet — have any? Explanation, please?

For all that:

USA Hockey’s governance structure needs fundamental review and reform. Its board of directors currently stands at 116, 91 of whom are voting members. Go through the roster and the pictures — an astonishing number of these people are white and male.

To say that USA Hockey has a diversity challenge, and on any number of levels, is being gentle and generous. Each year, the U.S. Olympic Committee surveys its affiliated groups and puts together what is called a “diversity and inclusion scorecard.” USA Hockey's numbers confirm what those pictures show: its leadership is overwhelmingly white and male — hockey guys.

It was 15 years ago that the U.S. Olympic Committee’s board of directors stood at 123. It went through the media mill after an issue involving the then-CEO. After hearings that involved sessions before Congress, the board restructured, down to 15.

Now is the time for USA Hockey board to take steps on its own to slim down, too — and to make gender equity in the boardroom meaningful — before that reform is imposed on it.

Next, USA Hockey has played this dispute so poorly.

Look at how many medals the U.S. men have won — in all the years since the 1980 “Miracle on Ice,” two silvers, 2002 and 2010, and remember the guys have been NHL players since 1998.

Now look at the women — they actually win medals (every edition since women started playing in 1998, including gold at that first tournament in Nagano).

Just to be obvious — it’s not even clear yet whether the NHL guys will play at the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

USA Hockey is roughly a $42-million per year enterprise. You can see from comparing its 2015 and 2016 budgets that there isn’t a lot of wiggle room in the numbers.

That’s maybe why there hasn’t been a lot of give from the federation side — not to mention the absurdity of trying to get a deal past a board of directors with 91 different agendas.

The federation was due Monday to announce a decision of some sort. Instead, nothing. Maybe because there was progress. Or maybe — 91 different agendas.

At any rate, here is some easy math:

USA Hockey could have solved this for less than a million bucks.

USA Hockey has now been battered with more, way more, than a million bucks of negative branding.

Who couldn’t see this coming and then, when it all hit, couldn’t or didn’t understand some of the basics of crisis management?

Didn’t anyone understand that this just invited the slap shot from Congress — whose members typically know next to nothing about sports but like to get involved when they sniff an opportunity for easy publicity?

More than a dozen United States senators, all Democrats — including both from Massachusetts (hockey state), one from Wisconsin (hockey state), one from Minnesota (hockey state) — signed a letter Monday asserting that “these elite athletes indeed deserve fairness and respect.”

To mix more metaphors, this time basketball: for those senators, that’s an uncontested layup. Too easy. Does USA Hockey really want more? (See once more, USOC, 2002/03.)

Back to soccer, and own goals:

Didn’t anyone understand that reaching out to the likes of club players — no, really — as potential replacement players for those now on the national team was not likely to generate a win?

And if they did so understand, what was that thinking all about — we’re just going to find someone to throw out onto the ice in Plymouth because, what? Let’s see. The United States is the three-time defending world champions and ranked No. 1 in the world. So — whoever is out there masquerading as the world’s No. 1 team would unequivocally be representing the United States the way USA Hockey would be proud to have the United States represented because, what? How many brewskis did it take at the hockey guy bar for that to sound even remotely reasonable?

Trying to be fair to the federation, a good chunk of the “news” reporting on the matter has not articulated with precision some of the financial realities that may be at issue — for instance, money is money, whether it comes from USA Hockey or the U.S. Olympic Committee.

Moreover, big picture, the women’s hockey team is not the women’s soccer team. The president of the United States was tweeting at the soccer team during the 2015 women’s World Cup. Huge crowds filled public squares to watch the likes of Alex Morgan, Carli Lloyd and Abby Wambach. Maybe if Kelli Stack’s shot had gone in but — no.

For all that, USA Hockey has done itself little good throughout this dispute by letting the players and their representatives control the narrative.

To be fair, again, some of what’s at issue is inevitably the result of having to deal with NHL players — meaning unionized athletes who have bargained in their NHL lives for certain standards and benefits and are thus highly unlikely in their USA Hockey turns to accept anything less than what they are used to as NHL players.

