It has long been a very strong and basic belief of mine that sports and arts are shaped and reflect the values and supervalues of the culture and society within which they take place. Recently the Chicago – 2016 Summer Olympics bid people went to Copenhaven, Denmark and asked the International Olympic Committeee, “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the prettiest of them all.” The answer was, ” Most assuredly not you,…. ugly America !”.  This, for some, resulted in an unexpected and shocking defeat on the very first ballot. This shocking and embarassing repudiation came after Chicago had spent more than 100 million dollars on their campaign to host the Olympics. One would think that this would have bought/brought enough, ” shock and awe ” to at least assure Chicago of some sort respectable results, perhaps being around until the second round of voting for example.
As accusatory afterthoughts and fallout recriminations suddenly manifest themselves, we find knowledgeable people accusing Chicago of going into Copenhaven without really knowing the culture within which they were having to compete  and function. Whereas money ( bribery )  was immently successful in Salt Lake City, Utah getting the winter Olympics a few years back, the bid culture and protocol have changed since then.  Similarly whereas “shock and awe” may have won the day in Iraq under one President Bush, just a decade later  similar tactics are a dismal failure in Iraq under the second President Bush. The reason for the failure of the second invasion was/is the fact that the U.S., even with its overwhelming superiority in traditional and orthodox weaponry and tactics, did/does not sufficiently understand the culture within which they have to contend and function. The result(s), despite spending and losing massive amounts of  money ( billions a week ) and men ( more than 5,000 ) there will never be a traditional or orthodox “victory” because we are not involved in a traditional and orthodox conflict. The landscape of war in that area is very much different than it was just a scant few years ago. The objectives have, of necessity, been changed and redefined as we have been sucked deeper and deeper into an unwinnable war.
Prior to Salt Lake City, there were “site inspection” tours by IOC members who went and inspected various potential Olympic host cities. The lavish and excessive hospitality and money that was spread around could sway the ultimate vote. Since Salt Lake City, these have, for the most part, been been eliminated. This radically reduces the “shock and awe” element based on  expending massive amounts of money and unrecorded perks as a pre-audit. Instead what we have is a relatively level playing field for the bid because each country has one vote. That is right,….. Uruguay has the same number of votes as the U.S. ( one ). The pundits and experts are now saying that the Chicago bid team did not take the new culture and  landscape accurately into account and as a result could not effectively address and manipulate forces that were required for victory and success. So what we have is sport reflecting the very same values and supervalues that are prevalent within the culture and society within which they exist.
One of the fallouts from the disastrous bid process is the awakening of people within sport to the fact that people who occupy leadership positions in sport need to have as their a priori and first qualification, an in-depth knowledge and standing within their sport. Dick Ebersol, is Chair of  NBC Universal Sports and Olympics, as the telecaster of the Olympics NBC has literally spent billions of dollars for the rights to broadcast the Olympic Games. As Chair and lead in the process, Dick Ebersol has had to interact with and know the shakers and makers in sport all over the world. He is imminently familiar with what it takes to be successful in international sport, especially Olympic sports. He advocates that leaders of Olympic sports organizations should first and foremost be “….knowledgeable about developing athletes and already well-respected by their peers around the world.”.  Further he states as required qualification, ” When they go into other countries, all the leaders of the other countries in their sports already know them, but more importantly they want to learn from us.” .
His complaint centers around the USOC now looking for a new CEO. His response, ” The best qualified candidates should be obvious.”.    He is afraid that with the USOC hiring a national recruiting firm, to find a replacement for the current USOC CEO, what they may come up with may be , “….washing machine manufacturer and insurance agents.”. The salient point is , if an enterprise is seeking sucecss, in sport or  real life, war or athletics, then it must have leaders that undertsand and appreciate the culture,…. know and have the respect of the major players within the culture and environment where the competition is going to take place. The USOC model with their latest reorganization efforts was to stress an independent, business based and CEO centered governance scheme. Despite the fact that knowledgeable leadership people within the USOC had serious issues with this model, the model was aggressively pushed onto the sports governing bodies that come under the USOC umbrella. U.S. A. Track and Field, unfortunately, was one of the victims of this process and approach. Now we have what was supposed to be a CEO from “business” who openly and candidly admitted that he did not know anything about the sport before becoming CEO. Is U.S.A. Track and Field going to prosper saddled with a model that has a proven record of inadequacy and failure ? Are the lessons of lack of cultural knowledge going to be ignored ? Are we going to ignore the advice and admonition of knowledgeable insiders like Ebersol ?
Of course we are !!!
Mira, Mira, Miracle !!!
Brooks T. Johnson
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