USOC CEO: Boston risk should not have been taken; L.A. is a second chance

Scott Blackmun
AP
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — The leader of the U.S. Olympic Committee compared the choice of Boston as a bidder for the 2024 Olympics to Seattle’s choice to pass the ball at the goal line at the end of the Super Bowl last season.

Fortunately, CEO Scott Blackmun said, “unlike the Seahawks, we have not lost the game.”

In his most candid public comments about the ups and downs of the tumultuous bid process, Blackmun used his speech Thursday at the U.S. Olympic Assembly to focus on the second chance Los Angeles has given the USOC to land the 2024 Games. He also conceded he owed an explanation about the Boston mess to this annual gathering of 400-plus members of the Olympic family.

“The Boston bid failed because, from the beginning, it was not a bid supported by the people of Boston,” Blackmun said. “Should we have taken the risk? In hindsight, the answer is ‘no.'”

He equated that to the Seahawks’ decision to throw at the goal line in the closing moments of the Super Bowl, while trailing New England by four. That pass was intercepted and the play call has been derided as one of the worst ever made in sports.

“But here’s the thing,” Blackmun said. “Unlike the Seahawks, we have not lost the game. We are back on our feet, we have found a second chance waiting and the whole game is in front of us.”

Indeed, the Olympics won’t be awarded until 2017. Los Angeles is in the race along with Paris; Rome; Hamburg, Germany; and Budapest, Hungary.

Blackmun introduced LA 2024 chairman Casey Wasserman to the crowd, and Wasserman touted Los Angeles as a storytelling city with 85 percent of its venues already in place, along with a stellar Olympic pedigree as a two-time Olympic host.

Wasserman told his own Olympic story — saying he cut his teeth on the games, back when he was 10 and the 1984 Olympics came to town. Those Games — with Peter Ueberroth calling a lot of the shots while Wasserman’s grandfather, Lew, was a major power player in LA — created the modern-day template for the Olympics and proved they could make money and help a city grow.

“In a very real way, our bid is the ‘Back to the Future’ bid of this campaign,” Wasserman said. “And no, ‘Back to the Future’ is not our tagline — but stay tuned.”

Los Angeles offered some news Thursday, announcing Olympic swimming medalist Janet Evans as its vice chair and positioning that move as a strong sign that athletes are at the heart of its plan.

But mostly, these speeches were to get members of the U.S. Olympic movement pumped again after a start to 2015 that Blackmun called “the most unsettling and challenging time in my professional life.”

The USOC picked Boston in January, dumped it in July, then re-upped with Los Angeles earlier this month.

Chairman Larry Probst said the USOC moved forward after the Boston bid tanked because it was encouraged by international colleagues who he portrayed as “surprised and disappointed (but) not discouraged.”

He spent the bulk of his speech giving details about the USOC’s improved international relationships, one sign of which is showing up in a number of world-championship events taking place in the United States.

Those numbers, Probst said, had been “abysmal.” But in 2014, the U.S. hosted eight world championships in Olympic and Paralympic sports, with 10 more this year, including the World Wrestling Championships in Las Vegas and the World Triathlon Series Grand Final in Chicago, both earlier this month.

All that, plus the fact the U.S. hasn’t hosted the Summer Games since 1996, leads some to call Los Angeles a favorite, or even go so far as to say 2024 is America’s to lose.

While Wasserman read a laundry list of selling points for Los Angeles — a transparent, athlete-centered bid with nearly 90 percent support among residents — he rejected the idea that it’s all over but the voting.

“I think it’s reckless and even arrogant,” he said. “We have to earn this, just like athletes do on the field of play, every day. Nothing is given except that we have to produce a bid that is superior to our competitors.”

MORE 2024 Olympics: Watch L.A. 2024 promo video

U.S. women’s basketball team, statistically greatest ever, rolls to FIBA World Cup title

FIBA Women's World Cup
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The revamped U.S. women’s basketball team may have been the greatest of all time.

The Americans completed, statistically, their most dominant global championship ever by routing China 83-61 in the FIBA World Cup final on Saturday in Sydney — giving them 60 consecutive wins between the Olympics and worlds dating to 2006.

It marked the largest margin of victory in a World Cup final since the event converted from a fully round-robin format in 1983.

For the tournament, the U.S. drubbed its opponents by an average of 40.75 points per game, beating its previous record between the Olympics and worlds of 37.625 points from the 2008 Beijing Games. It was just off the 1992 U.S. Olympic men’s Dream Team’s legendary margin 43.8 points per game. This U.S. team scored 98.75 points per game, its largest at worlds since 1994.

“We came here on a mission, a business trip,” tournament MVP A’ja Wilson said in a post-game press conference before turning to coach Cheryl Reeve. “We played pretty good, I think, coach.”

Since the U.S. won a seventh consecutive Olympic title in Tokyo, Sue Bird and Sylvia Fowles retired. Tina Charles ceded her national team spot to younger players. Brittney Griner was detained in Russia (and still is). Diana Taurasi suffered a WNBA season-ending quad injury that ruled her out of World Cup participation (who knows if the 40-year-old Taurasi will play for the U.S. again).