This means air travel, hotels and more, and so in comparing the guys to the women, it may be that the comparisons are hardly apples to apples.

Even so:

The hockey guys fly business class, the women maybe not so much.

OK but …

If, on the way to the 2016 Rio Summer Games, the U.S. men’s and women's basketball teams can be together on the same plane — can someone please explain why the hockey dudes go executive while, in 2017, the womenfolk get sent to the back? Optics, people.


For events like the world championships, as CNN Money reported, USA Hockey covers paid transportation for guests for the guys, and those guests get to stay at the players’ hotels, and get meals and game tickets. The women’s team? Not allowed to bring guests. And the players share rooms. Moreover, USA Hockey paid for disability insurance for the guys but not the women’s players.

The 2014 U.S. men’s team national jersey? It initially featured the men’s 1960 and 1980 gold medals. What about the women’s 1998 gold? Oops.

Here’s an argument advanced from the hockey guys camp — because women make up a smaller percentage of the federation membership, the federation not only can but should allocate inequitably less resource to the women’s national team.

Rebuttal, and this is too easy: whose job is it to build membership?

Oh, right: USA Hockey!

If you were writing a textbook outlining “culture problem,” you couldn’t make it any more obvious.

Like a puck, you know, hitting you in the pipes. That’s the instant the reasonable person thinks — maybe there’s a better way.

A 2024 dose of -- common sense


Back in the day, a young person who was maybe having a little trouble understanding a concept might meet up with an older fella. This older fella might feel so inclined to help impart some wisdom rather directly by means of what in some parts of the United States might be referred to as a switch.

This practice has largely fallen out of favor, given as a switch is pretty much a tree branch and beating people about the head with a stick is no longer considered what we in modern times would call best practice. Actually, we would probably call that a felony.

Even so, when it comes to the race for the 2024 Summer Games between Los Angeles and Paris and, now, perhaps the joined-at-the-hip contest for the 2028 Summer Games, too, let us turn for just a few moments to our new imaginary friend, the common-sense switch.

Good lord.

This is not difficult. Indeed, the way this is trending it is so painfully obvious. It’s truly simply common sense.

Item No. 1:

Tony Estanguet, the Paris 2024 co-president, gets sent to London earlier this week to meet with a gaggle of reporters.

This job would age anyone. IOC president Thomas Bach, left, this week at headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, with Macky Sall, president of Senegal // IOC

In Monaco in December 2014, pushing Agenda 2020, which the members unanimously approved. Since, taxpayers, primarily in western Europe, have suggested signaled little if anything substantive // Getty Images

It’s telling that Estanguet is the guy who gets sent to London in the first instance — but let's not digress.

There he delivers through the press an ultimatum: “It’s now or never. We will not come back for 2028. If the IOC can find a solution with Los Angeles, that’s great — but our project is only possible for 2024.”

Reaction: why adopt a black-and-white, either-or position six months before the purported decision date? Ask any sophisticated business person: how often does an ultimatum prove a successful negotiating position?

Item No. 2:

Jules Boykoff, an American professor, writes an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times loaded with trigger words (first paragraph alone: “profit-gobbling cartel” when the International Olympic Committee is not in the business of turning a profit) that asserts, amid all the glibness, that LA and Paris should press the IOC to assume a larger share of cost overruns.

In particular “… it’s time the organization stepped up and contributed to infrastructure costs as well.”

Since 1960, Mr. Boykoff says, “every single Olympics with reliable data has gone over budget, by an average of 156 percent in real terms.”

To be clear:

Zero quarrel here with Mr. Boykoff and his focus on reforming certain elements of the Olympic movement. Trigger words get attention. Mr. Boykoff wants to position himself as one of the Olympic voices in academia to turn to. All good.

The quarrel here is with my former employer, the LA Times, which didn’t challenge the underlying premises of the piece.

A little fact-checking would have made plain what is, again, so obvious — the key distinction between the Los Angeles and Paris plans for 2024, and why, as this space keeps pointing out repeatedly, the IOC would do well to seize the common-sense opportunity right in front of its very face or be prepared to face what the potentially (not being dramatic here) existential consequences.

Because, after 25 years of boondoggles, taxpayers in the west are mightily pissed off.

