Posts tagged: Olympics

Did Romney Save the SLC Olympics?

By , February 17, 2012 4:55 pm

The AP’s Kasie Hunt and Jennifer Dobner go round and round before they essentially acknowledge that, yes, Romney played a big part in saving the Salt Lake Olympics, a conclusion I came to years ago. During the run-up to the Games, I wrote an extended profile on Fraser Bullock for the Marriott Alumni Magazine, a publication of BYU’s Marriott School of Management.

Bullock was Romney’s right and left hand man and the CFO of the olympian bid to save the SLC Olympics. I interviewed Bullock extensively and Romney once for the article, among a variety of other people. To quote from my article:

According to his boss, SLOC President and CEO Mitt Romney,“he is one of the best CFO/COO’s in the country, if not the best.” And Romney needed the best because when he took over on 11 February 1999, SLOC was tottering at the top of a very challenging bobsled run of its own, one littered with tawdry headlines of tarnished Olympic rings, unhappy sponsors, and financial mis-management. “I always joke that I was already living in Utah, and Mitt wanted to save the relocation expenses,” Bullock adds.

Actually, saving those expenses was a harbinger of things to come. In short order, Romney and Bullock discovered that what you don’t know can hurt you. It was no secret that the media’s new favorite target was SLOC, that the Justice Department was looking for skeletons in SLOC’s closet, and that radio talk show hosts were shouting SLOC’s name from the rooftops. Moreover, SLOC had no operations plan, they weren’t using appropriate financial systems, and they had no Paralympic organization—SLOC is the first organizing committee to do both games. Morale was nonexistent. “The organization was virtually paralyzed; it didn’t know which way to turn,” Bullock explains.

What wasn’t readily apparent at the time of the scandal was that there was a severe financial crisis. Adding up all the numbers, Bullock and Romney discovered that SLOC was headed for a projected $400 million budget shortfall. And the previous twelve months gave little reason for confidence that they could fix the problem: SLOC had raised only $13 million the year before the scandal hit the headlines. “It doesn’t take a math degree to figure out that with about three years to go, the Salt Lake Olympics were in trouble; and at that rate, we weren’t going to be able to raise the funds to close the budget deficit, ” Bullock explains.

Now imagine Santorum or Paul, Gingrich or Obama in the same situation. Hard to do, isn’t it?

So how did Romney and his crew manage? Well, according to my article:

As of the end of October, SLOC had raised $859 million dollars, $395 million more than Atlanta,the previous high. Because SLOC gives 40 percent of what it raises to the United States Olympic Committee and because some of the donations were in kind and therefore not budget relieving, the net impact of the fund raising was to reduce the budget deficit by about $200 million dollars. Add that to the $200 million Bullock and his team were able to cut, and the snake was dead. “So at this point, we believe we’re in a break-even situation, which is exactly where we want to be,” reports Bullock, who recently relinquished one of his SLOC titles, CFO.

Read the story(beginning on page 21). It tells of a turnaround effort that should cause everybody to take a second look at Romney–and then beg that he ask Bullock to be his VP.

UPDATE: On my Facebook page, BYU Professor Warner Woodruff responded to this post:

Warner Woodworth – This sounds too naive, or at least too one-sided. This guy must be a Mormon or a Republican fanatic to have such a love affair with Mitt’s Olympics. From the sources I knew who helped manage the games in 2002, it was a lot more complicated, and Mitt was made to look better than his leadership really warranted. But maybe they were all wrong back then.

And I responded:

Gregory Taggart – Warner, this guy is me, and the article was for an alumni magazine–your school’s–and written before the games even started, so yes, it is one-sided. Nevertheless, the sources I know give him great credit, even as they acknowledge that Mitt didn’t carry the Games on his back, something I don’t think he has ever claimed. Finally, I plead guilty to being Mormon–how did you guess?–and a Romney fan. Fanatic? No. Neither am I naive. Just someone pulling for a guy I like, gaffes and all.

I’ll add that I’m vaguely aware that some of the people involved in bringing the Games to SLC were put out that Romney got so much credit and they so little, due in large part to the scandal. I can understand that. My feelings at the time were that the original organizers were unfairly tarred by the so-called scandal. Not that there was no scandal, mind you. There was, but the goings on seemed to be part and parcel of the bidding process, a process–tainted as it was–that apparently had been going on for years. The unfairness was that it came to light on SLC’s watch. (I stress that these are vague memories, so don’t quote me on this.)

Let’s Hope So

By , May 11, 2011 5:58 pm

According to Henrique Meirelles, president of Brazil’s Olympic committee, preparation of the Rio Games will result in a new model of public administration by promoting more coordination between all levels of government, municipal, state, and federal.

I’ve interviewed more than a couple of people involved in those preparations, two of them government officials, and Meirelles has his work cut out for him. It’s not an impossible job, and he’s right, the Games will focus attention on the need to work together. Whether he’s up to the task remains to be seen.

