By Tom Degun in Chicago
September 10 - Larry Probst (pictured) the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) chairman, admitted today that plans to launch a new US Olympic Network channel had to be shelved so as not to harm Chicago’s bid for the Summer Olympics in 2016.
When it recently emerged that the USOC were looking to create their own Olympic Network channel, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and their President Jacques Rogge were so outraged that it was claimed Chicago’s 2016 bid would hugely suffer as a result.
However, after ongoing discussions with Rogge, Probst claims that the TV rights dispute is no longer a pressing issue for the IOC.
He said: “With regards to the announcement of the television network, we publically acknowledge that the timing of it probably wasn’t as good as it could have been.
"We were however, surprised by the intensity of the reaction from some of various constituencies”.
“We still think that the network is a good idea and if properly planned and executed, it could be a great thing for Olympic sport and getting young children into sport but right now, we are ensuring that we are doing nothing to harm Chicago’s chances of hosting the Games in 2016”.
He made his comments at the start of the USOC Summit to help prepare US athletes preparing for next year's Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
But the opening press conference was dominated by the topic of whether US President Barack Obama will make his much anticipated personal appearance in Copenhagen next month when the vote to award the 2016 Games is held on October 2 at the IOC Session.
The presence of world leaders has been instrumental in the most recent votes and Tony Blair's “charm offensive” in Singapore in 2005 was essential in London getting the 2012 Games.
Obama is yet to publicly declare whether he will be in Copenhagen - though an announcement from the White House could come next week, it is claimed - while Chicago’s rivals, Rio de Janeiro, Madrid and Tokyo have already confirmed they will be sending their national leaders and Heads of State.
Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said he will be in Copenhagen as will King Juan Carlos of Spain. Japan has invited incoming Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and Crown Prince Naruhito to attend the vote in the Danish Capital.
Without Obama, Chicago’s chance of winning the 2016 Olympic bid could be severely hampered.
Probst, however, is optimistic that the President will be in attendance in Copenhagen.
He said: “I think it would be significant, extremely important [if Obama is present at the vote] and we all hope he can join us there to enhance the Chicago 2016 bid.
“I can't speak on behalf of the president, but the USOC, Mayor [Richard] Daley and everyone involved in 2016 have all clearly communicated that President Obama's presence would sincerely assist the bid.
"We would like to have him with us. I think if and when he makes the decision the appropriate accommodation will be made."
Stephanie Streeter (pictured second left), the acting chief executive of the USOC, echoed the comments made by Probst that the popular President could make a vital difference in Copenhagen.
She said: “We would love for him to be there and we feel it will make a difference.
“We've made it clear to him [that we want him to be there].
"He's been a supporter of the bid, he’s sent four taped messages [to the IOC] and we'd love to have him there."
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August 2009: Major boost for Chicago 2016 as USOC delays TV channel