To explain:

The single most important difference between the LA and Paris bids is that everything that matters in Los Angeles is already built. It exists. Now.

Oops. OK. Wait. Mea culpa. The new NFL stadium in Inglewood doesn't exist yet. But it's being privately financed in a deal driven by the guy who owns the LA Rams. That's a $3-billion, state-of-the-art stadium for which LA24 organizers would not have to pay anything to help construct. So, thanks, right?

Paris would have to build an athletes’ village, media housing and an aquatics complex. Those are big projects, and history shows they inevitably produce cost overruns. They would in Paris. Guaranteed.

The Paris bid files (click here, see pages 28-31) project the village at $1.607 billion, the media housing another $373.8 million. Aquatics would be another $158.05 million. Now you're talking over $2 billion. As an AP story noted, there's also discussion of new public transport infrastructure to make the athletes' village more accessible, via a new train station and construction of a road interchange so that you could get to the village from central Paris in 20 minutes, at least in theory, by car.

Who wants to guess, when the cash register stops wildly spinning and cha-chinging, what obscenely large number would be in neon-bright digits?

And who would end up paying for a big chunk of this?

French taxpayers.

Reality: for credibility purposes, the IOC cannot afford these kind of building sprees anymore, not after 25 years of massive overruns — Barcelona 1992, which jumpstarted the whole Olympics-as-urban-renewal thing, is celebrating its anniversary even now.

Compare and contrast: if you don’t have anything to build, why would you have infrastructure cost overruns? This is the LA story.

Thus to the central thesis of the LAT op-ed piece? Why would the LA24 people want to challenge the IOC on cost overruns when LA24 doesn’t have logical reason to anticipate even one red penny? Hello? LAT editors -- 17 years for me as a staff writer there and have things really gotten that sloppy in the 10 years since I left Spring Street?


Paris is largely a government project. LA is privately financed. Because LA is a private deal, just like it was in 1984, there is no margin for error, no room for costly boondoggles.

Indeed, LA 2024, early on, considered the construction of a new athletes’ village near downtown Los Angeles. But officials decided not to do it. Why? Because it would have been too expensive! Instead, completely in line with the purported reforms known as Agenda 2020 championed by the IOC president, Thomas Bach, LA 2024 turned to the existing dorms at UCLA. Which are world-class.

Turning to the 156 percent figure:

That comes from an academic survey published last year. Click here if you want to read it in detail. Be mindful that, like any survey, it is only as good as the underlying data — for instance, as it notes, the “vigilant reader” may well be suspicious of some numbers, because “the lowest cost overrun of all Games was found for Beijing 2008,” a reported 2 percent on a reputed $40-billion all-in monster of a bill, because “China is known for its lack of reliability in economic reporting.”


At any rate:

You know what else is really fascinating in that survey?

Turn to page 12, Table 3, “Sports-related cost overruns, Olympics 1960-2012, calculated in local currencies, real terms.”

Here, for instance, you see that the Montreal 1976 Games incurred a 720 percent cost overrun.

Barcelona: 266 percent.

You know what’s missing from this chart?

Los Angeles 1984. Totally not there.

Turn, please, to page 25. There the authors have referenced the LA 84 official report. Now turn to page 309 of that official report, section 11.01.10, “Revenue and the operating surplus.” There it says the LA84 organizing committee turned a surplus — attention, LA Times editors, when referring to non-profit enterprises such as the IOC, it’s “surplus,” not “profit” — of at least $215 million, perhaps as much as $250 million.

The final number, as history would prove, was $232.5 million.

Since, through the LA84 Foundation, millions upon millions of dollars have gone into the promotion of youth sport around Southern California. That is real Olympic legacy.

Returning, as we were, to Table 3:

Let’s assume friends in France and Canada (Montreal 76) are more transparent in reporting financial details than friends in China, because these numbers seem genuinely fascinating in considering a Paris bid for 2024:

Grenoble, France, 1968 Winter Games, cost overrun: 181 percent.

Albertville, France, 1992 Winter Games, cost overrun: 137 percent.

