Durban: US and international Olympic leaders made progress in negotiations on a new revenue-sharing deal Thursday that could lead to a last-minute American bid for the 2020 Summer Games, officials from both sides told reporters.
The International Olympic Committee and US Olympic Committee held a new round of talks aimed at resolving the financial issues that have strained relations for years and contributed to defeats for New York for the 2012 Games and Chicago for 2016.
"It was constructive and positive and there`s a strong desire on both sides to find something that`s going to work for everybody," USOC CEO Scott Blackmun said.
Blackmun and USOC chairman Larry Probst met for more than hour over lunch with a delegation including IOC executive board members Gerhard Heiberg and Richard Carrion and director general Christophe De Kepper.
A few weeks ago, the two sides expressed hope of signing an agreement in Durban. They agreed Thursday to meet again in the next few weeks in New York with the goal of concluding a deal.
"We feel that we are on the right track, but we need some more time," Heiberg said. "We had hoped to finish by today. We have not managed that, so we`ll spend some time in New York and hopefully we can reach an agreement."
Agreement on a revenue-sharing plan would remove a major impediment to a US Olympic bid. National Olympic Committees have until Sept. 1 to submit the names of any applicant cities to the IOC.
The USOC has repeatedly said it would not mount a bid until the money issue is resolved.
"We`re not going to have any substantive discussions or make any decisions until this is behind us," Blackmun said.
Should a deal be finalized in coming weeks, Blackmun said the USOC could still meet the bidding deadline.
"We haven`t spent a lot of time looking at whether there is still time to bid, but because it`s theoretically possible, we don`t want to rule it out," he said. "At the present time, it`s not on our radar."
Among US cities mentioned as potential bidders include New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, Minneapolis and Tulsa, Oklahoma.
The US hasn`t hosted a Summer Olympics since the 1996 Atlanta Games.
Heiberg said he hopes the USOC does bid for the 2020 Olympics.
"I think it would be a good idea," he said. "A city from the United States would have good chances."
New York would be a natural candidate, Heiberg said.
"I think New York is a good city," he said. "They know what this is about. I don`t see any difficulty there. But if the US picks another city, fine. It`s up to the USOC."
International resentment over the USOC`s share of Olympic revenues was a key factor in Chicago`s first-round loss in the 2009 vote for the 2016 Olympics, which were awarded to Rio de Janeiro. That followed New York`s defeat in 2005 for the 2012 Games, which went to London.
At the heart of the dispute is the USOC`s long-standing 20 percent share of global sponsorship revenues and 12.75 percent cut of US broadcast rights deals. Many IOC and international sports officials consider the US share excessive and want the money spread to other Olympic bodies.
Rome is the only city endorsed so far by its national Olympic committee as a 2020 candidate. Madrid, which also lost bids for the 2012 and 2016 Games, is expected to announce a bid next week. Tokyo is also a likely contender. Other potential candidates include Istanbul, Turkey; Doha, Qatar; and Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
South Africa announced last month that it would not mount a 2020 bid. The country`s sports minister has said a bid could still be revived, though 2024 looks more likely.
Senior American IOC member Anita DeFrantz said a US bid is overdue.
"It`s not too late," she said. "We have cities that could host the games in two years if necessary. The United States is the biggest supporter of the Olympic movement in the world and I know it`s a place that can host the games again. We`ll be back. It`s up to the board of the USOC to make a decision on when the best time is."
DeFrantz said the USOC had been unjustly penalized in the international movement over the money issue.
"It`s not fair to say the US is the evil partner in this," she said. "It`s ridiculous."