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.
"I am truly honored to be nominated for membership in the IOC, and extremely grateful for the potential opportunity to serve the Olympic Movement," Probst said.
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."
Also nominated Tuesday were KLM executive Camiel Eurlings of the Netherlands, Mikaela Maria Antonia Cojuangco-Jaworski of the Philippines, Bernard Rajzman of Brazil, Octavian Morariu of Romania and Dagmawit Girmay Berhane of Ethiopia.
Eurlings is set to replace King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, who is relinquishing his IOC position after acceding to the Dutch throne in April.
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.
Probst and Zhukov were nominated to the IOC for their roles as national Olympic committee presidents. Six others were put forward as "individual" members and Holm as an athlete.
With Probst and Zhukov, the U.S. and Russia would each have four IOC members. Britain also has four, while Switzerland has the most with five.
Set to join the IOC ranks are two high-profile names from track and field. Holm won the high jump at the 2004 Athens Games. Tergat won the silver medal in the 10,000 meters at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, a year after he won the last of his five successive world cross-country titles. He also won the New York Marathon in 2005.
Separately, four athlete members will be sworn in on Wednesday: shooter Danka Bartekova of Slovakia, rower James Tomkins of Australia, swimmer Kirsty Coventry from Zimbabwe and canoe-kayaker Tony Estranguet of France. They join the IOC after voting among athletes at last year's London Olympics.
Coventry and Estranguet were put forward after former Olympic hammer throw champion Koji Murofushi of Japan and Taiwanese taekwondo fighter Chu Mu-yen were disqualified from the election for breaking campaign rules.
With 13 new members, the IOC membership will grow to 113 in September.