Item No. 3:

The California legislative analyst’s office, the state legislature’s nonpartisan fiscal and policy advisor’s arm, issued a report Thursday on the LA24 bid that could not have been more — common sense.

The state, like the city of Los Angeles, has an interest in protecting taxpayers. The reason taxpayers in and around Southern California have repeatedly proven so high on a return of the Games to LA is the consistent belief that a privately run Games will not dent their wallets.

That's just — common sense.

From the report, and be mindful that these legislative offerings tend to prose measured with exacting precision. It is not often one sees “fun” or successful” in the stylings of an official California state report:

“… Los Angeles’ bid makes significant efforts to reduce the financial risks that have plagued prior Olympic cities. Basing its bid on existing or already‑on‑track venues and infrastructure reduces the chance that cost overruns will occur. More broadly, if Los Angeles is selected, Olympic organizers and local leaders can focus largely for the next seven years on preparing the region to host a fun, successful event for athletes and visitors, rather than focusing on keeping big construction projects on time and on budget. We agree with city officials that the current Olympic bid plan is fairly low risk for the city and, by extension, the state as well.”

Jason Sisney, the chief deputy legislative analyst, added in an email, and note again the emphasis from a government official whose No. 1 priority it is to look out for the interest of the taxpayer:

“So far, the efforts of Los Angeles city officials and LA24 to manage financial risks are noteworthy. If Los Angeles wins the Games, this means city officials can spend the next seven years planning a fun, successful event and be less focused on the sometimes thankless task of guiding big Olympic infrastructure projects to completion.”

Let’s once more compare and contrast, because unlike the LA24 people, our Paris 2024 friends would indeed have to guide “big Olympic infrastructure projects to completion,” the biggest that athletes’ village.

If you don’t read French and in particular the fascinating reports detailing notes of interest in immobilier en France, French real estate, perhaps you missed this gem:

Last week saw a building and property trade show in Cannes (that's the sun-splashed ville where they do the film festival). It was called MIPIM.

Who put up a booth?

Paris 2024!

This is itself interesting, since the idea of the stand was to attract private investors but the Paris bid book makes plain that "government" is, for the athletes' village, the "body responsible for funding venue from construction until Games time."

At any rate, maybe the way you go about attracting investors and financing in France is different.

In the United States, you would call, say, Goldman Sachs or some other heavyweight for a project estimated in the billions. 

There, it’s a booth at a trade show. What, did our Paris 2024 friends give away pins? Better yet -- some of those 1.5 million Paris 2024 cloth bracelets (2 euros apiece!) that 18 months ago were touted as a crowdsourcing funding vehicle. Maybe a few are now left over? 

The story quotes a local dignitary from Seine-Saint-Denis, the Paris suburb where they want to plunk the village:

"This is an opportunity to reduce noise pollution, by creating noise-barriers along the A86 expressway (a major local highway), but also to decontaminate the soils and to place underground the EDF (French utility) electric networks and lines."

This is what an Olympic Games is supposed to be about?

Soil decontamination? Noise barriers? Utility lines?

Or a fun, successful event?

Common sense, people.

Feeling 22, and everything is so all right


The American racer Mikaela Shiffrin on Friday clinched enough points to win the fancy crystal globe that goes to the alpine World Cup tour’s best overall female skier.

She becomes just the third American to win the season title. Tamara McKinney won it in 1983. Lindsey Vonn has won four big globes, as they like to call it on the tour, most recently in 2012. Now comes Mikaela Shiffrin, who just this past Monday turned 22.

Taylor Swift could not have put it any better. Everything will be so all right.

This is the stuff of compelling cross-over stardom.

Mikaela Shiffrin is already an Olympic champion, the heavy favorite to win again at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea in not just one but perhaps three events — slalom, giant slalom and combined — and already so much more, the rare athlete who not only has a calm and a presence about her but, at 22, understands who she is, what she is doing and why.

It’s elemental.

Mikaela Shiffrin is who she is because she loves it, and passionately.

She loves every bit of it. She can take that passion and distill it into a killer work ethic and uncompromising want-to.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you forge the sort of great champion who, come Winter Games-time, makes for must-see TV.

