USOC president nominated for IOC membership

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — The head of the U.S. Olympic Committee was nominated for membership of the IOC on Tuesday, a big boost for U.S. efforts to regain influence on the international Olympic stage.

In the latest sign of improved ties between the two bodies, USOC President Larry Probst was among nine candidates put forward for election to the International Olympic Committee.

The president of the Russian Olympic Committee, Alexander Zhukov, was also nominated. The list also included former Olympic high jump champion Stefan Holm of Sweden and Kenyan distance running great Paul Tergat.

The nominees were approved by the IOC executive board ahead of a two-day meeting featuring presentations by the three cities bidding for the 2020 Olympics and the six candidates for IOC president.

The nominees for IOC membership will be up for election — usually a formality — at the full general assembly in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on Sept. 10.

Probst, chairman of video game publisher Electronic Arts Inc., is in line to become the fourth U.S. member on the IOC, joining Anita DeFrantz, Jim Easton and Angela Ruggiero.

“It would be fair to say the U.S. is a very strong important partner of the IOC,” IOC spokesman Mark Adams said. “Larry’s nomination is a sign of that and a good sign of the continuing very strong cooperation we have with the USOC.”

Probst would be the first USOC president to hold IOC membership since Sandra Baldwin, who resigned from both posts in 2002 after admitting to having lied about her academic credentials.

Baldwin was the second USOC president to quit over an ethics issue. Robert Helmick stepped down from the USOC and as an IOC member in 1991 amid conflict-of-interest allegations.

Bill Hybl served as both USOC president and IOC member from 2000-2001.

The U.S. still remains without a presence on the IOC’s policy-making executive board. The last U.S. board member was Easton, who lost his seat in February 2006.

DeFrantz, a former IOC vice president, is running for a spot on the executive board in September’s elections in Buenos Aires. She lost previous bids to return to the board.

Without a voice at the top IOC table and holding few top jobs in international sports, the U.S. has lost considerable clout over the years in the Olympic movement — underlined by the stinging defeats for New York and Chicago in their bids for the 2012 and 2016 Games, respectively.

However, under Probst and CEO Scott Blackmun, the USOC has made significant strides in mending fences with the IOC and establishing an international presence. Last year, in a major breakthrough, the USOC and IOC resolved a long-standing dispute over Olympic revenues that had kept the American body alienated from the rest of the world.

The USOC is currently considering a bid for the 2024 Summer Games. The U.S. hasn’t hosted a Summer Games since 1996 in Atlanta or the Winter Games since 2002 in Salt Lake City.

Probst is already a member of the IOC’s international relations committee, while Blackmun serves on the marketing commission. DeFrantz is chair of the women and sports commission, and Ruggiero heads the coordination commission for the 2016 Winter Youth Games in Lillehammer.

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