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  • Olympic Charm in Miami


    (ATR) Hosting more than 100 guests from 39 National Olympic Committees, the U.S. Olympic Committee this week takes its latest step towards stronger ties with its neighbors in the Americas.
    The PASO Executive Committee meeting. (ATR/Panasonic Lumix)

    Under the banner of the Pan American Sports Organization, the USOC has organized a two-day symposium on best practices for NOCs in the realms of management and sport performance.

    Financing by the USOC and Olympic Solidarity made it possible for delegates from all but two of the 41 NOCs of the Pan Am region to make the trip to Miami.

    The symposium, conceived two years ago by USOC CEO Scott Blackmun, is the latest manifestation of efforts by the U.S. to rebuild relationships with the worldwide Olympic Movement.

    “It’s not something we are doing because we want to get to a better place, it’s something we want to do to become active and engaged in the Olympic Movement,” Blackmun tells Around the Rings.

    “It’s the right thing for us to do.”

    In the past two years, the USOC has become a regular host of events such as the IOC Athletes Forum, Women and Sport Conference and career forums for summer and winter athletes.
    USOC CEO Scott Blackmun in Miami. (ATR/Panasonic Lumix)

    Blackmun says it’s a big change from when he came aboard at the USOC about three years ago, when the organization was still dealing with the ignominy of Chicago’s loss of the race for the 2016 Games, which followed the rejection of New York City for 2012.

    "At the end of the day, relationships are a function of time and commitment, and we need to start spending that time and making that commitment and becoming engaged in the movement. We are part of the worldwide Olympic movement. The IOC is the leader of that movement and we intend to become a much more regular guest over there,” said Blackmun after his hiring in 2009.

    The USOC is engaged in a process to figure out what course it will take to seek a new Olympic Games, but Blackmun maintains that the overtures from the U.S. are not linked to a possible new bid.

    “This is what the USOC should be doing, whether it’s before a bid, after a bid or otherwise,” says Blackmun in Miami.

    The symposium in Miami followed a two-day meeting of the PASO Executive Committee chaired by President Mario Vazquez Rana. It’s the first time the PASO executive has met in the U.S. in more than 10 years.

    Vazquez Rana says he is happy to bring PASO back to the U.S. And he is eager for the do more – like bid for the 2019 edition of the Pan American Games.

    Blackmun says that’s unlikely to happen, especially with the deadline to file in January.

    “We’re focused on the Olympic Games,” he says.

    (Bids for 2019 are expected from Argentina, Chile, Peru and Puerto Rico.)
    Miami Palms. (ATR/Panasonic Lumix)

    Blackmun says he hopes the USOC has provided a comfortable, relaxed experience this week for the Pan Am delegates that makes them want to come back.

    The high-rise hotel for the meeting overlooks Biscayne Bay, and food served has a strong Latin influence. For many of the PASO delegates, Miami is familiar territory, a crossroads in their travels to other parts of the world.

    Thursday night, the guests will be entertained by Olympian LeBron James and teammates from the NBA champion Miami Heat, who play the San Antonio Spurs. Miami Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez spent time with the PASO delegates in one of the suites at American Airlines Arena.

    Friday night for the close of the symposium the delegates will dine at Vizcaya, an iconic villa on Biscayne Bay built in 1916 and now one of Miami's cultural landmarks.

    Written and reported in Miami by Ed Hula

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