DENVER, March 23 (Reuters) - Chicago officials tried to distance themselves on Monday from a revenue-sharing dispute between the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and United States Olympic chiefs that is threatening to derail the city’s bid to stage the 2016 Summer Games.
Chicago 2016 chairman and CEO Pat Ryan, however, moved quickly to get the bid back on track, saying he had invited U.S. President Barack Obama to be part of the final presentations in Copenhagen ahead of the Oct. 2 vote to pick a host.
“I saw him (Obama) twice the last few months and did mention his support for the bid,” Ryan told reporters. “We know that he wants to support our bid and that he would likely be there if he could be there.”
A slumping world economy and an increasingly contentious debate over how Olympic revenues should be split are expected to dominate talks in Denver this week for the SportAccord convention and IOC executive board meetings.
Senior IOC officials argue that the USOC receives more than its fair share from global marketing contracts and U.S. broadcasting revenues. They are seeking a fairer distribution of the slices of the Olympic pie.
The USOC maintains it is entitled to a larger share since it is the American television rights and sponsors that keep Olympic coffers flush with cash, providing the IOC with over 50 percent of its revenues.
Negotiations will continue this week but are not expected to produce an agreement, prompting fears that some IOC delegates may take out their frustration on Chicago’s bid.
Ryan denied the escalating feud had become a distraction but admitted he would welcome a quick resolution.
“I don’t really believe it’s a large distraction,” he said. “Obviously it is something people have wanted to see settled and we want to see settled, the USOC would like to see it settled.
“I don’t want to be naive. It’s on the front of minds of some people and does not get raised with others.
“But having said that, it’s clearly an issue the membership would like to see resolved. If that can be expedited that would be a good thing.”
He added: “If it doesn’t get resolved I would hope that there is communication about the process.
“I don’t think (the bidding process and revenue-sharing debate) are connected across the IOC membership but there are certain individuals who are more passionate than others.”
Helped along by a wave of momentum created by Obama’s successful campaign for the U.S. presidency, Chicago’s bid appeared to be peaking just at the right time.
But Chicago efforts suffered a double setback in March, with Jim Scherr’s shock resignation as USOC chairman followed by the retrenching of sides in the revenue-sharing squabble.
Chicago 2016 officials now find themselves engaged in damage control just as they enter the crucial final stages of the bidding process.
The four finalists, Chicago, Madrid, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo will make what Ryan described as their most important presentations so far when they deliver their pitches on Thursday to the IOC and the members of the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations (ASOIF).
A few days later, Chicago will welcome the IOC’s Evaluation Committee to the Windy City from April 2-8. (Editing by Martin Petty)