- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 7, 2009

With one embarrassment behind her and another on the way, Stephanie Streeter decided to leave the U.S. Olympic Committee before she was pushed out.

Ms. Streeter, the acting CEO, announced Wednesday that she will not seek the job on a permanent basis and will leave before the end of the Vancouver Paralympics next March.

The decision comes five days after Chicago’s humbling, first-round exit in the vote to award a site for the 2016 Olympics and on the same day leaders of America’s Olympic sports organizations completed a survey that can only be viewed one way: Ms. Streeter must go.

By a vote of 40-0, the leaders responded ‘No,’ to the question, “Do you believe the Acting CEO has the ability to be an effective leader of the Olympic Movement?”

The USOC is forming a committee and will hire a national recruiting firm to search for Ms. Streeter’s replacement by the end of the month.

Ms. Streeter, who replaced Jim Scherr after he was forced to resign in March, said she wanted to get back into the corporate world.

In several conversations with the Associated Press during the past few weeks, Ms. Streeter made it clear she didn’t want to stay on and would announce that after the IOC awarded the 2016 Games. She said she realized some people would view her decision as a direct result of the vote and the increasing calls for change in the USOC leadership.

“I had made this decision prior to the bid, and clearly it makes sense to announce it as soon after as possible,” she told the AP. “It makes sense to announce it at this time so the USOC has a clean slate when it goes into the search process.”

Depending on how the CEO search goes, Ms. Streeter could be with the USOC through March 21, which is when the Paralympics end in Vancouver. The Vancouver Olympics are set for Feb. 12-28.

“We were disappointed when she told us she did not want to be considered for the CEO position,” Chairman Larry Probst said. “She’s done an excellent job, and we’re all very grateful for her many contributions to the U.S. Olympic movement.”

Her replacement will become the third CEO at the USOC in the span of about a year, after Mr. Scherr brought a measure of stability to the Colorado Springs headquarters, staying for six years.

Whether her departure satisfies her critics will almost certainly depend on who the board chooses to replace her. The board also has been criticized as being out of touch with what the majority of the Olympic movement wants.

“This is just a first step,” said Steve Penny, president of USA Gymnastics and a key member of the leaders of national governing bodies who answered the questionnaire on Ms. Streeter.

Ms. Streeter was under intense scrutiny almost immediately after moving into the job from her position on the board of directors. The switch came as a surprise to many in the Olympic movement, in part because the USOC had been functioning relatively smoothly with Mr. Scherr at the helm.

She and Mr. Probst claimed the USOC needed a different, more businesslike approach to running things, especially considering the bad economy and the reluctance of some sponsors to re-sign with the USOC after the Beijing Olympics.

There were some successes — a handful of sponsors did come on board, and the USOC was able to increase funding for Winter Games athletes by one-fifth, partly by exceeding projected budget revenues.

Those successes, however, were barely a blip — overshadowed by the perceived missteps and criticism.

Her arrival never was accepted by key leaders of the country’s national governing bodies — the organizations that run the individual Olympic sports — who felt blindsided and wondered about the transparency of a move that elevated a volunteer board member into a paid position.

They found more to complain about when the board approved a pay package with a base of $560,000 — about 30 percent more than what Mr. Scherr earned. And even more when the USOC botched the introduction of its TV network and drew criticism from the International Olympic Committee.

“I think we miscalculated on the network,” Ms. Streeter said when asked if she had any regrets from her seven months on the job. “We miscalculated the reaction from the IOC and our TV partners at NBC. I still think it’s a good idea. In retrospect, I would’ve altered timing on the announcement.”

There was also the complicated IOC-USOC revenue-sharing issue that Ms. Streeter and Mr. Probst managed to table — but not solve — about six months before the 2016 vote. Despite efforts on both sides, the lack of a resolution colors almost everything about how Olympic leaders relate to the United States.

In the aftermath of the 2016 vote, there was debate over how damaging revenue-sharing — and the USOC’s internal politics, in general — were in the eyes of IOC voters, who awarded the 2016 games to Rio de Janeiro last week.

Regardless, Chicago’s elimination in the first round was viewed universally as an embarrassment and one of the biggest surprises ever handed down by the voters. One IOC member, Denis Oswald, went so far as to call it “a defeat for the USOC, not for Chicago.”

Ms. Streeter thought, as many did, that the lure of bringing the Olympics to South America for the first time was too big a plus for any city to overcome.

“And there were many factors that played into the Chicago showing,” she said. “The network was one of them, and there were dozens more that others speculated on.”

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