Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Sporticast 338: Inside the Business of the Dominant U.S. Olympic Team

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On the latest Sporticast episode, hosts Scott Soshnick and Eben Novy-Williams speak with Sarah Hirshland, CEO of the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee, about the business of the Olympics, the power of athlete stories, and what makes the U.S. team different from almost every other every four years.

As of this Wednesday, we are 100 days away from the start of the Summer Games in Paris. For Team USA, NBC, the athletes and their sponsors, that milestone formally marks the start of the commercial run-up to the games themselves. Trials are starting, promos are being cut, and media coverage is starting to rev up.

Hirshland, who has been running Team USA since 2018, discusses the many ways the Olympic movement is different in the U.S. than in other places. For starters, while other countries fund their athletes primarily via government money, the U.S. does not. Team USA also picks its Olympians in a more meritocratic process, which creates a unique challenge for sponsors and the athletes themselves.

They discuss the importance of telling athlete stories—which are plentiful in a U.S. team that more than 600 Olympians—plus what she learned from the COVID-impacted games of 2021 (Tokyo) and 2022 (Beijing), and her reaction to World Athletics deciding to pay athletes medal bonuses, an Olympics first.

The trio also talks about how the U.S college sports enterprise has helped Team USA excel during the Olympics, and what the USOPC is doing to try to preserve Olympic sports in the face of major changes across the NCAA. That includes lobbying efforts, conversations with the NCAA, and planning with other college sports stakeholders.

They close by discussing the LA2028, which will be the first Summer Games in the U.S. since Atlanta in 1996, and the strong likelihood that Salt Lake City will land the 2034 Winter Games.

(You can subscribe to Sporticast through Apple, Google, Spotify, YouTube, or wherever else you get your podcasts.)

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