U.S. Olympic Committee Chief Resigns

Resignation comes three weeks before major presentation

Jim Scherr, the Chief Executive Officer of the U.S. Olympic Committee resigned unexpectedly Wednesday, sending shock waves through the United States and Chicago Olympic communities.

It could be argued that the move could not come at a worse time for the Chicago Olympic bid.  Scherr was the day to day operations chief of the USOC, and as such, played an integral part in the effort of the United States, and thus, Chicago, to land the games.

In three weeks, all four bid cities, Chicago, Tokyo, Madrid, and Rio, will make presentations at an event known as "SportAccord" in Denver.  More importantly, the International Olympic Committee sends its evaluation committee to Chicago during the first week of April.  During that visit, they will examine every aspect of the Chicago bid.

"Well it doesn't help, for sure it doesn't help!" said 2016 Chairman Patrick Ryan.  "But the reality of it is, people come, people go."  Ryan said while he does not like the timing, he believes Scherr's departure will have minimal impact on Chicago's chances.  "He was very engaged on the sport side.  He was not particularly engaged on the international outreach side."

Still, Olympic experts have long contended that IOC members like dealing with people they know, and Scherr was certainly a familiar face around the world.  As Chicago bids for the 2016 games, city officials have sought to cultivate relationships with the IOC members who will choose the 2016 host city. The conventional wisdom is that IOC wants to award the games to a city and a nation with whom they are comfortable.  

Some Olympic observers said the change could actually work to the city's advantage.  Scherr is to be replaced by a woman, current board member Stephanie Streeter.  "I think any bid that is successful has a team that shows diversity," said Ed Hula, editor of "Around the Rings." "It shows men, shows women, working together, toward the common goal of winning the games for the city."

"This is, in domestic circles, in American Olympic circles, very big news," says Alan Abrahamson, of NBCSPORTS.COM.  "But I think the key players in the Chicago 2016 bid are Pat Ryan and the mayor and the leadership team in Chicago."  He also pointed to Bob Ctvrtlik, USOC Vice-President who has played a key role in international contacts with IOC members, and argued that he may be a more important player on the international scene.

Hula said while the timing may look terrible now, it could only have gotten worse later in the year.  "It's more important that they do this now, rather than a few months from now when it gets closer to when the vote on the 2016 city will be taken."  IOC officials will choose the host city in October.

Scherr's resignation comes as he was attempting to shore up finances and trim the budget by more than 7 million dollars.  Earlier this week, he announced a 15% reduction of staff.

Most observers called Scherr the odd man out, as new USOC chairman Larry Probst, attempts to get his arms around not only the organization's money woes,  but also looming sponsorship demands, and the need to finalize a new financial agreement with the International Olympic Committee.  Probst said Thursday the change grew from a need for a "new and different set of skills." Still, it seemed clear Chicago Olympic chief Ryan was shocked, dismayed, and taken completely off guard by Scherr's sudden departure. 

Scherr's brother Bill, an identical twin, is head of World Sport Chicago.

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