COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) The leaders of the U.S. Olympic Committee are going through the kind of year that won't look good on their resumes.
They're taking the blame for Chicago's failed, $70 million run at hosting the 2016 Summer Games a bid that sent President Barack Obama on an unsuccessful trip to Copenhagen to pitch Chicago's effort. Back in Colorado Springs, insiders point to a revolving door of executives to show that the USOC has gone from a relatively smooth-running operation to a dysfunctional mess.
With the Vancouver Olympics only 100 days away as of Wednesday, the search is on for a new boss, who will need more than 100 days to fix what's wrong at the USOC. That CEO will replace Stephanie Streeter, who is winding down a tenure that began in turmoil in March and never found its stride despite her best intentions.
Her replacement could make $1 million a year or more and will earn every penny for what some view as a full-fledged rehabilitation project.
"The USOC's international standing is not only abysmally low, but now engulfed in crisis," said Michael Lenard, a 1984 Olympian in team handball who has played an active role on the domestic and international Olympic scene for 25 years.
At the new CEO's command will be a staff of 375 and a budget of about $180 million a year, 85 percent of which will go toward Olympic sports organizations and their athletes. About 700 of those athletes will become part of Team USA at the Olympics over the next four years.
It is the richest, largest Olympic organization in the world, a committee whose success or failure drives TV and advertising revenue for both the Winter and Summer Games, which in turn can make or break the global Olympic movement. But wealth has brought resentment from Olympic committees in other countries.
"Our role in the world can't be made by our economic might anymore," said Dick Ebersol, NBC Universal Sports and Olympics chairman, whose company will pay $2.2 billion to televise the 2010 and 2012 Olympics. "It has to be made by very trained, experienced people who've proven they're diplomats and who the rest of the world wants to know."
Twelve months ago, the USOC had a couple of those chairman Peter Ueberroth and CEO Jim Scherr and was holding steady, maybe even pointed on an upward track, with a relatively content core of constituents and some momentum behind the attempt to lure the Olympics to America.
Then things unraveled. It may have started in a convention room at the Hilton near Downtown Disney in Orlando last October.
That's where Ueberroth gave his going-away speech, his last presentation as chairman before his term expired and he took an honorary, nonvoting position on the board.
Tired of listening to International Olympic Committee members complain about the USOC in the bitter debate about revenue sharing who should get what from the large pool of Olympic money, the majority of which is supplied by American companies Ueberroth came out swinging.
"Who pays the bill for the world Olympic movement?" Ueberroth said. "Make no mistake about it. Starting in 1988, U.S. corporations have paid 60 percent of all the money, period. Be sure you all understand that. The rest of the world pays 40 percent. It's pretty simple math."
The speech inflamed one of the prickliest points of contention between the USOC and IOC, groups that do not get along well on many issues to begin with.
American Olympic leaders "seem to live on a kind of island without really considering that they are part of a more global world," said IOC executive board member Denis Oswald of Switzerland. "This has been their attitude, ignoring a bit the rest of the world. Certainly this was felt as a kind of arrogance by the rest of the members."
Twelve months later, not even Obama and his wife, Michelle, could save the Chicago bid. The president's last-minute trip to the decisive IOC meeting in Copenhagen didn't prevent Chicago from finishing last in the opening round of voting. Many saw the 2016 vote as an example of how out of touch America's Olympic leaders have become: If the USOC leaders understood how poorly they were perceived, would they really have wanted Obama to deliver a speech to the IOC in favor of Chicago?
"We have squandered our opportunities over the last decade to take farsighted leadership positions on initiatives that would be important to many national Olympic committees," Lenard said. "Instead, we have steadfastly maintained our 'U.S. exceptionalism.'"
It isn't only the USOC's international stature that needs repair.
On the domestic front, Ueberroth's departure opened the door for another chain reaction.
He had been a strong ruler over a mostly passive board. Replacing him was the longtime executive at video game maker EA Sports, Larry Probst, who had no Olympic background. His ear was quickly captured by influential people who were unhappy with Scherr's performance, including some of his personnel decisions and ideas for resolving a budget crunch.
In the meantime, Streeter was gathering support to be the new CEO, a deal many in the organization believe came about because she was passed over for the chairman's spot.
Streeter got the job in March. Back at the Colorado Springs headquarters, her rise added to tension that had been slowly simmering since the Beijing Games ended:
Steve Roush, the chief of sport performance, was unexpectedly eased out despite being the key architect of America's 110-medal performance in Beijing. There also was turnover at the top of the marketing department, where Lisa Baird took over for Rick Burton and opened an office in New York City, a move unpopular in some corners because it was perceived as dividing the department and taking jobs away from Colorado Springs.
Unity inside the USOC communications department fell apart. Communications chief Darryl Seibel resigned after getting off to a terrible start with Streeter. A woman supervised by Seibel filed a sexual harassment complaint against him that was resolved with Seibel receiving a warning; he says it had no role in his departure. More recently, Seibel's replacement had been all but hired, but had a late change of heart and decided not to take the job, leading the USOC to hire Chicago 2016 spokesman Patrick Sandusky on an acting basis.
Prodded by Ueberroth, chief operating officer Norman Bellingham tried to start a USOC TV network, but negotiations with potential partners NBC and Universal Sports were tense. Those talks cratered and a deal with Comcast was announced, but the USOC was embarrassed when it had to back off because of negative reaction from NBC and the IOC, which saw the USOC as directly competing with them.
The specter of job cuts at the USOC headquarters loomed, as did the possibility of moving the offices out of Colorado Springs. The headquarters issue was eventually ironed out when the city agreed to fund $16 million in improvements to the Olympic Training Center, as part of a $53 million deal that also includes a new headquarters for the USOC. But staff cuts of 13 percent were made and morale dipped further with news of Streeter's $560,000 base salary, 30 percent more than Scherr.
Whether Streeter was worth the money is a topic of intense debate inside Olympic circles, and those willing to speak up have been critical.
On the same day she announced last month that she would not seek the CEO's job on a permanent basis, a group of leaders of America's Olympic sports answered "No," by a 40-0 vote, to the question in a survey, "Do you believe the acting CEO has the ability to be an effective leader of the Olympic movement?"
It was a referendum not only on her job performance, but on the state of the USOC. Now, with 100 days until the torch is lighted in Vancouver, the USOC has no idea who its leader will be when the Winter Games start.
"We are still conducting business in a parochial, provincial way, and I think that when it comes time to compete politically on a global basis we are powerless," Doug Logan, CEO of USA Track and Field, said in a recent interview. "We don't know what to do or how to do it."
AP Sports Writers Stephen Wilson in London and Rachel Cohen in New York contributed to this report.