Another One Bites the Dust

By , May 8, 2011 1:55 pm

Peter Vidmar resigns as chief of mission for the 2012 U.S. Olympic team.

Why? you ask.

In a story on the Chicago Tribune’s website Thursday, openly gay figure skater and two-time Olympian Johnny Weir called Vidmar’s selection “disgraceful” because of Vidmar’s opposition to gay marriage.

Vidmar, a Mormon, was a public supporter of Proposition 8, the voter-approved law passed in 2008 that restricted marriage in California to one man and one woman. The Mormon church believes all sexual relations outside of marriage are wrong, and defines marriage as being between a man and a woman.

Fits a pattern.

Kind of turns “do unto others” on its head.

That Sound You Hear South of Panama? It’s More Than The Samba.

By , April 16, 2011 10:10 am

Walter Russell Mead writes in The American Interest that the relationship between the U.S. and Brazil have changed, for the better.

The new US-Brazilian relationship does not quite live up to [the US-India relationship], but the ramifications of the changing relations between the two dominant powers in the western hemisphere will nevertheless make waves. It is likely in the 21st century that Brazil will join the group of countries Americans listen to and rely on the most, and the countries whose interests Americans take the greatest care to address.

With the fall of the Soviety Union, Mead argues, the U.S. no longer has a reason to meddle in South American affairs. And for Brazil?

On the Brazilian side, something even more important has happened: Brazil has begun to believe that the world economic system might just work to Brazil’s advantage. . . . Brazil’s success in a range of industries, like aviation, and the success of Brazilian companies that have become fully-fledged multinational players (a Brazilian firm now owns Anheuser-Busch, for example) make more and more Brazilians feel that on a level playing field, Brazil can win.

That’s certainly the feeling I get as I read the Brazilian press. That was the feeling I had yesterday when I spoke to Roberto Garibe, Special Advisor of the Executive Office of the Presidency of Brazil. I was calling to interview him for an article I’m writing about foreign investment in Brazil in preparation for the upcoming World Cup and Olympics. I asked him about the Reuter’s story I posted about the other day, the one critical about PAC, Brazil’s accelerated growth program. He acknowledge that they might not meet the people’s expectations, but thought those expectations might not have been realistic to begin with. That said, he reminded me, PAC is much more than the Word Cup and the Olympics. Long after those sporting events have turned off the lights, Brazil would be busy improving its infrastructure and the standard of living of its people. He sounded like someone intent on making sure that would happen. And if my experience with him is indicative of the work ethic of the people working with him, Brazil will meet its development goals.

Not Enough Money To Go Around

By , April 5, 2011 5:50 pm

Alexandre Tombini, president of Brazil’s central bank, said today that the country’s stock and credit markets weren’t up to financing all the projects planned for the country, including projects important to the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics. Those markets “don’t have the capacity, by themselves, to handle the demand for investment,” he said. “Other sources of funds will be necessary.” That other source will be a new market for corporate bonds announced today by Anbima, the Brazilian Association of Institutional Finance and Capital.

Rose Colored Glasses?

By , April 1, 2011 2:43 pm

At yesterday’s speech at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Sergio Cabral, the governor of the state of Rio de Janeiro claimed that

“não há nenhum atraso” em relação à Copa do Mundo de 2014 no Brasil [“there are no delays” in relation to the World Cup of 2014 in Brazil]

according to the Jornal do Brazil.

I hope he’s right, but I fear he needs to read Reuters.

Both Sides Now

By , March 31, 2011 11:51 pm

The governor of the state of Rio de Janeiro (where the Cidade Maravilhosa is located) is in the U.S. Today he spoke at the United States Chamber of Commerce in Washington D.C. where, according to the Jornal do Brasil, he spoke of the huge amount of investment his state is attracting, claiming that more than $111 billion will be invested in the state of Rio over the next three years, some he says is more investment money per “square kilometer” than in any place in the world.

Sounds pretty good, right?

Well, then there’s that story at Reuters:

Indeed, scenes like this are supposed to become a thing of the past here. Brazil plans more than $1 trillion in construction projects this decade to bring its woeful airports, roads and other infrastructure up to date — an ambitious building boom that will prepare the country to host the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics, provide a bonanza of opportunities for foreign investors, and secure Brazil’s place among the world’s most dynamic emerging economies.

That’s the dream, anyway.

In reality, expectations are coming unraveled — fast. Brazil’s grand infrastructure plans now seem likely to fall well short of President Dilma Rousseff’s ambitions, according to a Reuters investigation of major building projects and interviews with nearly two dozen senior political leaders, investors, government watchdog groups and others.

I’m a big fan of Brazil in general and Rio in particular. I hope the Governor is right, but that Reuter’s story is disturbing.

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