Is There A Future For U.S.-Hosted Olympic and FIFA World Cup Events?

By Barry Janoff, Executive Editor

The U.S. Bid Committee secured more than 1.25 million signatures but not the official approval of FIFA.December 3, 2010: Sports fans are accustomed to hearing and reciting the phrase, "Wait until next year."

For fans and marketing partners who want to see the U.S. host the FIFA World Cup and Olympic Games, however, "next year" is decidedly longer. With the news from FIFA on Dec. 2 that the 2018 World Cup will be held in Russia and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, the next available event will be in 2026. As for the Olympics,  the U.S. has not been part of the initial process to seek a bid for either the 2018 Winter Games or 2020 Summer Games. Even if the U.S. decides to bid on the 2022 Winter Games, that means at least a 10-plus year wait for any of the three events considered among the most elite in the world of global sports.

The last time the U.S. hosted the FIFA World Cup was in 1992, and the last Olympic events on U.S. soil were the Summer Games in Atlanta in 1996 and the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City. The U.S. has been denied in its two most recent efforts to host the Summer Games: 2012 in New York, which went to London; and 2016 in Chicago, which went to Rio de Janeiro.

That's a long dry spell for fans, consumers and marketers who crave the domestic spotlight that both of these global events bring. It likely won't cause any current partners of the respective U.S. committees to break their deals, but analysts say it might prevent new and lucrative deals from being signed.

Soccer executives nationwide have not as yet revealed whether the U.S. will seek to garner a bid for the 2026 World Cup. After Russia and Qatar were named as upcoming World Cup hosts, Sunil Gulati, President for U.S. Soccer, which led the bid hosting drive for 2018 and 2022, wrote at the official Web site, "There's no way around it: I am disappointed. Millions of U.S. soccer fans worked hard to bring the World Cup to our country. To come up short is very difficult to take . . .  [But] even though our Bid did not win, the future of soccer is bright in the United States."

And Casey Wasserman, head of Wasserman Media Group, who was an influential member of the U.S. Bid committee, wrote at his Twitter site, "We didn't get to hold the WC trophy today, but let's support soccer in US and raise the trophy where it really counts, on the pitch!"

Among the nation's that have expressed initial interest in bidding for the 2026 World Cup are China, England (which sought and lost the 2018 bid) and Colombia, with the process not likely to officially begin until 2018 or 2019 (seven years before the event itself).

Regarding the Olympics, U.S. Olympic Committee CMO Lisa Baird said during the recent Ivy Sports Conference, held at Princeton (NJ) University the U.S. wants to host the Summer Games again but that "now is not the time."

"I want to see the Olympic Games back in the U.S. It will happen," Baird said during a panel discussion. "But now is not the time. Everyone involved is working toward that goal. We are working hard [on a future bid]. It will happen."

Issues that saw the U.S. lose its bids for the 2012 and 2016 Summer Games are still in play, but could face resolution in 2011, including revenue sharing between the USOC and the International Olympic Committee and the USOC's attempt to launch an Olympic TV network.

"We would both like to get the revenue sharing off the table as soon as we can," USOC CEO Scott Blackmun said during the Reuters Global Media Summit this week. "We'd like to start discussions in early 2011." Regarding the TV situation, a process which the USOC initiated in 2009 and then dropped when the IOC expressed its opposition, Blackmun offered, "In order to successfully launch a network we would need the IOC as a partner and a supporter in the endeavor. Now, whether that means financial participation or some other kind of participation I really can't say. But I think we would have a much more successful launch if they were involved."

NBC, which has aired the Olympics in the U.S. since 2000, will seek to bid on U.S. broadcast rights for the 2014 and 2016 Games next year, to coincide with the purchase process of NBC Universal by Comcast. ESPN and Fox are among the other networks also expected to be in the bidding process.

The U.S. already is late to the game in the 2018 Winter Olympics bidding process, with official bid books due to the IOC Jan. 11, 2011 and the host site to be named in July. Competing to host the 2018 Winter Games are PyeongChang, South Korea; Munich, German; and Annecy, France.

The initial bidding process for the 2020 Summer Games will being in 2011, with the host site to be named in 2013. During the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, Blackmun all but nailed the lid shut on a U.S. attempt to bid for the 2020 Games when he told the media, "The cold and hard reality is Chicago spent approximately $80 million on its bid. It's going to be difficult to get U.S. cities to continue to invest to that level unless they think they have a realistic chance of winning. The [International Olympic Committee] sent us a message, loud and clear, that they don't want the Games to be in the United States . . . Unless we get some signs from the IOC, I think it's highly unlikely we would mount a bid on our own initiative."

"In the face of this disappointment, we shouldn't lose track of all that we achieved during the past two years."

ESPN, which aired the 2010 FIFA World Cup, also has U.S. rights to the 2014 event in Brazil.

Regarding the future of U.S. World Cups bids, U.S. Soccer President Gulati was optimistic but non-committal in his letter following the loss of the 2022 effort. "In the face of this disappointment, we shouldn't lose track of all that we achieved. During the past two years, the outpouring of support for soccer in the United States has been inspiring and historic. More than one million people signed on to our Bid, and more than 100 million watched last summer's World Cup. Thanks to your efforts, the Game is stronger than ever in our country, and it will continue to grow stronger."

USOC: 'Now Is Not The Time To Host The Olympics'

U.S. Puts Its Focus On 2022 FIFA World Cup

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