By Steve Keating
CHICAGO (Reuters) - The United States Olympic Committee (USOC) gave the clearest indication yet that it will make a pitch for the 2024 Summer Games, saying on Friday that next year it hoped to be in the final stages of preparing a bid.
After stunning rebukes to New York to host the 2012 Olympics and Chicago's failed attempt for the 2016 Games the USOC has taken a cautious and methodical approach in its latest effort to land the sporting world's biggest prize.
But prudence has slowly given way to confidence and the overwhelming buzz around the USOC's annual general assembly that wrapped up Friday was that America's time to stage a Games again has come.
"A year from now, hopefully we'll be in the final stages of preparing a bid for the 2024 Games," USOC chief executive Scott Blackmun told a receptive audience of sporting delegates. "We're excited because the last time we hosted a Summer Games was 1996 which means there is a whole generation of Americans who haven't been able to see the (Summer) Olympic Games on American soil and that is very, very important for us."
The idea of hosting the 2024 Games had near unanimous support from the country's sports federations, Blackmun noted.
But the United States can expect stiff competition if it does bid with Paris and Doha among those that could enter the race.
FOUR IN RUNNING
Earlier this year the USOC short-listed four candidate cities -- Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington. Los Angeles hosted the 1932 and 1984 Olympics; the others would be first-time hosts.
"I think any of the four cities would do a great job, I also think any city the United States presents will have an extraordinarily good chance of success," Rob Stull a four-time Olympian and former USOC board member told Reuters. "There are a lot of reasons for that, the television, broadcasting and marketing issue that was a stumbling block with the IOC has been resolved.
"By the time 2024 comes around it will have been 28 years since the last Summer Games so you could argue that it is our time," said Stull, who is the chief executive of USA Pentathlon.
"There is no Beijing out there, they were the 800 pound gorilla, the writing was on the wall that the Games had to go to China, so there is nobody like that out there.
"The stumbling blocks have been removed."
After the rejections of New York and Chicago, the USOC said it would not seek a Games until it had laid the groundwork for a bid that included mending fences with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) following a bitter revenue-sharing dispute.
Blackmun and USOC chairman Larry Probst have spent several years patching up the strained relationship and are now confident that a U.S. bid would be welcomed by the IOC.
Still, hard feelings continue to linger.
Back in Chicago, the USOC was reminded of the Windy City's shock first-round flop in voting for the 2016 Olympics and just how fickle the process of landing a Games can be, but Blackmun asked his audience to look ahead rather than behind.
"We're incredibly excited about Rio (Olympics) but just being here in Chicago there's some disappointment because Chicago would have done an unbelievable job...if we had been fortunate enough to win that bid," said Blackmun. "But we are looking very, very closely at a bid for 2024.
"We did a poll of the NGBs (national governing bodies) and the amount of support we have to bid for a Games is unbelievable, nearly unanimous.
"There was really no negative response."
Before pushing forward the USOC said it was awaiting the IOC's 2020 report which will consider changes to the bid process along with other modifications to the way the organization does business.
"I hope it will be Los Angeles," said former U.S. swimming great John Naber, who is on the board of the Southern California Committee for the Olympic Games. "It is time the U.S. host an Olympics.
"The LA Games in '32 and '84 changed the Olympic movement for the better. In both cases they really helped the Olympic movement and I really believe we can do it again.
"We want to avoid moth-balling Olympic facilities that is an embarrassment to the Olympic movement.
"Mothballed facilities are a bad legacy."
(Editing by Gene Cherry)