USOC looking at limited number of bid candidates

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By TALES AZZONI, Associated Press

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — The newest American member of the IOC believes there are only a few U.S. cities that could realistically contend for the 2024 Olympics if the country decides to move forward with a bid next year.

"I think it's got to be a city that is compelling to people around the world, that resonates with all of the IOC membership," U.S. Olympic Committee chairman Larry Probst said Tuesday. "That's not a long list of cities, realistically."

Moments after being sworn in Tuesday as a member of the International Olympic Committee, Probst said the issue will be discussed by the USOC at its meetings in December and a timetable on the process to select the possible bid city could be created.

In addition to Probst's election, the U.S. received a big boost when Anita DeFrantz was elevated to the IOC's policy-making executive board.

DeFrantz will work closely with new IOC President Thomas Bach, who succeeds Jacques Rogge. Bach said he encouraged a possible U.S. bid.

Probst said he welcomed Bach's "enthusiasm for a bid from the United States," but said the USOC needs to be "very thoughtful" about whether to bid.

"First step is we have to decide that we are going to move forward and we have to go through a process of which city gives us the best chance," he said.

The U.S. hasn't held the Summer Games since Atlanta in 1996 and last hosted the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City in 2002. Washington, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Tulsa, Okla., are some of the cities that have expressed interest in 2024.

San Diego wants to host a cross-border Olympics with Mexican neighbor Tijuana. Other potential 2024 contenders from around the world include Paris, Rome, and Doha, Qatar.

Probst said the USOC board will be updated about the level of interest received from the various cities.

"If we decide to move forward, we will start putting together specific steps and a specific timetable to engage with the various cities that might be interested and keep moving forward from there," he said.

Probst said that in addition to a strong technical bid and a powerful bid leader, several other elements have to be in place for a successful bid. Chicago bid for the 2016 Games but was eliminated in the first round of voting, losing to Madrid and eventual winner Rio de Janeiro. New York mounted a failed bid for the 2012 Games that went to London.

"We are going to make sure we can check all those boxes if we decide we can move forward," Probst said. "We have to put ourselves in the best possible position to win the bid. And realistically, that's not a huge number of cities."

Probst added that he doesn't think the selection of Tokyo for the 2020 Games should play a significant role on a possible U.S. bid.

"I don't think it changes the calculation," he said.

Probst was elected to the IOC by a vote of 71-20, becoming the fourth U.S. member on the Swiss-based body. The chairman of video game publisher Electronic Arts Inc. joins DeFrantz, Jim Easton and Angela Ruggiero as IOC delegates.

DeFrantz won a three-candidate race for a spot on the executive board. The U.S. has been without a voice on the board since Easton lost his seat in February 2006.

"Having another member in the Olympic family, in the IOC, and having Anita on the executive board, I think it's a big deal and it's good news for the USOC and the United States," Probst said.

On a separate issue, Probst said the USOC will defer to the IOC on how to deal with athletes who might wear rainbow pins or make other gestures in opposition to Russia's anti-gay law during February's Winter Games in Sochi.

The Olympic Charter states "no kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas."

"That's an IOC call and we will do everything to comply with IOC regulations and the way that they intend to handle any protest or demonstration," Probst said. "We will conform to what the IOC decides to do."

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