SOCHI, Russia — U.S. Olympic leaders are sounding out international officials in Sochi about a potential American bid for the games — and the feedback is positive.
The U.S. Olympic Committee is currently weighing a possible run for the 2024 Summer Games. If that’s ruled out, the 2026 Winter Olympics would be an option.
Sochi is giving USOC chairman Larry Probst and CEO Scott Blackmun the chance to talk informally with the voting members of the International Olympic Committee.
“We can get some really good input: Is it time for a U.S. bid and, if so, where should it come from?” Blackmun said in an interview Tuesday with The Associated Press. “I think people genuinely would like to see a U.S. bid. There are some that think winter would be better than summer and some who think summer would be better than winter.
“There’s a recognition that the U.S. is an important market, and at some point in the future, the games should go back there.”
The U.S. hasn’t hosted the Summer Olympics since the 1996 Atlanta Games. The last Winter Games in the U.S. were held in 2002 in Salt Lake City.
The IOC may be eager to encourage another bid from the U.S. because it would bring a high-profile player into the race and boost interest in the Olympics. Whether IOC members want the U.S. to win is another matter.
The U.S. was shot down by the IOC in its two most recent bids, with New York rejected for the 2012 Olympics and Chicago for 2016.
The USOC has been consulting with cities interested in going for 2024, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Dallas, Boston, Philadelphia and Washington. Los Angeles has hosted the games twice, in 1932 and 1984.
The USOC hopes to make a decision by the end of this year. The IOC bid process begins in 2015, with the host city to be selected in 2017.
Other potential bidders for 2024 include Paris, Rome, Doha and a city in South Africa.
“The last thing we want is to bid and lose,” Blackmun said.
The USOC resolved a long-standing revenue-sharing dispute with the IOC in 2012, paving the way for a potential new bid. Blackmun and Probst have continued to work to improve ties with the IOC.
Probst’s election to the IOC on the eve of the Sochi Games and U.S. member Anita DeFrantz’s elevation to the policy-making executive board would seem to boost the chances of an American bid.
If the USOC decides not to go forward for 2024, the 2026 Winter Olympics would come into consideration. Denver and Salt Lake City could be potential U.S. contenders.
Blackmun, however, insisted the focus is solely on 2024.
“We’re not currently engaged in a process of weighing summer vs. winter,” he said. “We’re engaged in a process of looking at what our options would be for a summer bid and assessing the viability of a summer bid.”
The process comes as the IOC is considers changes to the bidding system, including ways of reducing costs run up by the candidate cities.
Blackmun said New York and Chicago each spent nearly $100 million on their failed bids. Other cities spent more than $10 million just trying to be chosen as the U.S. candidate.
“We really don’t want cities to go through that anymore,” Probst said.
Also in play is the cost of hosting the games — a major issue in light of the $51 billion that Russia spent preparing for Sochi. Most of the money went to long-term infrastructure projects like roads, railways and hotels, not the games themselves.
“We’re going to take a close look at that,” Probst said, noting that Los Angeles and Salt Lake City have more of the infrastructure already in place because they’ve hosted the games before.
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