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Nawal at 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles

She cleared hurdles to make history at the 1984 Olympics. Now Nawal El Moutawakel of Morocco is breaking glass ceilings as an IOC member.

Winner of the 400m hurdles in Los Angeles, she is the first female gold medalist from an Islamic nation and the first gold medalist — male or female — for Morocco.

Since then, El Moutawakel has become an important figure in her country, serving as minister of Youth and Sport.

Now in her 11th year as an IOC member (and known as Nawal among her colleagues), this week she has become the first woman named to chair the influential coordination commission for an upcoming Olympics, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro.

El Moutawakel is logical choice, perhaps. She led the IOC Evaluation Commission that studied the four 2016 bids, making her among the most knowledgeable IOC members when it comes to Rio.

But that posting came as an encore for her chairmanship of the 2012 Evaluation Commission – which was the first headed by a woman.

Opportunities for women to take command in the IOC are scant, though their numbers are growing. There are now 15 women among the 112 current IOC members, a record number. But El Moutawakel and Anita DeFrantz (Women and Sport) remain the only women to lead any of the two dozen IOC commissions.

El Moutawakel, like DeFrantz 10 years ago, is now the only woman serving on the ruling IOC Executive Board. Her term expires in 2012.

While Rio de Janeiro will no doubt represent a high point of her career as an IOC member, there is another glass ceiling she can smash in four years: presidency of the IOC.

Intentionally or not, IOC President Jacques Rogge may have signaled a favorite to succeed him when he steps down in 2013. After all, it was Jacques Rogge’s tenure as Coordination Commission chairman for the Sydney and Athens Olympics that put him on the path to take over from Juan Antonio Samaranch in 2001.

Professionally pre-occupied with developing sport among youth in Morocco, El Moutawakel also would seem to be a good fit with the IOC’s growing task of reconnecting the youth of the world with the Olympics. She might present a new direction for the IOC that can’t be found in the traditional stomping grounds of Olympic leaders: Europe.

No IOC member has yet to publicly declare his or her intent to seek the IOC presidency, but the field of qualified candidates may number only a half dozen. Those who could draw the votes of their colleagues are even fewer.

And at age 52 in 2013, El Moutawakel also has time in her IOC tenure (she can retire at 80) to sit this one out and let the lions of Europe have one last roar before she breaks a new glass ceiling.

Written by Ed Hula

Op Ed is a regular column of opinion and ideas from Around the Rings. Comments, as well as guest columns are welcomed: comment@aroundtherings.com

Your best source of news about the Olympics is http://www.aroundtherings.com, for subscribers only.

(Copyright 1992 2008, all rights reserved. The information in this report may not be published, excerpted, or otherwise distributed in print or broadcast without the express prior consent of Around the Rings.)

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ATR Editor Ed Hula

(ATR) The U.S. Olympic Committee takes the first steps in what will be an 18-year journey to the 2028 Olympics – the next time the Summer Games could possibly return to the U.S.

The hiring of Scott Blackmun as chief executive of the USOC last week has been greeted warmly in the U.S. and internationally. Well-regarded for his demeanor, knowledge and experience at the USOC, there is none of the second-guessing that has marked the tenure of nearly everyone else who has held the job in the past 10 years.

He will start work at the end of the month, just in time for the Vancouver Olympics, where the U.S. could finish second or third in the medals table. That’s a respectable tally that shows that all is not rotten in the state of Colorado. While the wheels may have come off the USOC’s international bandwagon with failed Olympic bids, the U.S. is still a world leader preparing its team for the Olympics and Paralympics.

With a consensus leader for the USOC in Blackmun, maybe the stage is set for him to steer the U.S. to a podium finish when the contest involves bids for the Games and other events.

Well before the U.S. manages to win the big prize — the Summer Olympics — Blackmun may be wise to consider some smaller ones along the way, such as Pan American Games, Youth Olympics or world championships. Now 52, Blackmun should have the time needed to make it all happen, given a long tenure at the USOC.

“Those are all things we need to think about. Hosting those kinds of events are good for us,” said Blackmun at the press conference announcing his hiring last week.

It’s the first talk in a long time of anything except the Summer Olympics from the USOC, which has been fixated since the 1990s on winning another Summer Olympics, to the exclusion of other sports events.

