Locked in a dispute over millions of dollars, the U.S. Olympic Committee pulled the plug Monday on a bid for the 2020 Summer Games before the International Olympic Committee could say no to the Americans, as it has the last two times. The two sides have been at odds over a revenue-sharing agreement for years.
By not submitting a bid, the USOC assures at least a 20-year gap between Olympics on American soil for only the fourth time.
Chicago, New York and Dallas were among the cities interested in the 2020 games, but any bid was contingent upon a new deal with the IOC.
Recently, negotiations had picked up in an effort to meet a Sept. 1 deadline for countries to submit a city's name for consideration. But with so much money and a long-term commitment at stake, the USOC decided not to rush.
"I think it's one of the smartest things they could do right now," said Steve Penny, president of USA Gymnastics, one of the country's most important, and successful, Olympic sports. "It's very important they get this revenue-sharing deal done the right way. Having an Olympic bid hanging over your head is going to change the way you think about one of the most important business decisions you're going to make for the USOC in the foreseeable future."
At the heart of the disagreement is the USOC's long-standing 20 percent share of global sponsorship revenues and 12.75 percent cut of U.S. broadcast rights deals. The IOC wants more of that money.
Because of the revenue generated in the United States and the success of its teams, the Olympic movement needs the USOC more than any other national body. It's a delicate dance, however, because there are some in the IOC who resent the United States for the power it holds.
There won't be any deal soon. Publicly, at least, the IOC did not sound distressed.
"The United States and its athletes have made, and continue to make, a huge contribution to the Olympic Movement," IOC spokeswoman Emmanuelle Moreau said. "We always welcome a bid from such a key partner and look forward to a bid in the near future."
The IOC was asking for more than the USOC leadership was willing to give. The USOC simply wasn't willing to slap together a deal to allow a city — many insiders thought it would be Dallas — to start the bid process.
"With such little time left in the process, we don't believe we could pull together a winning bid that could serve the Olympic and Paralympic movement," USOC spokesman Patrick Sandusky said.
At one time, New York was considered a favorite to host 2012, but it lost in embarrassing fashion, finishing fourth of the five finalists. Two years ago, Chicago finished fourth of four finalists for the 2016 Games, and that humiliating loss was viewed by many as more a reflection on the USOC's relationship with the IOC than the city's viability as an Olympic host.
The last games on U.S. soil were the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics in 2002 and the last Summer Olympics were the Atlanta Games in 1996. Both were troubled. Salt Lake had a bid scandal and critics perceived Atlanta as the over-commercialization of an event that, at its core, is supposed to celebrate the purity of sports.
The United States has twice waited 28 years between games — from 1904 in St. Louis to 1932 in Los Angeles and Lake Placid, and then not again until 1960 in Squaw Valley, Calif. Then, there was a 20-year lapse before the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics. But all of those stretches were before the Olympics became a money-generating machine, thanks mostly to the rise of sports on TV.
America's next chance to host an Olympics would be the 2022 Winter Games. Denver and the Reno-Tahoe area are interested, though the USOC has put the same caveats on a bid: a revenue-sharing deal and a better relationship with the IOC.
The IOC will award the 2020 Games in 2013. So far, Rome, Tokyo, Madrid and Istanbul, Turkey, say they will bid.
There has been very little talk about the 2024 Summer Games, which won't be awarded for another six years.
Former USOC chairman Peter Ueberroth was a hard-liner when it came to the money, famously stating in 2008, "Who pays the bill for the world Olympic movement? Make no mistake about it. Starting in 1988, U.S. corporations have paid 60 percent of all the money, period."
Ueberroth's successor, Larry Probst, has been trying to soften that stance, knowing that IOC President Jacques Rogge has made an agreement with the USOC on revenue sharing a main priority in this, his final term.
(This version CORRECTS that it will be the fourth 20-year gap between Olympics hosted by the U.S.)