By USA Gymnastics President Steve Penny
There is no mistaking that politics, geopolitical alliances, and relationships often influence the direction and decisions within the international Olympic Movement, resembling a microcosm of the United Nations model. In as much, we find ourselves sensitive to the cultural and philosophical nuances that can divide us and seek those that unite us through sport.
Americans face a challenge in this type of environment and have a tendency to overlook an important role as a global leader – to approach our efforts in a way that serves the movement. True leadership lies in cultivating change that represents the best interests of all involved and creates a sense of partnership with our international colleagues.
The USOC appears to be taking the proper steps to carefully re-establish its role and relationships before any future effort is made to again host the Olympic Games. The process is not like entering a horse in the Kentucky Derby, and any effort to bid on the Olympics should anticipate at least two cycles. The value of bringing the Olympics back to the United States is unquestioned, but the outstanding revenue issues need to be resolved and the geopolitics must be aligned to be effective.
Stability in our leadership is important, but equally so is having the right people out front. Constructive change has been made in the executive leadership of the USOC, which should more fully engage its internationally experienced sport leaders. The CEO should serve as the conductor with a well-tuned team that demonstrates an on-going commitment to work with the IOC and the IFs in whatever manner possible.
We must all rally around a common cause to properly integrate ourselves into the international fabric, with a strong focus on building genuine relationships with other NOCs and IFs, especially those within our region. A cohesive plan should be developed that prioritizes our role on an international basis with a large agenda versus one that appears single-minded.
We must also prioritize eradicating politics on the field of play. The world’s athletes have the right to expect that the rules apply equally to everyone; that all competitors meet the established criteria for participation; and, that impartiality will reign when their performances are judged. Leadership needs to be displayed by the various governing bodies to ensure this concept starts at the top and is applied at every level of competition.
The Olympic Movement has survived and prospered because of the human drama that is captured through incredible athletic performances. Each time an athlete steps on the field of play, they are ambassadors for everything that is right about sports. As leaders in the movement, we need to emulate this spirit in our global efforts and remain focused on helping all athletes achieve their dreams.
Op Ed written by USA Gymnastics President Steve Penny.
Penny has been a sports administrator for more than 20 years. Penny joined USA Gymnastics as vice president in 1999. As vice president he handled sponsorships, events, television, public relations, international relations and U.S. Olympic Committee affairs. He became USA Gymnastics president in April 2005.
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