Pressuring the Salt Lake Organizing Committee to increase the U.S. team's medal count in 2002 is like yelling at the Jazz Dancers in hopes Utah will beat Chicago. It is misdirected advice.
Yet that is the tack taken by the International Olympic Committee in apparently standard counsel given to host organizing committees. IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch told leaders of SLOC and the U.S. Olympic Committee that, four years from now, the United States must do better than the 13 medals it gleaned at the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano, Japan.The mandate was proffered in Seville, Spain, in a session with the IOC Executive Board. It is strange advice about something that is out of SLOC's control. It should not impact how SLOC goes about preparing for the 2002 Winter Games.
That was duly noted by SLOC Chief Executive Officer Frank Joklik, who said encouragement is all the organizing committee has to offer the U.S. team. That is all it should offer. Its responsibility is to provide a level, quality playing field and a top-notch Olympic experience for athletes, officials and guests from around the globe. It should not be perceived as doing anything that would give one nation an advantage over another.
Of course, it is anticipated SLOC officials will pull for U.S. athletes. Rooting for the home team comes naturally. But the responsibility for a well-prepared United States team in 2002 rests with the USOC.
The good news is the USOC will soon approve disbursing an additional $20 million to winter sports organizations to assist developing athletes. Well-orchestrated, well-funded programs coupled with U.S. drive, determination and dedication will do more than anything to field a quality team come 2002.
Joklik and others at SLOC have plenty of work to do in preparation for hosting the Games without an added mandate to bring home the gold for the United States.