Unlike the schedule at most Winter Olympics, at Sochi in 2014, for instance, when the so-called technical events ran near the back end of the 17 days, in Pyeongchang next February, guess what goes off on Day 2? Women’s giant slalom. Day 4? Women’s slalom.

Why? This missive from the Department of the Obvious: Mikaela Shiffrin.

Here is the thing that separates someone like Shiffrin from the rest of almost everyone else on skis.

For her, the racing is the fun part. For real. In the start gate, the mission is not just to see if she can be good but to see how good she can be.

Nervous? Like, why?

Why be nervous, why have a thought bubble full of anxious reminders cluttering your mind, when you have done everything you can possibly do to put yourself in the best position you can be?

For Mikaela Shiffrin, there are no shortcuts. She loves the training, the hours upon hours in the gym, the repetitions in the weight room and on the icy snow, the attention to detail, all the stuff that doesn’t get reflected in the photo snaps, what our 24/7 what-now culture demands, the pics that flash across the globe in milliseconds of a winning smile and a fancy crystal globe.

“I am always at my best,” she said, calmly, evenly, “when I get good preparation and I feel strong.”

That simple, that elemental, and Mikaela Shiffrin’s 2017 overall win marks an intriguing moment if, like most Americans, you are just checking in on what’s what in alpine skiing.

Alpine racing is, generally speaking, divided into two kinds — the technical events and the speed races.

When most casual fans think alpine, they think speed, something like Robert Redford in “Downhill Racer,” which goes all the way back to 1969. (Warren Miller's love sonnets on film to the sport do not count for the casual fan.)

Making this easy:

The speed events are the downhill and the super-G.

Downhill: spitballing it here, you see how fast you can get down the mountain. There are gates, but whatever— the main thing is the speed, like 80 miles per hour, which is a lot on a freeway in a car made significantly of metal and other durable parts, much less on skis chattering down a river of ice. A world-class course runs to two minutes. Try to imagine it: ice (it's ice, not fluffy snow), 80 mph, two minutes, skis, yikes.

Super-G, same general idea but some widely set gates and the course is set lower down the mountain, meaning it's shorter.

The tech events, on the other hand, are the twisty, turning ones, the ones with all the gates close together.

Making this easy, again:

Per someone clever, those tech events, the giant slalom and slalom, will be coming to your living room early in the 2018 Olympic run.

A fifth alpine event, the combined, is just what it sounds like, one speed event and one tech, say a super-G and a slalom. You add the times of those two races together, lowest total wins.

On the men’s side, an Austrian racer, Marcel Hirscher, has won the World Cup overall title six seasons running — 2012 through 2017.

Hirscher is a tech specialist, the king of slalom and in the 2015 and 2017 seasons, giant slalom, too.

Compare that to the American standout Bode Miller, a five-event skier who won the overall title in 2005 and 2008.

Shiffrin is a tech specialist, too. She is the Sochi 2014 slalom gold medalist. She is the World Cup slalom winner for the 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2017 seasons. (She spent two months away from racing during the 2016 season after a fall.)

Compare that to Vonn, the German Maria Höfl-Riesch (2011 overall winner), the Slovenian Tina Maze (Sochi 2014 downhill and giant slalom champ, showing her versatility, and 2013 World Cup overall winner with an otherworldly 2,414 points, breaking the legendary Austrian hammer Hermann Maier’s record of 2,000, set in 2000).

All three of these women: four- or five-event racers.

Would Shiffrin this season have been competing in more speed events if the Swiss racer Lara Gut, the 2016 overall champ, had not, in a Feb. 10 warm-up at the world championships, torn an ACL?

If, similarly, the Austrian Anna Veith was not coming back from injury? Before she got married, she was Anna Fenninger — the name by which she won Olympic gold in 2014 in the super-G and, moreover, won the big globe in 2015 and 2014.

Heading into the weekend’s racing in Aspen, Shiffrin stood at 1,523 points. No matter what happens, she can’t come within a canyon of Maze’s 2,414. Does that matter, even a little? Gut had 1,522 in winning last season. Shiffrin already is better. Again, does that matter, even remotely?

