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USOC chief calls for changes in bid voting

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

Larry Probst, the United States Olympic Committee chairman, won’t win a popularity contest within the IOC anytime soon.

Not after speaking his mind about the voting process to award Olympic cities.

In an exclusive interview with Sports Business Journal late last month, Probst revealed he would like to see the IOC do away with having all 106 members cast votes for host cities, such as the voting that took place in Buenos Aires in September 2013, which awarded Tokyo the 2020 Summer Games.

In a wide-ranging interview, he also pointed out that modern communications should play a greater role in the day-to-day activities of the IOC.

“Fewer meetings. Less travel,” Probst was quoted as saying in the Sports Business Journal article. “Seriously, the amount of time that people spend traveling to (IOC headquarters in) Lausanne (Switzerland) for three to four hours of meetings is outrageous. Sooner or later we have to embrace modern technology, and do some of these things through video conferencing.”

He added: “The other thing I would change is that I would like to see the executive board decide where the Olympic Games are held (as opposed to being decided by the entire membership). I will probably get in trouble for saying this, but they are supposedly the most sophisticated and knowledgeable people in the membership, so I would like to see the (executive board) have more of a say.”

There are only 15 members of the IOC executive board. So, in theory, taking away voting privileges from 91 voters could cause epic-level infighting.

Would a changing in the voting process give too much power to those 15?

Critics of the IOC’s lack of transparency would argue that giving a smaller group a vote might make it even easier for them to be persuaded by bribery or influenced by cronyism and back-room dealings.

Eye on Africa: Should an Olympic bid be awarded to a nation that wants to stage competition in a number of cities instead of one specific area?

A recent Reuters article addressed this topic, with IOC president Thomas Bach weighing in on the issue.

No African nation has hosted the Olympics. Bach said he wants “to see the continent stage the world’s most prestigious sports competition,” Reuters reported.

He added: “We (at the IOC) would be happy to see a feasibility bid from the continent. … We are already discussing changes to bidding procedure under the framework. … We want to open doors to more cities and more countries to bid to organize the games.”

Thirty years ago: In June 1984, 20 years after Tokyo last hosted the Summer Olympics, Senator Bill Bradley, a New Jersey Democrat and captain of the U.S. gold medal-winning basketball team in Japan’s capital city, spoke before Congress to advocate a permanent site for the Olympics.

In an Associated Press article, Bradley, a former NBA star for the New York Knicks, described support for a permanent site “suitable for insulating the games (from) unwarranted and disruptive international politics.”

Bradley sponsored a nonbinding amendment to a Defense Department spending bill, according to AP.

The New York Times’ June 19, 1984, edition published the story under the headline: “Permanent Site for Olympics Is Recommended by Senate.”

“If there were a permanent site,” Bradley was quoted as saying, “we would have seen neither the pullout of the United States in 1980, nor the pullout of the Soviet Union in 1984.”

Where did Bradley suggest should be the location for the permanent Olympic site?

“My own preference is Greece,” he said, according to the article.

Tohoku visit: The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Organizing Committee has released travel dates for three top leaders for next week.

Committee president Yoshiro Mori, the former Prime Minister, CEO Toshiro Muto and COO Yukihiko Nunomura, are slated to meet with Iwate Gov. Takuya Tasso on Monday and Miyagi Gov. Yoshihiro Murai later in the day. On Tuesday, a morning visit is scheduled with Fukushima Gov. Yuhei Sato.

Tokyo 2020 officials have talked about the Olympics as a symbol of revival for the nation, including Tohoku after the March 11, 2011, disasters. Now, further dialogue is planned with those who oversee the day-to-day governing in the region.

“Since the earthquake and tsunami hit Tohoku in 2011, Japan’s sport community has been at the heart of recovery activities. And we have seen the important roles athletes and sport can play in society,” Tokyo 2020 communications director Masa Takaya told The Japan Times.

“One of the bid’s key messages in hosting the 2020 Games was to maximize the power of sport with worldwide audiences, raising the profile of athletes and securing the place of sport.

“The visit of Tokyo 2020 senior leaders in Tohoku aims to collect insights from the governors of the three affected prefectures and to start planning initiatives to support the recovery efforts of the Tohoku region.”

In the spotlight: The Japan Open, slated for June 19-22 in Tokyo, gives the nation’s elite swimmers a measuring stick against one another as they seek to qualify for a pair of marquee competitions in a non-Olympic year, the Asian Games and Pan Pacific Games.

Among the biggest names scheduled to compete are Olympians Kosuke Kitajima, Kosuke Hagino, Ryo Tateishi and Ryosuke Irie on the men’s side, plus female standouts Natsumi Hoshi and Satomi Suzuki, among others. …

Jon Rosen penned an interesting portrait in May of the influx of China’s middle — and long-distance running teams who have been training in Kenya prior to the 2015 IAAF World Athletics Championships, which will be held in Beijing. Indeed, many of these runners are aiming to compete in the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Here’s the story link: roadsandkingdoms.com/2014/in-kenya-running-with-chinese-characteristics/

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Editor’s note: In an effort to provide expanded coverage of Olympic-related news, The Japan Times will feature this notebook monthly (or more frequently) starting with this first installment. Previously, this notebook was published in the run-up to and during the Summer Olympics in 2008 and 2012.