Rogge won’t tip hand on next US Olympics

If there’s any sense of urgency to bring the Olympics back to

the United States, the president of the IOC isn’t tipping his

hand.

In an interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday, Jacques

Rogge said returning the games to big countries – for instance, the

U.S. after a drought of at least 20 years – is no more or less

important than someday taking them to Africa.

Rogge has carefully cultivated this down-the-middle approach in

his 10 years as the IOC’s leader. He offered neither encouragement

nor discouragement to the U.S., which pumps the most money into the

Olympic movement but is guaranteed to go at least two decades

between taking its turn as host.

”It’s important that the games come back there,” Rogge said of

the U.S., China and Russia, the three countries generally

considered the biggest in the Olympics. ”But we are also very

happy to bring games to regions or subcontinents or continents

where they’ve never been organized. One day, the games will be held

in Africa and that will be a very important aspect.”

China hosted the 2008 Olympics and Russia will host the Winter

Games in 2014. Rio de Janeiro will host the first Olympics in South

America in 2016. The U.S. last hosted in 2002 – the Salt Lake City

Winter Games.

Neither the U.S. nor any African country bid for 2020, meaning

the next American chance would be for the 2022 Winter Olympics and

Africa’s next best chance won’t likely come until 2024. Rogge,

whose term expires in 2013, won’t be around to see either of those

games awarded and would not bite when asked which was closer to

holding an Olympics.

”To win the games you have to bid,” he said. ”If you don’t

bid, you have no chance.”

The U.S. Olympic Committee says it won’t bid until it resolves a

long-simmering feud with the IOC over revenue sharing. Currently,

the USOC receives a 20 percent share of global sponsorship revenues

and a 12.75 percent cut of U.S. broadcast rights deals. The IOC

wants more of that money.

Negotiations were fast-tracked over the summer in an apparent

attempt to iron something out in time for the USOC to meet the

September deadline to bid for 2020. But no agreement was reached

and any plans were put on hold.

Last month, however, USOC CEO Scott Blackmun said the federation

always remains interested in bidding.

”I think 20 years is long enough,” Blackmun said. ”I think

it’s important that we host the games in the United States as a way

to keep Americans connected to the team.”

In the interview Tuesday, Rogge agreed with Blackmun’s

sentiment, but said, ”the ones who will benefit the most will be

the USOC, of course.”

”The Olympic movement, as a whole, would benefit from coming

back to major countries on a regular basis,” Rogge said. ”But at

the same time, we need to have openings for new horizons and for

regions where no games were ever organized.”

Denver has been mentioned as a potential 2022 candidate. Rogge

said he didn’t know enough about Denver’s infrastructure to comment

on its viability. Denver was awarded the 1976 Winter Olympics but

later turned them down – a historical footnote that Rogge said

would not work against the Mile High City if it were to bid

again.

”The issue of Denver is not an issue anymore,” Rogge said.

”There is absolutely no grudge whatsoever in the IOC for what

happened in Denver more than 40 years ago.”

Rogge was visiting Colorado Springs, the home of the U.S.

Olympic Committee, for the first time since he became president in

2001. He was in town for the IOC Athletes’ Forum, which made its

biggest news this week by recommending to the IOC that athletes

convicted of ”deliberate and aggravated” doping offenses should

receive a lifetime Olympic ban on their first offense. Most first

offenses carry a two-year suspension.

In other doping news, Rogge said he was surprised by a ruling

that will allow American sprinter LaShawn Merritt back in the

Olympics next year.

But, Rogge said, the IOC will fight to uphold the spirit of the

rule in the future.

Last week, the Court of Arbitration for Sport overturned the

IOC-supported rule that bans any athlete who has served a doping

suspension of more than six months, as Merritt had, from competing

in the next Olympics.

Rogge said he respected the CAS ruling but was surprised by it

because the same body had given the IOC different feedback in an

advisory opinion when the rule was passed three years ago.

Rogge said the IOC will try to have the ban included in World

Anti-Doping Agency guidelines that will be revised in 2013.

”We respect the judgment,” Rogge said. ”Our juridical team

will have to discuss and study that.”