Questions without answers and, anyway, it’s not as if Shiffrin can’t ski speed.

Shiffrin did, after all, win a combined this season, in late February, in Crans-Montana, Switzerland, and it’s for sure the case that as she goes and grows, all involved expect Shiffrin will do more speed.

A comparison: when Michael Phelps was a much younger swimmer, his coach, Bob Bowman, would allow him only to swim distance. As he grew into his ability, Bowman saw to it that Phelps broadened his repertoire.

Same general idea with Shiffrin.

The thing is, she and her team have a plan, and what Shiffrin and her team do, and exceedingly well, is develop and execute that plan.

As Julia Mancuso, the American skier who is herself a four-time Olympic medalist, including a gold from the Torino 2006 Games, said, “If it isn’t broke, why fix it? That’s their mindset.”

Mancuso added, “It takes a lot of strength to not deviate from that plan as well.”

Ski racing is full of numbers — so many it can become numbing — but just consider a handful.

Before this weekend’s races, Shiffrin had stood in the start gate 103 times. She had produced 31 wins and 43 podiums.

As Patrick Riml, the U.S. Ski Team’s alpine director, put it, “Her strike rate is unbelievable.”

It is often said that hitting a major-league curve ball is the hardest thing to do in sports. Those who say that have never stood in the start gate of a World Cup course and looked at the gates and the ice. Shiffrin’s win rate would make her, in baseball terms, an All-Star, a .300 hitter. Her podium rate puts her in Rogers Hornsby or Ted Williams category.

Long-range: Vonn has 77 World Cup victories. Sweden’s Ingemar Stenmark has the most, 86.

“Kudos to [parents] Jeff and Eileen for teaching Mikaela what it takes,” Riml said.

“Look,” he said, “everyone who skis the World Cup has talent. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be there.

“Who wants it? Who wants it bad enough? Who wants it bad enough on race day?

“You can see it,” he said, “from the start gate,” and indeed you can.

Mikaela Shiffrin wants it. And she is feeling every bit of 22.

Could it be more plain? IOC needs time, stability


The International Olympic Committee, like the Kremlin, speaks in code.

Let us now decode Friday’s announcement from a meeting in South Korea of the IOC's policy-making executive board that a “working group” made up of the four IOC vice-presidents has been set up to "explore changes" in Olympic bidding. The obvious subtext: the possibility later this year of jointly awarding the 2024 and 2028 Games to Los Angeles and Paris or, you know, Paris and Los Angeles.

This panel is due to make its report at what is called, in IOC jargon, the “technical briefing” in mid-July in Lausanne, Switzerland, the show at which those two candidate cities get to make presentations before the big event itself, the September 13 vote — if there is going to be a vote — in Lima, Peru.

The announcement Friday comes as IOC confronts almost everywhere it looks what in gentle terms would be called a credibility gap. The IOC stands as the symbol of an establishment that regular people increasingly resent, and a lot. These regular folks, who in western democracies are taxpayers, have made it plain that they will accept the IOC only on certain terms.

Meaning their — taxpayer — terms. Which means back to the future. Which means 1984.

In this volatile and perhaps even existential moment for the Olympic movement, you know the sort of thing that further erodes IOC credibility, and in a big way?

When the 73-year-old Swiss head of the international ski federation, Gian-Franco Kasper, opens up his mouth and, like he did at that very same IOC meeting in Korea, draws an analogy to allegations of Russian doping: "I'm just against bans or sanctioning of innocent people. Like Mr. Hitler did — all Jews were to be killed, independently of what they did or did not do.”

He also reportedly said, "We call this sippenhaft in Germany — where the place you come from makes you guilty.”

The place Mr. Kasper is from is a canton in Switzerland where sits St. Moritz, site of the 1928 and 1948 Winter Games. There, twice in the past four years voters have been asked via the ballot whether they would be interested in staging the 2022 or 2026 Winter Games. Twice the answer, most recently during the 2017 alpine ski championships: no.

Mr. Kasper’s words were so offensive and ill-timed, given everything at stake, that the IOC itself issued an apology on his behalf.