But after the IOC swatted away bids from New York City and Chicago, there’s no talk of launching a 2020 bid, which would almost certainly be rejected by the IOC. With Rio de Janeiro hosting 2016, any candidate from the Americas would seem to be out of the running for 2020.

Indeed, instead of bidding for 2020 or even the 2024 Olympics, the USOC could use that time (between 2011 and 2017) to curry goodwill among the other cities bidding for those Games. The U.S. could play a role in bringing the Olympics back to Asia, to Africa and to Paris for the centennial of 1924 Games. Depending on how well the U.S. plays the game, the USOC might be able to collect some IOUs from the Olympic Movement to be cashed-in for the 2028 vote.

In the meantime, there are more immediate opportunities for bids from the U.S. for Olympic-level events that would help earn street credibility for the USOC. The 2016 Winter Youth Olympic Games or the 2018 Summer YOG will be coming up for decisions in a year or two. So far the USOC is mum on a bid, even though Lake Placid seems willing to consider 2016. Blackmun’s hire at the USOC should be an encouragement to the crowd from upstate New York.

For the past eight years, the USOC has resolutely dismissed Winter Olympic bids from suitors such as Reno/Tahoe, Lake Placid and Denver, while fixated on summer bids. Maybe the USOC will change its tune without the Summer Olympics so much a speck on the horizon.

Indeed, the declining interest in the number of cities seeking the Winter Games may put the U.S. in a position to present a bid that would “save” the Winter Olympics. The U.S. could make a persuasive case that it could stage Games with the potential for commercial and public success. Winter Games in 2022 would seem to be the first possibility.

Then there are the Pan American Games, an event the U.S. last hosted in 1987 in Indianapolis. In a 2002 vote laden with foreshadowing for the race for the 2016 Olympics, Rio de Janeiro won the 2007 Pan Ams over San Antonio, Texas. Those Pan Ams ended up the cornerstone of Rio’s successful Olympic bid.

Arguably, the U.S. can’t expect to win any Olympic bid without the support of nations in the Americas; a winning U.S. Pan Am bid would be evidence that it has that backyard-backing. But that won’t be any guarantee of continental fealty.

The U.S. presumably already has competition for the next Summer Olympics in North America: Toronto, which bid for 1996 and 2008. Just chosen as the host for the 2015 Pan Am Games, Toronto may have moved ahead of any U.S. city as the favorite when it comes time for the IOC to bring the Summer Olympics back to the Americas.

And with Toronto hosting 2015, the U.S. is probably out of the running for the 2019 Pan Ams in favor of a Latin America candidate. That means 2023 may be the first chance for the U.S. to host those games, with a bid campaign between 2015  and 2017.

Aside from these multi-sport events, the USOC has other ways to inculcate itself with the Olympic movement in the years ahead.

Hosting world championships in the Olympic sports has come a bit easier to U.S. cities than bids for the Games. Boxing, gymnastics, figure skating football and archery have recently held their top events in the U.S. But long-overdue championships in athletics, basketball and swimming still speak to the impotence of the U.S. in Olympic sports. One reason: the absence of U.S. leaders at the top table of the Olympic sports.

Out of 28 Summer and seven Winter Olympic sports just one — golf — has Americans leading the federation, albeit in shared positions with counterparts from Great Britain. Until 2008, the U.S. had two international federation presidents, Don Porter for softball, Harvey Schiller for baseball. But the elimination of both sports from the Olympic program ended that, another symptom of the malaise the U.S. suffers on the international front.

High hopes for the administration of Scott Blackmun are based on the belief that he understands there will be no instant gratification for the USOC from winning an Olympic bid. As a USOC leader 10 years ago, he’s well acquainted with challenges he faces, some of which still linger from his previous tenure.

It’s a long-term fix that Blackmun must put in place, but unlike some others who have been USOC CEO, he won’t need a course in Olympics 101 to find Lausanne, Switzerland, on a map — or know how to pronounce it correctly.

Written by Ed Hula

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Your best source of news about the Olympics is http://www.aroundtherings.com, for subscribers only.

(Copyright 1992 2008, all rights reserved. The information in this report may not be published, excerpted, or otherwise distributed in print or broadcast without the express prior consent of Around the Rings.)

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