Not only that, but Reeve of the Minnesota Lynx succeeded Dawn Staley as head coach, implementing a new up-tempo system.

“There was probably great concern, and maybe around the world they kind of looked at it and said, ‘Hey, now is the time to get the USA,'” Reeve said Saturday.

The U.S. response was encapsulated by power forward Alyssa Thomas, the oldest player on the roster at age 30 who made the U.S. team for the first time in her career, started every game and was called the team’s glue and MVP going into the final.

Wilson and Tokyo Olympic MVP Breanna Stewart were the leaders. Guard Kelsey Plum, a Tokyo Olympic 3×3 player, blossomed this past WNBA season and was third in the league’s MVP voting. She averaged the most minutes on the team, scored 15.8 points per game and had 17 in the final.

“The depth of talent that we have was on display,” Reeve said. “What I am most pleased about was the trust and buy-in.”

For the first time since 1994, no player on the U.S. roster was over the age of 30, creating a scary thought for the 2024 Paris Olympics: the Americans could get even better.

“When you say best-ever, I’m always really cautious with that, because, obviously, there are great teams,” Reeve said when asked specifically about the team’s defense. “This group was really hard to play against.”

Earlier Saturday, 41-year-old Australian legend Lauren Jackson turned back the clock with a 30-point performance off the bench in her final game as an Opal, a 95-65 victory over Canada for the bronze. Jackson, who came out of a six-year retirement and played her first major tournament since the 2012 Olympics, had her best scoring performance since the 2008 Olympics.

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2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup schedule, results

FIBA Women's World Cup
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The U.S. women’s basketball team won its fourth consecutive title at the FIBA World Cup in Sydney — and eighth global gold in a row overall when including the Olympics.

A’ja Wilson, a two-time WNBA MVP, and Breanna Stewart, the Tokyo Olympic MVP, headlined a U.S. roster that, for the first time since 2000, included neither Sue Bird (retired) nor Diana Taurasi (injured).

The new-look team had nobody over the age of 30 for the first time since 1994, before the U.S. began its dynasty at the 1996 Atlanta Games. The Americans have won 60 consecutive games between worlds and the Olympics dating to the 2006 Worlds bronze-medal game.

The U.S. beat China in the final, while host Australia took bronze to send 41-year-old Lauren Jackson into retirement.

Nigeria, which played the U.S. the closest of any foe in Tokyo (losing by nine points), wasn’t present after its federation withdrew the team over governance issues. Spain, ranked second in the world, failed to qualify.

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2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup Schedule, Results

Date Time (ET) Game Round
Wed., Sept. 21 8:30 p.m. Puerto Rico 82, Bosnia and Herzegovina 58 Group A
9:30 p.m. USA 87, Belgium 72 Group A
11 p.m. Canada 67, Serbia 60 Group B
Thurs., Sept. 22 12 a.m. Japan 89, Mali 56 Group B
3:30 a.m. China 107, South Korea 44 Group A
6:30 a.m. France 70, Australia 57 Group B
8:30 p.m. USA 106, Puerto Rico 42 Group A
10 p.m. Serbia 69, Japan 64 Group B
11 p.m. Belgium 84, South Korea 61 Group A
Fri., Sept. 23 12:30 a.m. China 98, Bosnia and Herzegovina 51 Group A
4 a.m. Canada 59, France 45 Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia 118, Mali 58 Group B
Sat., Sept. 24 12:30 a.m. USA 77, China 63 Group A
4 a.m. South Korea 99, Bosnia and Herzegovina 66 Group A
6:30 a.m. Belgium 68, Puerto Rico 65 Group A
Sun., Sept. 25 12:30 a.m. France 74, Mali 59 Group B
4 a.m. Australia 69, Serbia 54 Group B
6:30 a.m. Canada 70, Japan 56 Group B
9:30 p.m. Belgium 85, Bosnia and Herzegovina 55 Group A
11:30 p.m. Serbia 81, Mali 68 Group B
Mon., Sept. 26 12 a.m. USA 145, South Korea 69 Group A
2 a.m. France 67, Japan 53 Group B
3:30 a.m. China 95, Puerto Rico 60 Group A
6:30 a.m. Australia 75, Canada 72 Group B
9:30 p.m. Puerto Rico 92, South Korea 73 Group A
11:30 p.m. China 81, Belgium 55 Group A
Tues., Sept. 27 12 a.m. USA 121, Bosnia and Herzegovina 59 Group A
2 a.m. Canada 88, Mali 65 Group B
3:30 a.m. Serbia 68, France 62 Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia 71, Japan 54 Group B
Wed., Sept. 28 10 p.m. USA 88, Serbia 55 Quarterfinals
Thurs., Sept. 29 12:30 a.m. Canada 79, Puerto Rico 60 Quarterfinals
4 a.m. China 85, France 71 Quarterfinals
6:30 a.m. Australia 86, Belgium 69 Quarterfinals
Fri., Sept. 30 3 a.m. USA 83, Canada 43 Semifinals
5:30 a.m. China 61, Australia 59 Semifinals
11 p.m. Australia 95, Canada 65 Third-Place Game
Sat., Oct. 1 2 a.m. USA 83, China 61 Gold-Medal Game