It is with this sort of ever-shifting and complex backdrop in mind that one approaches a more subtle decode of IOC "working group" messaging.

No. 1:

Whatever the IOC president wants is what the “working group” will “present” in July.

This is the way the IOC works. Now, then, presumably always.

If you don’t understand this basic premise about the IOC, you are still charmingly enrolled in naive school, which is fine but not the way the Olympic sphere operates.

The current IOC president, Thomas Bach of Germany, learned this from Juan Antonio Samaranch of Spain, president from 1980-2001. Outsiders hold to a stereotyped perception of Mr. Samaranch. The long view of history is more likely to trend toward a keen appreciation of Mr. Samaranch's style and manner of global leadership.

No. 2:

The four vice-presidents do not come to the table as neutrals.

Australia’s John Coates has every reason to push a Brisbane bid for 2028. Turkey’s Ugur Erdener, same for Istanbul. Spain’s Juan Antonio Samaranch Jr., absolutely for Madrid.

Then there is China’s Zaiqing Yu, and after Beijing for 2008 and 2022, why not Nanjing (Summer Youth Games 2014) or Shenzhen (Summer University Games 2011) or Shanghai for 2028?

Coates, Erdener and Yu are already on record as publicly opposed to the idea of a 2024-2028 double-double.

(Advice, IOC: you want the youth audience? Bring the Games back to SoCal sooner than later and send everyone to In-N-Out for the No. 1 special: double-double, fries, drink. Also, In-N-Out is a chain that encourages young people to, you know, read — a free burger for every five books that kids check out from the library and read. But I digress.)

Others who have said an Olympic double, hold the fries, may not make the best option: Gerhard Heiberg of Norway, the former IOC marketing director, and C.K. Wu of Taiwan, another executive board member and the boxing federation president.

That such heavyweights do not come as neutrals? Does not matter.

Why? See No. 1.

Moving on to No. 3:

With the announcement of this “working group,” the executive board bought itself roughly four months for Bach to canvass the Olympic scene’s wide range of stakeholders on the notion of a 2024-2028 double.

In this case, canvass is again code. It means, from the IOC president’s position, sure, I am glad to listen to you. Done? OK, now my turn, and be sure to listen closely, please, because we are facing some issues and we need to find a solution.

Mr. Bach, meanwhile, is walking a tremendous high-wire act, which he and perhaps only a few confidantes truly understand.

— Starting with the IOC members themselves:

In December 2014, Mr. Bach pushed through the IOC membership a purported wide-ranging reform plan dubbed Agenda 2020.

As evidence that the IOC does what the president wants: Agenda 2020 (all 40 points) was approved unanimously.

The reforms have so far failed to convince taxpayers in any number of European cities that they are in the least bit meaningful, leaving only two candidates in the 2015 vote for 2022 (Beijing and Almaty, Kazakhstan) and, now, for 2024 (LA, Paris).

A good many of the members already complain, if not for attribution, that being a member might make for a great way to speed through passport lines but what else? Being an IOC member is entirely a volunteer position. It carries no defined mandate. A member’s key “job” has in many ways been reduced to voting in the candidate city elections. And now, for 2024 and 2028, the IOC president would take that away?

Even more, for the 2022 Games race just two years ago, the situation was exactly the same — two cities — and yet the members duly exercised their franchise?

What’s so different now?

— Sticking with Agenda 2020:

In discussion about a 2024-2028 double, this space has made plain that the only way such a twist would work is that if it were LA for 2024, Paris for 2028.

Some European friends have floated the idea of Paris first, LA for 2028.

Our Paris bid friends suggest that it would have to be Paris first in any such rotation because the tender for the land on which an athletes’ village would have to be built is only available for 2024.

If past history is a reliable guide, and it is, the village would indisputably sink into a fat and ugly construction cost-overrun and delay-plagued boondoggle.

To reiterate, that is the very last thing the IOC — and beyond, the broader Olympic movement — wants or needs.

What all involved want and need is time and stability.

At any rate, if that tender is the sticking point, French friends: if it’s that critical to your project, get a better lawyer. That is just common sense. Maybe, you know, find a way to figure out how to make it happen instead of saying, all French-like, non, we cannot.

