By Steve Keating
(Reuters) - U.S. Olympic Committee officials Larry Probst and Scott Blackmun have spent years crisscrossing the world mending fences and their global charm could result in the Summer Games returning to America for the first time in 28 years.
Confident they have built enough goodwill within the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to take a run at hosting another Olympics, the USOC announced on Thursday it would put forward Boston as a candidate city for the 2024 Summer Games.
If Boston claims the sporting world's biggest event, it will be in large part due to the tireless efforts of USOC chairman Probst and chief executive Blackmun in restoring America's good-standing following years of bitter disputes that alienated the Olympic family.
Longtime Canadian IOC member Dick Pound credits Blackmun and Probst for polishing the USOC's tarnished reputation and bringing the U.S. back to a welcome place at the Olympic table.
"They have been a good tag team," Pound told Reuters in a telephone interview from Florida on Friday. "Both of them in their particular functions have been very well-received internationally.
"They made Larry an IOC member and Scott Blackmun is a first-class chief executive officer and (they) have a good understanding of the movement and the responsibility of the United States within it."
"The U.S. was often not present at meetings, saying "what's the point we have no particular interest in going", and I think they realised that it helps to be seen, to be present."
Certainly the USOC's influence is on the rise with four IOC members, Probst, Anita DeFrantz, Jim Easton and Angela Ruggiero.
After stunning rebukes to New York to host the 2012 Olympics and Chicago's failed bid for the 2016 Games, the USOC made it clear they would not pursue another Olympics only to be humiliated.
Believing attitudes have changed, Probst thinks the time has come to get back into the race.
"There were some issues that existed six or seven years ago where the relationship between the USOC and IOC was not terrific ," admitted Probst during a conference call. "One of those was the revenue-sharing issue that we ended up resolving a couple of years ago.
"I just think we are in a much better position to bid, we have received a lot of encouragement from the leadership of the IOC telling us that it is America's time to step up to the plate and put forward a bid."
While Boston instantly claimed the favourites tag, Pound warned the race could be an intriguing one.
"There is a ton of work ahead," cautioned Pound. "There will be at least two maybe three very strong European candidates and I don't know whether South Africa is going to get its act together in time for 2024 but you never know....
"We are still a very Euro-centric organisation and we'll have to see whether blood is thicker than water.
"It is one of these things where you have to go member by member, what is the case for Boston. Why Boston?"
(Editing by Gene Cherry.)