The 2020 Olympic Trials rebidding continues, and lessons for all candidates of future Olympic Trials: Lesson 1, Remember that the USOC rules the Olympic Trials


For months, we have been following the soap opera that is the 2020 Olympic Trials. Many wondered, out loud, what really happened between Mt.SAC and USATF. Now, we seem to have some clarification. USOC vice president Chester Wheeler, a long time (since 1998) member of the USOC team, opened the USATF Board meeting on Sunday, June 24, in Des Moines, Iowa. RunBlogRun is not sure that Mr. Wheeler, a keen observer of global sports, but more importantly, remarkedly politic in his normal discussions, knew that this was an open session. In the notes from's Robert Johnson,, Mr. Wheeler noted that his first meeting with Mt.SAC gave him a bad taste as Mt.SAC asked him about free USOC clothing. Mr.Wheeler noted that it was not the way he expected a newly appointed Olympic Trials host to behave. As Mr. Wheeler's job is to protect the interests of the USOC, Mt.SAC, in Mr. Wheeler's mind, concerned him with their actions. Quite clearly Mt.SAC concerned USOC enough that USATF acted.

Nicolai Machiavelli wrote the book, The Prince. It was observations and hard earned lessons on the art of politics. If one uses lessons from Mr. Machiavelli in the 2020 Trials situation, it is clear that Mt.SAC did not realize who the real boss was, and is. The USOC runs the show, the USATF is the messenger. The USOC has directed USATF to change its board and management over the past eight years, and it has done as it was directed. The three candidates for 2020 Trials would do well to read and reread these notes and realize a) USOC is key to their success, b) what USOC says, goes, and repeat a and b when one gets confused.

IMG_0727.jpgDrake Stadium, Des Moines, Iowa, June 22, 2018, photo by Mike Deering for The Shoe Addicts

The most damning quote from the session, again by Mr. Wheeler: "The fact we got out of this when we did was fortuitous, We would have had a mess and our Trials would have been at a risk going forward. Thank goodness that embarrassment is behind us."

In recent memory, we have not seen such, well, revelations in a board meeting open to the media. I expect that Mt.SAC will be responding, as they have kept their comments to being fairly politic.

Obviously, the outside party that Mt.SAC believed was influencing USATF was the USOC. The USOC owns the rights to the Olympic Trials, and USATF manages the event for the USOC. The USOC guards those rights very carefully. In the meeting, Mr. Wheeler also made it very clear that who ever gets the 2020 Trials would do best to just copy what was done in 2000, 2004, 2008, 2012, and 2016.

The USOC, it should be noted, are creatures of comfort and habit. The USOC must use the following criteria: they believe, it will compromise their sponsorships, rights or their ability to promote the Olympic brand in the future, it is not good for the USOC and Olympic brand. The USOC earnestly protects the brand.

These notes should be memorized by the three 2020 candidates: Austin, Sacramento and Eugene. The notes are chilling. What is also of note, is the partisanship within the board and USA Track & Field. Much like modern American society, the difference of ideas is not accepted as part of the human condition, but a disagreeable inability to find compromise seems to be affecting the board. CEO Max Siegel is quoted as having some concern about the needs for USATF to communicate to the members better and a frustration over the ultra partisanship that seems to permeate the sport federation.

The Vin Lananna saga continues. MIke Conley, 1996 Olympic medalist, is acting President. I look at Mike Conley and see next CEO of USA Track & Field. The board seems too divided to bring Lananna back as President. The lack of communication by Lananna over the DOJ investigation did not endear the President to the USATF board. It actually played into the Board's hands.

Politics invades all aspects of life. In a very pro active board as the USATF seems to see itself, a President who acts first, apologizes later is no longer possible. We will update on USATF board actions as we are updated.

It sounds as if there will be several weeks yet before the new home of the 2020 Olympic Trials will be announced.

Leave a comment

Wake up to RunBlogRun's news in your inbox. Sign up for our newsletter and we'll keep you informed about the Sport you love.

Subscribe to RunBlogRun's Global News Feed

* indicates required