— Back to the IOC president and Agenda 2020:

Mr. Bach was elected to a first eight-year term in 2013.

Let’s say for purposes of discussion that the IOC’s fascinatingly insightful new friends in the French prosecutor’s office, having already reached out to Frankie Fredericks, the IOC member from the west African nation of Namibia, don’t so intrude on Mr. Bach’s fate that he can fulfill not only that eight-year term but can, indeed, serve — as is IOC custom since the reforms associated with the late 1990s Salt Lake City affair — a second four-year term as president.

Math: the year 2013 plus 12 would take us to the year 2025.

Common sense:

Agenda 2020 is Mr. Bach’s project.

He is hugely invested in, indeed professionally identified with, making it real.

Assuming 12 years in office, the only Summer Games on Mr. Bach’s watch during which Agenda 2020 could be seen through, start to finish, would be 2024.

Of the two bids, the only Summer Games that even remotely aligns properly with Agenda 2020 is Los Angeles.

The Paris people may well protest.

They say that 95 percent of their stuff is already built, and good for them.

It’s the items to be built that are the killers — that athletes' village, an aquatics center and media housing. Those are big-ticket projects, and big-ticket items are at the core of what is killing the IOC’s credibility with taxpayers, because these projects are marketed as cost-factor x but then inevitably become real-cost x-plus. (Tokyo 2020: 2013 bid book $7.8 billion; post-2013 win as high as $30 billion; maybe now $15.2 billion, according to Bach. See, French friends? If the Japanese can cut $15 billion, you can find a good lawyer!)

The IOC president would never, ever — repeat, never, ever — say in public that big-ticket items like these are, in fact, killers.

Sports politics is absolutely politics, and you do not get to be the IOC president without being an adept politician of the first order.

But, and he knows this, the IOC absolutely needs to get out of the government-backed project business. That’s not what the Games are about.

It perhaps may have been little noticed except within certain Olympic precincts but last week offered up 110 percent evidence to that exact point: why the IOC desperately needs to get out of the business, at least for a safe-harbor seven-year stretch, of having sports events essentially backed — as Paris is and Los Angeles is not — by government.

There's something of an irony here: the IOC held its 2011 assembly in Durban, South Africa, and it was there that the IOC elected Pyeongchang, South Korea, the site of the 2018 Winter Games, which was where the IOC announced Friday it was going to have this "working group" all about 2024 and 2028.

Earlier in the week, Durban backed out of hosting the 2022 Commonwealth Games, the president of the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee saying that “without the necessary government guarantees, we couldn't move on.”

This comes of course just a few weeks after Budapest dropped out of the 2024 Summer Games campaign — following earlier exits by Rome and Hamburg, Germany.

It’s just so obvious what is what.

As in 1984, the LA 2024 project would be privately financed.

Decoding, again:

That’s what these next four months, and the behind-the-scenes talks, will be about while the "working group" does its thing.

If ever you wanted proof of how the IOC itself is struggling mightily in 2017 to bridge that credibility gap, consider:

At that meeting in Korea, the Games’ executive director, Christophe Dubi told a small pack of reporters that the Summer Games last year had “changed the sewer system” in Rio de Janeiro.

First and foremost, an Olympics is not now, was not then, will not ever be about changes to a city’s sewer system.

To appropriate one of Mr. Bach’s pet phrases, that is not what gets 16-year-old would-be surfing and skateboarding couch potatoes off the couch.

Secondly, with all due respect for Mr. Dubi, who is a fundamentally decent guy whose position often puts him between a rock and a sewage outlet, so to speak, that assertion simply cannot be true.

Each and every day in Rio, on the way into the Main Press Center, thousands of us were welcomed by the delightfully fragrant, indeed welcoming bouquet of an open sewage trench.

Decode: let’s cut the crap, people.

For 2024, Los Angeles. That buys time and stability, and access to the key youth demographic and the buzz and tech of California, and all those things are critically what's at issue, as well as perhaps the chance for Mr. Bach to see his reforms put into action while he’s IOC president. If Paris wants 2028, that’s altogether another matter. Some good lawyers can work that out.