By Eddie Pells, AP National Writer
The US Olympic and Paralympic Committee on Friday chose Gene Sykes as its next chairman, elevating the former CEO of the Los Angeles 2028 organizing committee to a role that will shape the policy of the US Olympic movement for the next four years and beyond. .
Details of the board’s vote were not immediately released. Sykes was vying for the seat against Dexter Paine, a current board member with deep ties to the skiing community and the more than 50 national governing bodies that govern individual sports across America.
But the board chose Sykes, who made connections in the international community during a process that started with LA for the 2024 Games and then landed the 2028 Olympics as part of a complicated deal with the IOC that reshaped the bidding process. Some will see this choice as a way to further intertwine an already symbiotic relationship between the USOPC and the LA bid.
Sykes, a longtime Goldman Sachs executive who sits on the LA28 board, will succeed Susanne Lyons when her term expires at the end of the year.
“I am inspired by the opportunity before me and grateful to Susanne for leaving the organization so well positioned to achieve overall success – on and off the playing field,” Sykes said in a statement issued by the USOPC.
The decision of the 17-person board of directors should be greeted with concern by the leaders of the national governing bodies (NGBs), who have recently criticized the leadership of the USOPC, mainly because of what they say has been revenue stable and gaps in communication.
Two key groups, the athletes and the NGBs, overwhelmingly favored Paine in a handful of informal polls taken last month on who should be the next president.
Ultimately, the decision fell to the current board members, and they chose Sykes, who was highly regarded in Olympic circles thanks to his work with the Los Angeles committee. He quit that job in 2018 but has kept ties to the Olympic world, which he touted in a few meetings with different groups at the USOPC assembly last month.
He will have to overcome some internal political challenges. The leadership team led by CEO Sarah Hirshland must reorder priorities from athlete safety, athlete performance, fundraising, a potential bid for the Salt Lake City Winter Games and the leadership of the Los Angeles Organizing Committee, which now manages sponsorship and revenue initiatives.
The conflicts inherent in all these competing agendas – for example, the Larry Nassar sex abuse scandal, which led the USOPC to impose increased responsibilities on NGBs despite essentially fixed budgets – were highlighted last month during the annual assembly of the federation.
A recurring theme of NGB leaders was that they were being asked to do more with less, and that the USOPC leadership was not telling them about the distribution of the money.
“We didn’t give them extra money to hire a lot of staff,” Lyons told The Associated Press in an interview last month. “So they try to make do with the same money, but they have more things to do. So you have to make the cake bigger.
USOPC marketing is now in the hands of the LA 2028 committee, making the former company chief a seemingly natural fit.
“The US Olympic and Paralympic Committee is a full partner of the LA28 Games, and I look forward to working with Gene over the coming years to celebrate and strengthen the Olympic and Paralympic Movement in the United States,” said the President. of LA28, Casey Wasserman, in a statement. .
Sykes’ election could draw loose ties to Peter Ueberroth’s tenure as president. But Ueberroth became president two decades after shaping the success of the 1984 LA Olympics – the games that restored a faltering Olympic movement across the world.
Nearly four decades later, the Olympics are under pressure again – a reality best illustrated by the dismal ratings of last year’s Summer Games in Tokyo and this year’s Winter Games in Beijing. .
Everyone at the USOPC is well aware that a shrinking fanbase will eventually create huge problems for both Team USA and the movement as a whole. This is the key issue Sykes will be tasked with when he officially takes office on January 1.